Last updated on May 11th, 2021 at 12:30 pm
College is an exciting new stage of life—well, until you realize independence means buying most of your own textbooks and supplies. It’s hard to save money when books are expensive and your friends want to go out to eat all week. However, as a class of 2017 graduate, these are five ways I saved money in college on everything from textbooks to soap!
Five Ways To Save Money In College
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Textbooks are pricey if you don’t qualify for book scholarship money at your college. To get the best prices go to Slugbooks! Slugbooks.com gives you comparison prices for Half.com, Chegg, Amazon and more. Look up the ISBN numbers (It’s usually listed in the details and description of the book) for your books and type them in Slugbooks’ search bar. It will display your most recent searches even when you put in a new book, so you’ll see all your books listed on one page. Since you’re searching by ISBN, you will always get the correct edition. You can search by title, just make sure you check the edition.
I would also contact the professor to ask for the syllabus early. You might find some of your books are additional reading and not truly necessary.
If you want to get all your books from one place, I recommend Amazon or Chegg, plus Chegg packages come with a few freebies. I’ve gotten Red Bull, sample size packages of Tide pods and dryer sheets!
This might seem odd, but my mom made me laundry detergent every year when I went to college. It is simple and takes up little space. She made me one container and it lasted the entire school year when I averaged one load of laundry a week!
You only need three ingredients and you can typically find them all in Walmart or other stores.
1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap
1 Cup of Super Washing Soda
1 Cup of Borax
(These can all be found in the cleaning and laundry aisles.)
Grate the soap into a bowl and add the borax and super washing soda. If you want the mixture to be well blended, throw it in a food processor or blender! It won’t hurt the appliance since it’s soap. I store mine in a small plastic container meant for storing sugar or flour that came with a tablespoon sized scoop. I put one to two scoops in each load and like I said—it lasted me August to May every school year!
This detergent works in High Efficiency machines and while my family has issues with skin sensitivity to detergents and softeners, none of us has issues with this kind. I find it works well on my clothes.
Some dorms have community bathrooms, but my school had one bathroom per suite and it accommodated five people. We were responsible for soap, toilet paper, hand towels and cleaning supplies.
Typically hand soap is an easy buy since you can get it cheap from any store. However, if you want a nicer soap, get to Bath and Body Works when they have the June Semi-annual sale. They often have hand soaps for 75% off as well as shower gels, scrubbies, even nail files. It’s worth stocking up on a few favorite scents and your roommates and suitemates will love that it’s one less thing to buy!
Don’t overdo it buying food for your room you think you’ll eat. You’ll let a lot of food rot because you forgot it or it didn’t sound good and the frozen stuff isn’t healthy anyway. Most schools now require a meal plan of some kind and even though it isn’t the best tasting food sometimes, it’s still the lowest cost.
If you do buy food, try eating a little healthier than Ramen every night. Buy two cans of chicken, a jar of salsa, a small bag of shredded cheese and a bag of tortillas or chips. For a little less than $10, you can make several chicken quesadillas or tacos! If you do quesadillas, put a tortilla on a microwave safe plate, add chicken, cheese and salsa, put another tortilla on top (or fold the single tortilla over for a half size) and microwave for about one minute. Throw a damp paper towel on top of the tortilla to keep it soft. If you’d rather tacos, just mix all the ingredients except tortillas and heat them in a bowl. Load up your tortilla and there you go! It’s filling and simple and you can get friends involved. Have each person bring one of the ingredients to share and a plate, then make up a meal and turn on some Netflix or study.
The more creative you are with food, the happier you’ll be. When I would debate eating out instead of the cafeteria, I learned to save by being creative. I figured out how to make grilled cheese by getting bread and butter from the salad/PB&J area, cheese slices from the sandwich bar, then putting the sandwich on one of the sandwich presses to heat it. I mostly did this when we had tomato soup. Challenge your friends to see who can find a more creative food fix when the fun of the cafeteria wears off.
If you do go out to eat—and we all end up going more than we should—several restaurants offer 10% off for students when you have a student ID, so keep yours handy to show the cashier at Subway, Wendy’s and even some Chick-fil-a restaurants. Several Moe’s Southwest Grill locations offer a student night where you can get a burrito or bowl, fountain drink and chips for $5.99, which is a steal for a Moe’s lover. If you download their app, you can scan the receipt barcode to earn points that will earn you a free meal.
Some great apps that will help you save money on groceries
If you are a music lover this is an easy way to save money on something you probably already have. College students can get Spotify for $4.99 a month with a student email. If you don’t have an .edu email, you can email them proof you’re a student—like a copy of your class schedule—and you’ll get the deal. I don’t use Spotify, but several of my friends at college did this (with their .net emails) and loved it.
5. Amazon Prime For Students
Amazon Prime for students is a great deal. It starts as a six month free trial and just like Spotify you can get it without an .edu email address if you email them a picture of your schedule or something similar. I sent them my acceptance letter. I heard back in less than 24 hours and signed up. You get access to Amazon Prime textbook rentals, two-day free shipping (handy when you need textbooks and school supplies ASAP!), Amazon Video and Amazon Music. You even get Prime Pantry. After the six months it’s $49.99 a year, which is half the price of regular Prime. I use Amazon Music instead of Spotify and save money that way as well.
Hopefully these five tips help you save money. Just don’t forget to keep your student ID handy to prove your student status. Below are just a few places that offer student discounts!
- J. Crew
- New York Times
- Sam’s Club
- Wall Street Journal
- Many insurance companies offer a discount on student drivers with a B average or higher, so check with your provider to find out what they offer!
This guest post was written by Leah Kahkola, a class of 2017 college graduate who freelances writing and editing. She’s an avid reader and is always open to new opportunities. Leah is currently trying to plan a wedding on a thrifty budget.
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- For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.