Budgeting Financial Planning Going to College Paying for College

Saving Money on Campus

Written by CB Experts

Because economic times are tougher and student financial assistance is harder to obtain, you need to understand there are ways to live on a budget while you live in the dorm. Practicing frugality can save a lot of money month by month that you can put away for your educational expenses.

Here are some tips to keep you start budgeting and saving.
One of the biggest expenses next to tuition is the cost of books. Before you buy new, look for used. Often the campus bookstore will sell only new copies of the book, which can be very expensive. Look for other options to secure books:
  • Students may advertise used books for sale on campus.
  • There may be deals online.
  • Share a book with a roommate or friend and split the price.
  • Sell any old books you have to pay for the new ones you need.
  • See if the library has a copy you could use.
  • If you must buy new, take care of the book to get a good price for it later.
Also go to class and find out from the professor if you really need the book. You might not need to buy each and every book on the class list.
Food can also get very expensive, especially if there is a convenience store close by. Impulse buying for things like snacks and coffees can add up to a giant expense at the end of the month, especially if you are not monitoring what you are buying or how often. Find other ways to do save on food.
  • Care packages from home are always a happy treat. Ask family and friends to send snacks and non-perishables instead of less practical items.
  • Buy in bulk. For items you use on a daily basis, you can stock up for less.
  • Get a small refrigerator and microwave if permitted so you can cook for yourself.
  • Buy a 6-pack of water bottles to keep in your room and get refills from the water fountains at school.
  • Buy canisters of powdered drink mixes to add to water instead of buying bottled drinks at the store.
  • Buy a local paper and look for sales at the grocery store.
  • Stay away from vending machines.
  • If you eat meals in the cafeteria, inquire about meal plans and choose one that fits your schedule so you aren’t wasting money on food you do not eat.
  • Pack a lunch in your backpack for in between classes instead of hitting the fast food or pizza joint.
Many schools provide on-campus entertainment during certain days of the week and weekends. Participate in the free events and meet new people who could provide even more insight into what to do around campus, especially if you are new to the area.
Some other ideas for inexpensive fun are
  • Always inquire about student discounts everywhere you go. You may be surprised to learn who will give you a discount: movie theaters, malls, restaurants, and more.
  • Join a club on campus.
  • Check out neighboring schools for fun activities.
  • Explore the outdoor activities on warm days, like hiking, biking, or just exploring the town with friends.
  • Check out local happy hours for discounts on food and drinks.
  • Take advantage of on-campus gyms and recreation areas.
School/Dorm Supplies
With the need for laptops and other technology, coupled with the rising cost of everything, saving money on school and dorm supplies is a necessity. Obviously, shopping for sales is an easy way to grab great stuff at a bargain price.
Here are some other tips for saving on your stuff:
  • Check out the local discount and dollar stores. Many places offer the same thing as department stores, just at way better prices.
  • Furniture and other storage items can be found at thrift stores or from family and friends.
  • Use the computers and printers on campus to save on ink and paper.
  • Wait to move in before buying all of your stuff. Between room size and actual necessities, you may go overboard out of excitement.


CollegeBasics also suggests that you check out the Student Advantage Card to save up to 50% on purchases such as pizza (a college student’s staple!), hair cuts, computers, plane, train or bus tickets, textbooks, cell phones, and other merchandise at a variety of online and storefront stores. It’s a great deal and will save you lots of money during the year. You will even get $10 off on your first purchase with your card. You can’t beat that!

CollegeBasics.com guest contributor, Tisha Kulak is a writer for Creditorweb.com, where she writes about credit card offers, student credit cards and finances.


About the author

CB Experts

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.