20 Ways to Save Money in College

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The Cost of College

$15,000 for tuition and university fees, $9000 for housing, $1600 for textbooks, and $400 for an on-campus parking pass. All this comes out to a grand total of $26,000. This doesn’t even include expenses for food and other personal costs. Let’s face it, college is expensive. The price tag attached to a Bachelor’s degree has skyrocketed over the past few decades, and doesn’t look like it’s getting any better.

Recently, the University of California Regents approved a 2.7% tuition and fee increase across all nine undergraduate campuses. What exactly does this mean? It means that UC students will have to cough up more money for the universities, and as a result, lighter wallets.  The increase of tuition by year can be viewed in the chart below.

Many college students have a tremendous amount of pressure to receive a high GPA. Many people don’t realize that being a college student IS a job. To maintain a good GPA, it is essential for students to go to school, do the required homework, and do extra studying. This translates to putting in extra hours at the library (or a café) in order to get work done. The majority of students don’t have time for a job to make the extra cash needed for personal expenses, or even food.

Listed below are 20 ways college students can save and earn money, methods tried-and-true by yours truly, a broke college student.

1) Rent your textbooks, or buy used ones

College textbooks are expensive. On top of tuition and housing costs, it can be a lot to handle for a student to afford. To resolve this issue, many local bookstores offer three types of the same textbooks: new, used, and rentals. Purchasing used or rental textbooks can save students a great amount of money. There is no need for a brand new textbook, since the only difference is the quality.  The content of the textbook is the same, the covers are just slightly worn down in a used book.  The outside of the textbook doesn't matter, but the information inside does. Some professors will even allow students to purchase earlier editions of a textbook because it is cheaper.  This can save you even more money, but make sure your professor is alright with it!

In addition to local bookstores, online retailers sell books for cheap, used and rentals. Websites like Chegg, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are good places to look for cheap used textbooks and/or rentals! One of the advantages of buying used books is that you can sell that textbook to someone after you’re done with the class! Students can usually break even on the cost of their books by selling them at a similar price! You can even go a step further and check if your campus library has these books on hand that you can check out for the class. You can also scan the textbook and have a PDF handy at all times, so you won’t have to carry around a five pound book!

2) Cook your own food

Do your parents ever lecture you about eating out too much because it's expensive? Listen to them, they’re right. There’s no need to make that trip to McDonald’s when you can just cook at home. You might be thinking that groceries are more expensive than fast food, but in the long run it is the opposite.

Cooking your own food is cheaper, healthier, and creates a better lifestyle for you now, and in the future. If you’re thinking that you can’t cook or that you don’t have time to, then you’re completely wrong. The time that it would take you to go buy fast food, and come back can be the same amount of time it would take you to cook a well-balanced meal. Anyone has the ability to learn how to cook, as long as they are willing to learn. By monitoring what you cook and put in your body, it can make for a healthier you! Saving money and being healthier, who wouldn’t want that? If you don’t know where to start, you can find cheap and easy recipes here!

3) Sell your unwanted clothes

Have you ever bought something just to use for one occasion, and realize that you have no use for it afterwards? Or bought something that you thought you liked, but is just sitting in the back of your closet? This has happened to all of us, at one point or another. Thankfully, there are multiple apps and websites that will allow you to sell or trade your clothing between other people. This is a great way to earn back some money that has gone to waste.

Apps like Depop, Vinted, and Poshmark are able to help you sell your unneeded clothes and accessories. These apps are also a great way for you to purchase secondhand clothing at a discounted price. The majority of clothing put up for sale are still in great quality, and are being sold for inexpensive prices. This means that you can sell your unwanted clothes and purchase something that you would like to wear at the same time! Thrift stores such as Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill also buy back unwanted clothing. If you are unable to sell something on these apps, you can go to these locations in person. If none of this works out, you can always donate your clothing knowing that it will go to someone who is able to appreciate it!

4) Take surveys

Companies usually need consumer opinions in order to make changes to their product and make it better. To do this, companies will pay survey sites in order to receive feedback from people. This is where you can make some money. By signing up for a survey site and taking surveys, you will be able to earn a little extra cash without having to leave the comfort of your own bed. It sounds easy, but one must do their research first and choose a reliable survey site to use.

You need to find survey sites that will pay a decent amount for each survey you complete. You don’t want to waste time taking a ten minute survey only to be paid a penny for it. That time could be used to study or do homework, activities more important to the average college student. To prevent this, students must do their research on which survey sites provide the quickest and easiest way to earn money. You can read a few reviews on survey sites by clicking here!

