100 Money-Saving Hacks for Living Large on a Student Budget

By Rose Jensen

Away from home with the high cost of college, students often find that they are usually a little short on cash. But if you are smart about it, it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on, and you’ll find 100 hacks that can help save students money.

Mental Tricks

Use these tricks to fool yourself into spending less money.

  1. Pay with cash: Make spending more real by paying with cash whenever possible.
  2. Carry large bills: For many, it’s more painful to spend large bills than smaller ones, so carry bigger bills to prevent spending.
  3. Leave your wallet at home: Take only the cash you need.


Follow these hacks, and you’ll be able to have fun for less.

  1. Make room in your budget: If you know you have to spend money on entertainment, be sure to save room for it in your budget.
  2. Don’t use cable TV: Watch DVDs and videos online instead of cable TV.
  3. Go outside: Take advantage of parks, outdoor activities, and picnics.
  4. Create a club: Put together a book club or wine tasting club with friends.
  5. Go on tour: Many breweries, factories, newspapers, and other facilities offer fun, free tours.
  6. Find a cheap bar: If you’re going out, locate a cheap bar and make it your usual spot.
  7. Go out for just coffee: Don’t spend lots of money on alcohol or food-just hang out over a cup of coffee.
  8. Play yard games: Play volleyball, tag football, bocce ball, and other fun, cheap yard games.
  9. Visit school plays: See what your school’s drama department has on tap.
  10. Enjoy happy hours: Get cheap drinks and food by visiting during happy hour.
  11. Use the campus pool: Take advantage of the pool you have access to on campus.
  12. Hit the library: Visit the library for DVDs, books, and more.
  13. Join a street team for freebies: Get free show tickets and other freebies in exchange for promoting bands and events.
  14. See what’s happening on campus: Take advantage of free and cheap activities on and near campus.
  15. Find house parties: Go to house parties where the booze is free and plentiful.
  16. Look for discount days: Find out which days zoos, museums, and theaters offer free or cheap admission.
  17. Find free events: Check out events online to see what’s happening for cheap in your city.
  18. Go to gallery openings: Enjoy food, culture, and art for free.
  19. Go to matinees: Catch the early showing for a cheap ticket.
  20. Take advantage of student discounts: Use your student ID for discounts on movies and more.
  21. