How to Avoid Spending More Money Than You Need to in College

Keep an eye on your expenses in college, and you can save some extra cash that will ultimately add up. Check out these tips to avoid spending more money than you need to in college.

school costs money

How to Conserve Your Cash

Colleges, especially private colleges, need to make money from students in order to remain in business. If you're a first-time student, colleges may want to take advantage of your inexperience by making you spend more money than you should. Be aware of these costs so you don't spend extra money while in school!


Living on-campus creates the most weaknesses in a student. For the first time, you're on your own without your parents' ever-watchful eyes. You can eat whatever you want, stay up as late as you want and go out without telling them first. Along with these fantastic freedoms comes a serious downfall - no parental advice. While it may not seem so, parents tell you what to do because they're watching out for you. Colleges can take the opposite approach, seemingly preying on the weak to make extra cash, so you've got to be aware of these tricks.


Most colleges have a dining hall that serves food buffet-style and a café or fast food court that serves food to order. Your meal plan typically covers the dining hall services, but food that's made in bulk isn't always tasty. In fact, their structured rotation of food may remind you of your high school cafeteria or your mother's cooking.

While it may seem like a great idea to grab a pizza from the cafe while you study, resist the urge to give your money to the college. While colleges may insist that they make little profit on café food, burgers don't cost five dollars to make at home. Resisting the café will not only save you money, it also staves off the so-called 'freshman 15'.

Coffee Shops

Everyone loves stopping at their local coffee shop before class. There's nothing like a hot mocha to wake you up on an early winter morning. This is why colleges have begun to offer a coffee stand or shop on campus. It's tempting to stop for a scone and coffee on your trek across campus, but save yourself the time and money by skipping it.

Instead, bring a coffee maker (or espresso maker) with you to college. When you're getting ready for class in the morning, brew some coffee in your room. Not only will it save you money over time, but the smell of brewing coffee will help wake you up for a day of studying. Bringing your favorite syrup to campus and making your own mocha in your room saves you three or four dollars a day. Plus, if you charge a dollar per drink, you could make a few bucks (and friends) off your dorm-mates to cover initial costs. Translation - you could have coffee every morning for free.


It seems like a conspiracy - professors and bookstores work together to create the most expensive book lists possible for classes. While this is most likely not the case, universities hope that you won't realize you don't need to use the campus bookstore. Some colleges even keep books in a back room so that you need to make out an order form just to see them. Once these books are in your hand, you'll likely pay the price and charge it to your account (which you know financial aid covers). Plus, some professors are strict on the version of each text they want their students to use.

Truthfully, books vary little from version to version, so ask your professor if you can get an older copy of the text. And even if you do need to get the version your professor requests, you'll likely get it cheaper through an Internet site like or In fact, there are now book rental sites such as and where you can get textbooks for half the purchase price. Plus, shipping could be free if you spend a certain amount.

Parking Games

Even if you live on campus, you'll most likely be charged for a parking space and car registration (college is the DMV now?). You can solve this by not taking your car to college at all. Yes, you'll be limited to campus transportation, but living on campus is meant to be an experience.

Make a friend who has a car and you may be able to bum a ride somewhere. Offer them gas money and they'll be more likely to jump at the opportunity. Not only will you have the satisfaction of not giving the college extra money, but you'll save money on gas, insurance and other car expenses.

Colleges can find sneaky ways to get more money out of you. Now, find hidden costs for attending college!

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