5) Deliver food via Postmates

Do you find yourself having way too much free time?  Students can sign up for delivery services in order to make a little money in their spare time. Although this is technically a job, you can do it whenever you feel like it!  Postmates is a company that allows people to order food from places that don't deliver, but bring that food to them at a low cost. In order to deliver the food, the company needs people willing to deliver it for them. That’s where you come in. If you have free time, might as well be making money, right? By becoming an employee of Postmates, you can work around your busy schedule, great for students. Since this is not a typical 9 to 5 job, you still have the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. 

5.1) Drive for Uber or Lyft

This is a continuation of the previous suggestion to earn money, but completely different.  Another unique job is working for Lyft or Uber. You are also able to work whenever you want through this. This is also a fun way to become exposed to different people, and make money doing so. These options are great ways for students to make extra cash.  Students can also obtain something to put on their resume from doing this.  

6) Create a budget

One of the most efficient ways to save money or curb your spending is to create a budget. Budgeting used to require looking at every receipt in order to track your spending habits. With today’s technology you can easily see what you're spending and on what. Banking companies such as Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America allow you to look at your spending trends online.  They also offer online tools to create a budget based on your typical spending. This makes budgeting a breeze, you could have a basic budget done in a few minutes.

Some of these tools allow you to set budgets within categories so you can see where you spend the most.  These categories include Food, Travel, Recreation/Entertainment, Rent/Utilities, and many others. If your spending habits aren't consistent month to month you can even make a flex budget. This budget lets you create a goal to be within a certain range of spending at the month’s end. If your bank doesn’t offer one of these tools there are other tools available on the Internet. Budgeting can help you save a lot of money over time and can make you feel much more organized.

7) Take advantage of campus events

There are hundreds of on campus organizations that try to get students to check them out and gain new members and popularity. This is a difficult task to do considering the amount of organizations that compete with each other. These clubs need to provide incentive to get students to come to their events. And what is the best way for these organizations to do that? Free food. Broke college students know the way to other broke college student’s hearts. Advertising free food will always get a few extra people to show up to your club meetings or events.

Other campus events organized by the university usually offer free food as well, in order to get more people to show face. Who knows, maybe you’ll actually stay because you’re interested in the organization! It’s a great way to get a free meal and make a few connections. Schools usually have many events that give away free school apparel and accessories like hoodies, notebooks, and water bottles. By taking advantage of this, students won’t have to pay crazy bookstore prices to show school spirit!

8) Learn about local deals from restaurants

Search for restaurants near your campus, they usually offer student discounts for college students if you show them your student I.D. Restaurants do this to attract more people to their establishment, and giving 10 to 15 percent off of a college student’s purchase won’t hurt them. Additionally, college students (or anyone really), should take advantage of the wonderful deal more commonly known as Taco Tuesday. The majority of Mexican places participate in this, and it provides great food at a relatively low cost.

Another way college students can save money on meals is eating at Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Traditional-style chicken wings are half off on Tuesday, while on Thursday they offer half off on boneless wings. Similarly, Wingstop offers $0.50 wings on Monday and Tuesday. By participating in these sales, college students can save about 50% on their purchase, an amazing deal for the price. Similarly, many pizza places offer deals on online orders. Domino’s and Pizza Hut occasionally dedicate a week to having every pizza ordered online be eligible for 50% off. This is great for sharing with friends, since many people cannot finish an entire pizza by themselves. Splitting the cost of a pizza, combined with 50% off of the purchase can make for an inexpensive meal!

9) Cash Back

Receiving cash back for your purchases is a blessing and a curse in itself. It’s great because you save a little money on your purchase, but you have to spend a large amount in order for that cash back to make much of a difference. Nevertheless, every penny counts when you are on a tight budget. Ordering delivery or take-out through the Yelp app can earn you some cash back that you will be able to use on future purchases.

Another way people can receive cash back is through Ebates. Ebates provides people with an easy way to get cash back, just shop and wait for a check. You are essentially paid to shop, and these savings can add up to a lot of money over time. There are tons of other websites and apps that will allow you to do this, so there are multiple chances for you to save money. Additionally, many credit cards offer cash back when you use the card on certain products such as airline tickets, gas, or groceries. This money saved is then added to your account and you will have the option to receive it as cash back or debt deducted from your credit line. Having smaller bills to pay sounds nice, doesn’t it?

10) On campus studies

In order for some research projects to be considered scholarly, one must conduct a research study to obtain data about people. These are usually done on college campuses, where there is a large concentration of people in one area. Furthermore, many psychology and business classes require students to participate in studies as part of their grade. Some of these studies compensate the students, as well as give them class credit. Other studies are voluntary, compensate for your time, answers, and participation.

These studies can be as short as a few hours, or drawn out over a few weeks. The pay usually is dependent on the duration of the study, so the longer and more you participate, the more money you will receive. Studies usually include giving your opinions, recording how much sleep you get in a night, or psychology experiments. Other studies, that are typically higher paying without taking up too much time, are taking newly developed medications in order to record the side effects. More extreme studies for monetary compensation are donating plasma, blood, and/or sperm. Some studies even ask for you to donate an organ, but I don’t recommend that!

