40 Money-Saving Tips From Real Students

What are students just like you doing to save money? Below are 40 tried-and-true tips for saving and earning dough, from where to find free meals to buying used textbooks to saving on your cell-phone bill.

Student with piggie bank

Save Your Cash

As fun as student life can be, it often comes with a pretty hefty price tag. But don't despair! Learn.org is here to help you find money-saving strategies that will help you keep some green in your pockets. From 'extreme couponing' to 'natural refrigeration,' savvy students know about the best ways to make to ends meet. The entrants of our recent Starving Students scholarship contest shared their wisdom on Facebook, and we've put together the best of their tips to help you stay afloat during college.

Starving Students Tell You How to…

…Shop for Less

'Thrifting! Things like rugs, curtains, couches, mini-fridges - things you would be sharing with your roomie - you can split the cost for. Also, buy these things at thrift stores! They're cheap and are usually still in good condition.' - Amy Barnhart

'College textbooks are one of the most unforeseen college expenditures. Only once one is enrolled does he/she begin to find out about the additional expense. Furthermore, textbooks are not a luxury; they are a necessity for every single student that wishes to successfully complete the course. A great way to save money is to buy used textbooks, which can help decrease overall college costs by a couple thousand dollars. In addition, a student could make money by reselling his/her college textbooks at cost price or even for a profit. This is a great area for students to save money and reduce overall tuition costs, whether or not they are eligible for financial aid or academic scholarships.' - Seema Kahn

'To me the most expensive thing is clothing, so to save money every year I just alter my winter clothes into summer clothes. That way I only have to go school shopping once a year.' - Shanicka Peurifoy

'Reduce the amount of soap you buy. I take the leftover small pieces of soap most people throw away and put them in an old pair of panty hose to wash with. This saves a substantial amount.' - Megan Gail Perez

'Write letters to companies whose products you use on a regular basis. I wrote IAMS and told them that my puppy was happy and healthy because he ate their dog food. The company mailed me several coupons for half off any bag of dog food!' - Shelley Jackson

'Don't shop when you're hungry!' - Tamika Bri

…Stay Fed

'Most of us don't realize what our little perks add up to each month. The first thing you need to learn to do is to take whatever you want to drink during the day from home. Your coffee runs anywhere from $0.69 for a regular cup of joe to over five dollars for a latte from Starbucks. This really adds up.' - Anna Edwards

'Cooking for yourself is a good way to reduce expenses. By contrast, eating out and microwaveable meals can be very pricey. Also, cooking engages both creative and scientific skills, and the short break from studying allows the mind to recharge.' - Ryan Stull

'Learn to stretch your groceries and use leftovers and cookbooks/recipe websites. If you cook chicken one night and have some left over, don't throw it out. Use what's left and make chicken salad or soup. This also helps you from getting takeout as much and from getting bored with eating the same thing every week. It doesn't have to be gourmet; just start out with simple things and you'll get the hang of it. Plus it helps you to concentrate and relieve stress, which definitely pays off.' - Morgan Griffin-Morgan

'In order to reduce our food costs I raise chickens in the backyard of my urban dwelling. The eggs they produce are an excellent source of protein and are healthier than store-bought eggs that are not as fresh.' - Dawn L Cameron

'Share the expense of groceries with friends and roommates. You'd be surprised by how much you DON'T eat and waste. And even if you are a big eater, buying in bulk to share with someone else actually saves you a lot on one of your largest bills while still maintaining a suitable college diet.' - Tawanah Mé Shelle

'Go out when it is cheapest (e.g., 50-cent wing Wednesdays).' - Chris Knight Felton

…Tame Your Bills

'Take online classes. Since I am a commuter student, I take at least one online class each semester. It reduces the costs for transportation, food and school supplies. The time that one saves traveling and attending lecture can be used working part-time. Additionally, taking online classes allows for other money-saving activities such as shopping for groceries (which prevents buying restaurant food), and for students who are also parents it will save money on childcare.' - Angelina Majeno

'If possible, live at home to avoid paying rent.' - Petra Baptiste

'On-campus and off-campus housing affiliated with universities are outrageously expensive. And so much money could be saved if you realize there are other places you can live. Get an apartment off-campus and split the rent with a few of your friends.' - Chelsea Kirby

'One of the most costly recurring expenses is your monthly cell phone bill. The average college student pays anywhere from $40 to $100 per month. I found a way to eliminate a monthly bill and still be able to communicate. Cancel your monthly cell phone service. Invest in the initial cost of an Apple iPod Touch. Download free text and phone applications from the App Store. Start texting and making calls for free!' - Mike Eftim

