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Save Money in College

Starting college can be one of the most stressful periods in a person's life. For many, it will mean living away from home for the first time, and facing all the challenges that it brings. Money might never be in more short supply than during your college years, but sadly, most students have little experience in dealing with money issues. Everyone knows how crippling personal debt can become, so keeping a tight reign on your finances at college is a priority.

It's easy to coast through your first couple of years, living off loans and taking it easy. When you hit third year, however, the work steps up a gear and the results start to matter, and you can easily find yourself in a situation where you are forced to work long hours to make ends meet. You might not be able get the pass you deserve, and more importantly, your quality of life will suffer. It is important that when you leave college, you're ready to take your next step without worrying about money.

Here are seven simple ideas to save money in college, so your time there can be as rewarding and free of stress as possible.

  • Take advantage of discounts - Many discounts are available to you as a student, so make sure you are taking advantage of them. Discounts on things like cinema tickets, haircuts and meals out can seriously add up over time, and joining your local student union can increase the range available to you. Just make sure that if you have to pay a membership fee, it's less than the amount that you will save. Otherwise it's not a saving at all!

  • Maximise funding - Make sure you have pursued every avenue of funding available to you. Sites like and can help you find all kinds of scholarships and grants that you might be eligible for, as can your college website. It's a good idea to go to the student support office in person, because the staff will help you refine your application and increase your chances of receiving a payment. You should apply for everything, even if you don't expect to receive anything. Nobody likes filling out forms, but a few hours here can make a serious contribution to your financial independence.

  • Economize on textbooks – Books can be a major expense for some students. First, ask yourself if you really need to buy it. There will almost certainly be copies in the college library, would you be able to do the necessary reading in your lunch hour, or some down-time between classes? It's always worth trying the local lending library, too, especially for the more well-known books. For everything else, try web sites that sell textbooks, especially ones that sell used ones. For example, on you should be able to order all the books for a semester in a half-hour, and for a better price, especially if you go for second-hand copies from Marketplace sellers. When the semester is finished, sign up for your own Marketplace account, and put the books up for sale again. It's easy, and will reduce your textbook costs to almost nothing!

  • Buy a freezer - After rent, the biggest expense you will incur is food. This is partly because most students know little about cooking or kitchen management. One great way to save on food costs is to get a freezer. That way, you can take advantage of short-dated or buy-one-get-one-free bargains at the supermarket. Also, get into the habit of cooking in bulk. Make two or three times what you need when cooking things like chilli, soup or pasta sauces, and freeze the extra for another day. The extra effort is minimal, but the savings and convenience are significant.

  • Get Skype or Vonage - Phones can be a massive drain on your finances, though most students would consider a mobile phone indispensable these days. Pay-as-you-go is generally the cheapest option, although it takes more effort. If you do go for a contract, make sure that you don't end up paying for services you don't use. $40 a month might not seem like much, but it adds up to $480 a year. If you are planning on making lots of long-distance calls home, and you have broadband, consider getting Skype, the internet phone service. Calls are free if both parties have the program installed, and dramatically cheaper if not. If you have broadband internet, you might also want to consider Vonage which works out to be about 50% off regular phone line rates, just by using your internet access to power your phone.

  • Use free software - Open-Source software, which is free to download and use, is becoming increasingly popular. OpenOffice offers a full suite of fully-featured applications, including word processor and spreadsheet. is an excellent internet browser which has the further advantage of being customisable through plug-ins. Google Docs offers a word processor and spreadsheet that are operated through the browser, meaning your documents can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection – great for research. Finally, Avast offers a superb free virus protection package, with definitions updated almost daily.

  • Separate “wants” from “needs” - It's easy to convince yourself that you need the fastest laptop, a bigger iPod or the latest video game console. You don't, you just want them. These devices make money through peer pressure and our desire for novelty, not from their inherent worth. Work out what you need to do, and then buy only what you need to do it. If all you have to do is surf the web, write papers and check your email, you could do that on any old computer. As for a car, unless your college is in a town with no buses or you have something seriously wrong with your legs, you really shouldn't even be considering it.

Thank you to David Robertson for this "Save Money in College" article.


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Table of Content

Buy cheap textbooks

Website introduction which provides stu­dents with a basic introduction on text­book pricing, includ­ing some great resources on buying cheap textbooks.

Buy used textbook

Explanation and tips on finding and pur­chasing high quality used textbooks for less. Gets into some of the most popular cheap used college textbook sellers.

Buy college textbooks

Discusses the advan­tages and disadvan­tages of campus text­book buying vs. on line textbook buying. Includes resources.

Textbook buy back

Disucusses the op­tions students have when it comes to sell­ing their used college textbooks, including everything from text­book buy backs, to auctions, to direct selling. Includes resources.