11) Etsy

Are you creative? Are you able to create items that people would purchase? Etsy is a website where people can sell their crafts to others. Items sold on Etsy range from jewelry, clothing, home décor, novelty gifts, and much more. Anyone with a knack for making crafts can sell them here. Using Etsy reaches a larger crowd than just asking people you know if you would like to purchase your crafts. A larger crowd means more profits for you! This is a great way to make extra cash, but also another talent that you can put on your resume. If you are able to have successful profits and keep up with the demand of your product, you are running a small business, a talent noteworthy of mentioning. You can sign up here!

12) Special Talents

Another unique way that students can earn more money is by putting their skills to use. People can get creative in other ways besides making crafts. If you are talented at something, but aren’t exactly a professional, you can charge people for your services at a discounted rate. For example, if you are a makeup enthusiast, you could do other people’s makeup for events. People would usually charge $100 for this, but by asking for $50, you would earn money for doing something enjoyable!

Another example of a special skill that people could make money off of is haircuts. If you know your way around some clippers, you could make a decent amount of money from people who want to save money on haircuts. The last way people can make money with their special skills are photoshoots. If you have a DSLR, basic editing skills, and an interest in photography you can charge people; friends, strangers, or models, for your services. If you are an aspiring photographer, this is a great way to get your material out for more people to see. Many of these skills are useful around the time of big events such as prom and graduation, but are always needed year round.

​13) Scholarships

How does doing an essay and receiving $1000 for it sound? There are so many opportunities for students to earn money from scholarships, but this often gets overlooked because many people think that they won’t be able to get them. Due to this mindset, only a few people apply to those scholarships, thus the chances are higher for them to win. This money can either go to your bank account, or straight to your college to pay for tuition. Scholarships are usually essays, but there are other ways to receive money. People can make videos, art pieces, marketing plans, and even just submit a resume. There are even scholarships that have you submit essays that you have written in your previous classes, so it’s no work at all. This is also a notable accomplishment to put on your resume. Great places to start looking for scholarships are fastweb.com and scholarships.com.

14) Couponing

Coupons are a college student’s best friend. Little pieces of paper or online codes that allow you to save money off of your purchase, what’s not to love? There is almost always at least one coupon available to use for every store, so take advantage of those! From free shipping to 20% off your purchase, every dollar counts when you need to save money.

There are couponing apps such as Shopular and Groupon that allow couponing to be more accessible to people. By using these apps, college student can save quite a lot of money on their online purchases. A general rule that can help people save money is that you should not buy something unless it is on sale, or you have a coupon. By implementing this mind set, people will not make impulsive purchases as much, therefore saving money. The money you save from coupons and sales can be used for other things to purchase, so there’s no harm done!

15) Take Notes

Do you go to every single one of your classes? If so, that’s great, you’re being a good student. What if going to class and taking notes could pay off? Besides getting a good grade in the class and learning useful information, your notes are very valuable in the sense that people would pay you for them.

Websites such as OneClass and StudySoup provide people with notes for sale in case they missed class, take bad notes, or forgot to take notes because they were listening to the professor. Listening and taking notes at the same time is a skill because it is difficult for some people to multitask. Because of this, there is a need for class notes, and that is where you come in. The companies will assess your notes, and purchase them from you in order to be sold to other students. This will provide you with extra cash for doing something that you were already doing. Making money for being a great note taker, why wouldn’t you do this?

16) Concerts & Events

With the rise in popularity of electronic dance music (also called EDM), there has been a growing number of events and concerts that features EDM artists and DJs. These events have exponentially grown in popularity, frequency, and accessibility. More and more people in every age demographic are attending these events with their friends. Whether the event features 3 or 4 artists at a local club, or it’s a weekend-long festival in a massive stadium, these events attract large crowds, and are bound to be a good time for those in attendance. The drawback of going to these events on a regular basis is the price. With tickets ranging from $15 to $30 for the smaller events to $100 to $600 for the larger events, tickets can set you back on your savings goal in a big way.

When you choose to skip an event or two so that you can afford another event, or just save money, you can watch your friends have a good time on their social media and feel left out. This is the feeling of FOMO which stands for, “fear of missing out.” The question remains, do you choose to save some of your hard earned cash? Or do you drop a paycheck so some other person can be on the receiving end of FOMO? This also applies to hanging out with friends. It is okay to say no to that movie, or that dinner if you are on a tight budget, your friends will understand. At the end of the day, you should think about what matters more, paying the bills or going to a concert?