'I gave up my name brand cell phone service for a pay-as-you-go cell phone service. I went from a $60 monthly bill to a $23 quarterly bill. From January 2012 to present I went from an annual expense of $720 to $92, a savings of $628 per year. This savings has helped me pay for books and fees. I get the same quality of service and don't miss the name brand phone at all.' - Jody Allen

'I reduce my water bill by showering at the Student Rec & Wellness Center after my workouts instead of at home!' - Karen Palmer

'If you have a roommate or are living in an apartment, unplug any unnecessary electrical things at night. I unplug almost everything (TVs, DVD players, game systems, laptop chargers, lamps, and even my microwave and toaster). I keep my stove, refrigerator and cell phone plugged. My light bill went down from $117 to $32. Amazing!' - Renaye Williams

'Save energy by putting more linen on the beds instead of running the heat. When it's hot, open the windows instead of running the AC. This cuts my bill by $60 a month. Also, I don't run the water unnecessarily and that cuts my water bill by $20 a month.' - Ladybug Love

'I think that the real way to reduce your living expenses is using things that nature gives for free. Instead of wasting my money on a refrigerator for my dorm room, I put my food between my window mesh and the glass. This keeps my food frozen since it's always below 32 degrees in North Dakota during the fall and spring semesters.' - Miguel Torres

'Avoid excess expenses (especially car-related ones such as tickets, repairs and gasoline). Try to use your car as little as possible. Carpool, walk and use campus transportation.' - Chris Knight Felton

'The best way to save money these days is to carpool. For long trips home for the holidays or just the weekly trip to the grocery store, the more the merrier. If everyone in the car splits on the gas bill it is much better than multiple cars making the same drive separately. Not to mention the added bonus of your contribution to saving the environment!' - Gabby Pinder

'Take classes the least amount of days to avoid traveling and burning more gas.' - Petra Baptiste

…Be a Budget Master

'I am working full time while attending college. For every dollar I'm tempted to spend, I follow a simple formula: cost of item/hourly wage = amount of time locked in a room with my least favorite manager. I then decide if it's really worth it. So far, this has been very helpful!' - Jennifer Casebere

'Learn to only buy things that are 'needs' and not 'wants.' ' - Taylor Konstan

'I create monthly charts and divide my money up between the months. This way I know exactly how much money I have for this time period and am less likely to go over my budget. It's a constant reminder of what I have to spare and what I should save.' - Mark Clark

'Come up with a budget plan and stick with it. Use the 'envelope' method: insert all of the money going to important things such as food, rent, bills, etc. into an envelope. Then seal it so you are not tempted to take money out.' - Tracey Bien-aime

'Do not take out more loans than you need for that semester and don't take them just because they are offered to you. Do not get credit cards unless you are sure you can pay them off as you use them.' - Bobbie Whittley

'I collect all of my spare change and at the end of the semester I put the total amount that I collected towards my student loans.' - Amanda Fleming

'I learned to knit and make Christmas presents for my family.' - Lindsay Webster

…Make Money

'Selling plasma can add a little extra money to your pocket. In addition, if you bring your textbooks along while you wait, you can make a little money while you study or do homework.' - Alfredia Bowers

'I pick up cans on the way home from class every day. I collect them in trash bags in my basement. On a college campus where kids drink almost every other night, it is very easy to find 10-15 cans a day or more. By the end of the quarter, I have saved enough cans to turn in to pay for books.' - Nick Herrin

'I make art to sell as presents for people (everyone loves original gifts and people are too lazy to shop). I enjoy making them, and I get money for it!' - Heather Stevens

…Score Free Stuff

'First, start by adopting the motto 'If it's free, it's me,' and always accept anything that's free because you never know when you'll need it or if you can sell it or trade it for something else. If a friend offers you a meal, take it. If there are leftovers, take them. Free buses on campus? Take them instead of using your own gas. Save your money for important things, like beer and pizza!' - Brandon Currie

'Use resources around you that are readily available at a low cost or for free. There are places such as food banks, churches or community outreach centers that can help students with basic living needs such as clothes and canned or processed foods. This can help to greatly reduce the cost of living and unburden many students.' - Kayla Rene Jones

'The best way for a free meal just about every night is to scope out the student government website for 'free food' events. Not only do you get a free meal, but you get to meet passionate people and make new friends.' - Michael Johnston

'Condiments such as salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard and mayo are FREE at fast food restaurants. If you go to the counter and ask for a few packets of each at multiple locations, you can have enough to last awhile.' -- Shelley Jackson

'Barter with people! I babysit for free haircuts.' - Heather Stevens

'On the day that people move out of the dorms, swoop in and dumpster dive! People often throw away nearly brand new things!' - Maria Bondie

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