How To Save Money At College

how to save money at college

Are you heading off to college? First of all, congrats! 

As you’re probably aware, college requires a significant financial commitment. Not only is room and board expensive, but so is food, books, and tuition, among many of the other purchases in store for you.

To help you figure out how to save money at college, we’ve put together fifteen tips to help you save money at college so you can stress less, study more, and have fun! 

1. Apply for scholarships and grants

Many scholarships and grants are available with the goal of helping students save on college tuition, but you have to know where to find them. The U.S. Department of Labor has a free, easy-to-use online tool that you can implement when searching for scholarships. 

You can find merit-based grants that are awarded based on academic achievements. Some of these scholarships get very creative, like the Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship, for instance. 

Apply for as many of these scholarships as possible to increase your chances of earning money through scholarships and grants. Each scholarship you apply for increases your chances of earning a scholarship and earning money to put towards college. 

2. Apply for financial aid

Federal Student Aid Office is a government program that is part of the U.S. Department of Education, and it exists for the purpose of alleviating the financial pressure placed on college students. After you apply for assistance from the FSA, you may be eligible for grants and loans. 

However, do not take out any unnecessary loans just for the sake of it. Interest can start accruing after college or even the moment you take out the loan, depending on which loan type you choose. Calculate your expected expenses using this college cost calculator and borrow money responsibly! 

3. Take your prerequisites at a community college

Community college and university tuition rates can vary drastically, even though both types of schools offer a lot of the same courses. If you want to graduate from a particular university, that’s great! But you can still graduate from that university even if you complete your first year of classes at a community college. 

Think about it like this. The average cost of one year of classes at a community college is around $3,730. While tuition rates for private universities can be very different from one university to the next, many of these universities will cost well over $30,000 per year.

Taking your first-year prerequisites at a local community college will save you thousands of dollars, all for the same education. So, this is a great way to save on college tuition costs as a freshman! 

4. Enroll at an in-state college

Attending a college in your home state can help you save money in more ways than one. For starters, in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition are charged differently. Out-of-state students pay more money for the same education as students who are permanent residents of the state where the college is located. 

Another upside to sticking with an in-state school is having the opportunity to be close to home. Think about those times where you’re hungry and you don’t feel like cooking, or you need to get laundry done but you don’t want to spend two hours and many quarters at the laundromat. You can sneak home for a free meal and do your laundry while you’re at it! 

5. Stay in touch with your advisor

Curriculum and credit hours can change while you are in college. Review the requirements to avoid taking unnecessary courses. 

Some students end up having to complete an additional semester just to graduate because they didn’t connect with their college advisors often enough or understand which credits they needed to graduate. College is expensive enough, and the last thing you’ll want to do is pay for additional semesters when it could’ve been avoided altogether. 

6. Find the best deals on books and supplies

The bookstore at your college will likely have everything you need, but you’ll end up paying higher prices for the convenience. Try renting your books through Amazon or Chegg because you’ll only spend a fraction of the costs of the books you’d pay steep prices for on campus. 

Buying used college textbooks and supplies on websites like eBay could save you hundreds of dollars. If you have a Kindle, you can consider renting ebooks instead, which are much cheaper options than buying a brand new book from your college. 

If you need some quick cash to buy books and supplies, MoneyLion’s Instacash can be your saving grace. Instacash makes it possible for you to borrow up to $250 at 0% APR so that you can get instant access to extra funds. Try Instacash today

7. Use your .edu email for discounts

You’ll get a .edu email address and a student ID when you enroll as a college student. Use this to your advantage and save money in the process. Some restaurants, attractions, and retail stores offer discounts to students who present their IDs or join their mailing lists. 

You can also use your student email for subscriptions like Apple Music, Adobe, or Amazon Prime. A regular Amazon Prime membership costs $119 for the year, but it’s only $59 per year for students who sign up with their student email. 

8. Plan your meals

Take turns planning and cooking meals with your friends and roommates. Pick a day of the week and commit to providing dinner for your suitemates. Then, sit back and relax on the other days of the week where it’s their turn to return the favor! 

