15 Ways to Save Money in College

Video produced by Katie Golan, MTSU student.

Broke college student? That’s the usual term that comes to mind when you’re in college. We all know college is expensive, but you can make smart choices even if you have to pay for tuition, housing, food, entertainment and other expenses. Being a college student, and trying to survive financially is what most students struggle. Not a lot of students think about the options and alternatives they have to keep more of their earned money.

Many college students are in debt, but there’s way to not make it worse. Consider these tips below on how it will help benefit your savings while in college and might change your outlook on how to improve your savings.

Photo by Allef Vinicius

Don’t buy the best meal plan

Things that a lot of students and freshman’s do not know is buying the most expensive meal plans can be a waste of money, especially if you’re on a budget. Some may think they need more meals than they need, but that’s not the case.

Most likely you’ll have a lot of meals or flex bucks left over that you didn’t use. Students who live in a dorm are more likely to get a meal plan, because there’s not a kitchen available—and it’s easier to eat on campus when you live there.

Think about how often you’ll rely eating on campus and be reasonable about what you could make in your dorm. So be wise if you want to save money because you can easily overspend when picking out a meal plan.

Buy groceries and cook

Photo by Leonie Wise

Buying groceries, meal prepping or cooking some meals at home saves a lot of money in the long run. You don’t need a meal plan if you live in your own apartment or house. However, it can be easy to go out and eat and buy fast food when you’re busy, but it adds up every time you choose that option. So, you still can, but in moderation.

When you buy your own groceries, and cook—not only do you save money—but you can save more by eating your leftovers that you might have from the night before.

Rent all your textbooks

You might think you will use the textbook after the class is over, but sometimes it’s not worth it. There are some classes where you might and it’ll be beneficial, but otherwise opt to rent your textbooks.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Renting your textbooks is way cheaper, especially if it’s a newer edition. Textbook Brokers offers a cheap price for students to rent books, and the school’s book is usually more expensive.

It’s smart to find someone and ask around who has taken the same course and professor previously because you could ask them if the textbook was needed. A lot of professors require purchasing a textbook, but end up not using it.

Recycle old decorations

Photo by Christopher Burns

It’s fun to decorate your place every time you move, but try to stick with the same decorations that you’ve purchased and recycle them. You can save a lot of money by reusing the same decorations and switching around how you decorate your new house, apartment or dorm so it’s not the same style every time.  

Avoid buying from campus stores

The convenient stores on campus that sells snacks, drinks and school supplies usually cost more than getting it from off campus. So, try to pack little snacks throughout the day that you buy from Walmart, Target or any other place other than the Provisions on Demand (P.O.D.)

Sometimes we might forget something, but take in consideration that it’ll be overpriced compared to a convenient store off campus. Scantrons are an exception because the university uses a specific one, and they’re only about 25 cents.

Use sales & coupons

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Most grocery stores have apps where you could download on your phone and check out the sales that’s going on for the week. Sometimes you could forget, but the more you do it, it’ll become a habit and you’ll significantly save overtime.  Plus, you wouldn’t have to print out the coupons, because a lot of them are digital scan.

Don’t spend money because your friends are

It’s hard to not spend money when you’re out with friends, but you can still have fun on a budget. Most people want to save money, but some aren’t as cautious as others are. So, then you could recommend cheap or free places to hang out.

Use your student I.D for discounts

There’s several of places ranging from auto to food that uses MTSU discounts around Murfreesboro. It’s good to keep your student ID on you at all times, so don’t lose it! And if you’re curious about if a place gives student discounts, just ask and don’t be afraid. Saving those couple bucks from 15-20% off of something is still worth it!

Limit spending on wanting items

Photo by Fabian Blank

Some people love to shop, but usually for wants and not needed essentials.  The key to saving when still wanting to buy stuff is setting aside a certain amount of money monthly for things you want and do. Don’t set aside too much, because budgeting is key.  Spend your money wisely on those things you want, instead of need.

Use free on-campus amenities

Be knowledgeable about the things that’s happening around campus and what your campus supplies you. At MTSU, there’s free printing, rec center, movie showings and events that gives out free food, shirts or etc. Usually if you have your student ID or just being an MTSU student, you’ll be able to get in to the events for free.

During every spring semester, there’s always a free concert with large-scale musicians that perform at the Murphy Center such as Iconic Pop in 2015 and Ludacris in 2017. American hip-hop artist, Blackbear, and American rapper,  Lil Yachty will be performing this spring of 2018 on Thursday, April 5 at 8 p.m.

Don’t get an expensive pet

As much as you would want a dog, cat or even a pet gerbil, they’re expensive and can be time consuming if you’re a busy college student on a budget. Pet expenses such as foods or shots can be expensive. Some people do not consider how owning a pet is a huge commitment, especially in college. But if financial problems isn’t a problem then you shouldn’t have to worry, but if it is, you’ll be saving a lot of money without a pet.

Invest in a coffee maker

For those caffeine addicts, coffee lovers, or those that rely a lot on coffee, buy a coffee maker because it would save you so much money in comparison getting Starbucks or Dunkin every time throughout the day.

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Gif by X-Files

It can be pricey up front, but depending on the coffee maker you get, there’s cheap ones that work just as good. Plus, you’ll get to make more coffee with the coffee maker than purchasing it at a coffee shop because you could buy coffee beans or mix in bulk.

Look for an on-campus job

If you’re looking for extra cash, look for a job on-campus such as the rec center, dining services, library or tutoring. There’s jobs everywhere on campus, just ask around and apply. Besides most of the jobs on campus are easy and gives a decent pay. On the bright, you won’t have to travel far for work and save more money with gas if you find a job on campus.

Look for scholarships

MTSU offers scholarships throughout every semester that you could apply for. Especially for students who want to study abroad, there’s a limited number of scholarships that are available that could help cover a bulk amount of the expenses. Even if you think you might not get the scholarship, it’s always good to apply to as much as possible. You’ll have more of a chance when you apply.

Track your spending and budget

Most of our parents do this, but tracking your spending could help see where you spend the most money at. It might make you more cautious when you see the amount, and over spending usually happens when you don’t pay attention on how much is getting out.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Also, it’s easier to want to save, but tracking your spending could help you visualize how much you have and how much you should be spending monthly with the amount of money you make.

College students are known as being broke, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You’ll see a difference in your money after and if you apply some of these tips to your everyday college life. Every little bit of change can help in the long run with your future financial decisions.

Although saving money while being college can be challenging, it’s possible with the many options that students can now consider from these tips. There’s multiple ways to save money during school, so take this pieces of advice and make changes to your saving habits.