Avoiding the debt that could ruin your future

College Saving Tips from a College Student

by Kelly Tang

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I'm in my last year of college, and I've been following the Dollar Stretcher for many years now. I just recently re-discovered the Stretcher, and I still think it's a wonderful resource for savings tips, especially now that I am graduating and entering the real world. I've compiled a list of college saving tips organized in various topics that can help students save money.

Textbooks and School Supplies

  • Shop around for textbooks, whether it is online or your local bookstores. Always compare prices and don't forget to include the shipping and handling in your purchases. I guarantee that you will save a ton of money if you search online. I typically use Affordabook to compare. Nowadays your school bookstore should even have a website, telling you the prices for used and new books. For the best bargains, you really have to compare prices.
  • Don't buy. Rent! Now you can rent textbooks via Chegg. I typically do this for a class that is not part of my major, i.e. for electives. But if you really don't have the money to buy books, you can rent them for a really affordable price!
  • For school supplies, school stores do not save you any money for supplies. They tend to charge more since they are there for convenience rather than to save students money. Go to the drug store or Target to purchase school supplies. The only time I suggest you purchase school supplies is if they are on sale.

Socializing and Fun Stuff

Okay, so you're not only going to attend college for the education but also for the experience. And truth be told, this "experience" can get pretty darned pricey. But there are so many alternatives in saving money when it comes to socializing and having a good time.

  • Check out what your school has to offer. Some of the experiences like skiing trips or concerts are affordable and are easier to access as a student. Take advantage of what your school has to offer. Always be aware of the activities that are going on. They are typically cheaper and it's a great way to get a positive college experience.
  • Other than trips or activities that cost money. Schools also offer events that are free on campus, such as plays and movies. The movies are also typically recent movies that have come out only a few months ago. It's a great way to stay involved and meet new people!
  • Definitely do a search on "free things" to do in your city! There are always great events and activities that are offered free. You just need to do some good old-fashioned research on Google. This is how I really get out and explore my city and take a break from school life.


For me, it's probably the most important thing about college life. It's what makes college, well, college and it doesn't come cheap.

  • Gather around with other broke students and have a potluck. A potluck is seriously a wonderful experience and idea to save money, eat good food, and have a jolly good time. Did I seriously just write jolly good time? Of course, I did! From the beginning of my freshman year, I had started planning potlucks with my friends. It started out with 13 people, and now we have about 30 to 40 people attending these potlucks, and we hold them in the student lounges. You don't need to have a lot of money. You just need a couple of friends.
  • Got a meal plan? Use it! It's so simple. You've already paid for it, so don't waste it. Sure, it's easy to get fast food and buy things from the vending machines. Sure, you might question what is in the cafeteria, but you can always stay with the tried and true, the sandwich! It's only four years anyway, and it's probably the most consistent place to get food and eat at consistent times.
  • Sign up for restaurant mailing lists. They usually send you coupons and specials. It's free, and it saves you some money for the times when you do go out. Usually you can find coupons scattered around campus too.
  • Here's a really big motivation for not spending money on junk food and fast food. It's the Freshman 15! Yes, you heard me right. You don't want to be gaining weight in your freshman or any other school years. It just creeps on up on you! So just remember when you want to buy those chips, refrain. It saves moolah and your waistline. Here's a random tip for not gaining weight: Schedule your meals and eat at regular times.

How to decide if you are taking on too much student loan debt


Yes, this is kind of what you came to college for. And there are a lot of ways to take advantage of your education and take some valuable things with you.

  • Read the newspaper. Your school probably subscribes to a few papers. It's really something that is taken for granted, but it can help you stay on top of the news and it's free! And if you ever have a project that needs the newspaper, you can just snatch it up and use it. It's a great tool to further learning.
  • Get involved. Part of the experience is also the clubs. You can build real friendships, and get some experience that can be placed on your resume. It builds leadership and many other fine qualities that allow students to take responsibility and work with other students.
  • Ask questions and get to know your professors. You're paying for your education. To get the most of it, take advantage of your professors. Get to know them and ask questions. Sure, there are dumb questions, but it just makes you feel even dumber if you don't ask and never know the answer. And eventually down the line, you will need a recommendation from one of your professors. So build your relationship now, so they can help your future! Definitely take charge of your own education!

Related: 5 ways to save on student loans

Other Tips:

  • Get a job through your school's work-study program. Though they don't pay as much as a part-time job, sometimes you don't have the time to hold a part-time job. It's also just nice to have some expendable cash to use and not always have to hit up the parents for money. And they are more flexible with scheduling and will work with your school schedule.
  • Use your school's resources! Need a printer? Use the one in the library or computer labs. It'll definitely save you a ton of money since you don't have to purchase your own printer and ink cartridges. Need to make a copy? Why don't you scan it into the computer and then print it out instead of spending money on copies. However, I only recommend this for notes, not for final projects.
  • Take advantage of your gym! It's better than having to get your own membership. And it's free! Or if classes are more your forte, check your school to see if they offer any yoga or exercise classes. It's really fun to attend these classes with your friends; it motivates you and keeps you away from the Freshman 15.
  • Save on transportation. A lot of times, the activities are free, but what actually ends up costing money is transportation. With the cost of public transportation rising, it actually can add up. For metro, definitely be aware of any discounts that can be used and know when rush hour fees are! Or carpool with your friends and pool money for gas.
  • Know how much money you're spending. Just write down how much you spend, and from there figure out a budget or where you can limit your expenditures to save more money!

Kelly Tang is a design student who enjoys blogging, traveling and living fabulously on a budget. Visit her lifestyle blog about fashion, food and life at SourTang.com.

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