You can also try meal prepping for the week so you don’t spend any extra money on last-minute meals. It helps to set a budget that everyone can follow, too. That way, no one will feel annoyed if, for example, they make steaks for everyone when it’s their turn to cook dinner but you just heat up a frozen pizza when it’s your night to provide dinner for everyone.  

9. Use campus resources

Your college campus can offer you more than just a classroom. Save on a gym membership by using the one on campus instead. Check out books or print resources at your school library for a fraction of the cost offered by off-campus businesses. 

Attend free events offered on your campus, like job fairs or campus-wide celebrations. Look into the college’s resources to see if you have access to a health clinic on campus and go there instead. By saving yourself a trip to the doctor, you’ll avoid paying copays.  

10. Share your room

Whether you live in the dorms or you rent a campus apartment, sharing your room with a friend or roommate instead of having one all to yourself could save you tons of money every year. Splitting rent with a roommate or two allows you to share other household necessities like kitchenware or furniture as well. Being responsible for all of that on your own will add up quickly, so it’s better to share everything while you’re in college and save money in the process. 

11. Always have a side hustle or a gig 

Working on college coursework, studying, and going to class will take a lot of time out of your day, but try to find time for a side hustle that you can do on your terms. You can earn income on your schedule with Uber, DoorDash, or InstaCart, and other side hustle opportunities. Save your side hustle money and invest it into an account that will grow until you graduate! 

12. Test out of classes 

You may be able to skip some of your prerequisite classes by testing out of them entirely. Essentially, you can take a standardized test for a subject like math or English, and if you pass, you get the credits for the class. 

You will likely have to pay a fee to take the test, but it’ll be much cheaper than the total price of the course anyway. Ask your college advisor about your options or check the school’s website for more information.

13. Hold off on the car

College is a significant expense. Adding another considerable cost to your life, like a car, will make it more challenging to save for college or pay for necessities while you’re there. A car has continual expenses, like the lease, maintenance costs, and gas. 

A car gives you more flexibility, but it also adds hundreds of dollars to your monthly expenses. Rather than buying a car, rely on public transportation and campus amenities during your college years. You can always get a car once you graduate! 

14. Split subscriptions

Living with roommates has its perks. One of those perks is the opportunity to share subscriptions. If you want access to shows on Netflix and Disney+, one of you can pay for the Netflix subscription while the other person pays for the Disney+ subscription. 

Then, you can both share each others’ TV subscriptions. It makes more sense to share subscription accounts than it does to have two Netflix subscriptions under the same roof.

15. Invest leftover money

Leftover money is dangerous. Many people tend to spend the extra cash that they have in their bank accounts instead of saving or investing it. 

If you put that money towards investments, you won’t have it sitting around in the bank, slowly growing minimally every year. Investing your money protects it from being spent aimlessly, and the money will also grow for you in an investment account.

MoneyLion makes it easy for anyone to invest and optimize their portfolio automatically. MoneyLion offers suggestions and customizations based on your risk tolerance, too. Create a $1/month MoneyLion investment account today! 

Life After College

Use these tips to save money while you’re in college and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you’ll appreciate how money-conscious you were once you graduate. Investing in your education is just as important as investing in your finances. 

MoneyLion can help you cover your expenses and put your money to good use so that you can focus on your education. For instance, a RoarMoney account makes it possible for you to track your spending habits, earn rewards on every purchase you make, and get paid up two days early!

RoarMoney will also give you access to MoneyLion’s Credit Builder loan, which has helped members increase their credit score by 60 points within 60 days! Invest in a RoarMoney account to provide yourself with extra financial stability throughout your college years.


How much money should you save during college?

The more money you save, the better. Rather than stashing your money into a bank account, put it to work by setting up a free MoneyLion investment account today!

Do old college textbooks have any value?

You can sell used college textbooks to students who need them when you no longer do. College students buy old textbooks to save money, which is great because you can sell your old textbooks to make money.

Is it cheaper to go to a community college and transfer?

Taking prerequisites at a community college and then transferring elsewhere after your first year is a much cheaper path to a college degree.

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