17) Ticket Resale

Have you ever bought a ticket to an event, and found out you wouldn’t be able to go because something came up? You don’t want to waste your money on a ticket to something you wouldn’t even be able to go to, right? So you do what any other person would normally do, and you sell that ticket. Sometimes, you are able to sell your ticket for a higher amount than what you got it for because the ticket is in high demand. So you sell it, make your money back plus a little extra, which is great. You essentially made money from buying a ticket. This is called ticket resale, and on a much larger scale, is known as scalping. There are people that make a ton of money from doing this.

By purchasing tickets to an event early when the prices are low, then selling them to other people when the event is sold out are ticket prices become too high, people can make a substantial profit off of ticket resale. This is a risky way to make money because there is no guarantee that you would be able to make your money back. It all depends on what the event is, if it is going to sell out, and how much people are willing to purchase a ticket off of someone.

Many event venues do not allow people to sell their tickets within a certain distance of the place, so most of this is done online. There are many Facebook groups and online services that allow people to connect and search for tickets to purchase. If you do choose to do this, be careful not to lose any money!

18) Recycling

Yes, that empty water bottle DOES have a purpose. Staying hydrated is essential, so many students find themselves purchasing a pack of water bottles every few weeks in. Many people usually just throw these bottles away once they are done with them, but there is a much better use for these empty bottles. Instead of throwing them away, students should have a separate bin for recyclable bottles and cans so they these empty containers into cash.

Let’s say you purchase a pack of 32 water bottles and save them all after you’re done. Although it depends on where you live, water bottles usually sell back for $0.05 a piece at your local recycling center. That pack of water bottles can earn you about $1.60 back, almost enough money to purchase another pack of water bottles! You can find local recycling centers by clicking here. On the other hand, instead of purchasing multiple packs of water bottles, you can invest in a water filtration system or a reusable water bottle. It’s better for the environment, and will save you money in the long run.

19) Use a Piggybank

I’m serious. You won’t believe how much spare change you can find on your desk, in your pockets, in your wallet, in your car- the list goes on! Gathering your loose change and storing it some place can add up to a large amount of money, even after doing so for only a month. It’s kind of shocking how much money we really leave lying around our homes. With the coins you’ve collected, you can do a couple of things.

The first thing you can do is sort it out and bring some to your car in order to use every time you need to pay for a parking meter. The second thing you can do is take it to a coin counting machine at your local grocery store, where it will exchange the coins for cash. Keep in mind, that the machine does this for a small fee, so you will not be receiving as much as you would if you were to count it yourself and take it to a bank. The last thing you can do is to just save it, and accumulate more as time goes by, eventually saving up for something big!

20) Rideshare

If you are ever driving to another city for a weekend and need some gas money, chances are that there is someone in the same situation as you. Ridesharing is when a person takes someone else, or multiple people, to the same city in exchange for money, usually used on gas. This is helpful for people who do not have cars, do not want to pay to take a train, or people who just do not want to drive to that place by themselves.

There are usually Facebook groups specifically for this for different universities, but if you can’t find one, you can also advertise it through your class’ Facebook group (I don’t know about your area, but everyone I know that’s in college is in a Facebook group specifically for their college). By using rideshare programs, people can save money on gas and even make a little more money on the side just by driving somewhere they were going to in the first place. It’s also nice to help out a couple people that need to get somewhere!

What to Do With the Extra Money?

After using these ways to save or earn some cash, make sure to be smart about what you spend it on!  Having a little extra money is great in case you need it for a rainy day, so saving your earnings is a great choice.  Of course, if you want to treat yourself, that's perfectly fine, we all deserve to splurge on something once in a while.  A good way to do this as well as save would be putting away 75% of your earnings in a savings account and 25% on hand to spend.  By not spending that 75%, you ensure that you save money but get to spend a little as well!  Hopefully these money saving tips will help you have more money on hand!

Now That you Have Money Saved, Why Not Try Earning Money?

​Since you are starting to save money, why not earn some money to have extra cash? I am talking about starting to earn/build-up a secondary income. A secondary income is something you do on the side of your primary job; whether that be working, school, etc. Survey sites are a great way to earn money on the side because you can choose when you do them, and all from the comfort of your own home. Check out our Top 20 Paid Online Survey Sites of 2017 the see some sites, and learn how much money you can make. 

In addition  to survey sites, we here at Surveyswonk.com have reviewed dozens of other money making websites. for starters, check out our blog, where we feature many unique websites where it is possible to earn a good amount of money on. Whether you want to test products from home, drive around for Amazon, enter data into systems, or be a freelance writer, there are money making options out there. ​

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Jhoanna Enriquez

I'm a college sophomore still waiting for her Hogwarts acceptance letter. I'm an English major and a Business minor at the University of California, Riverside. I love vintage cameras, claw machines, and memes. My Netflix recommendations are Peaky Blinders, The Magicians, and Black Mirror, so go watch those instead of reading this! ٩(◕‿◕)۶

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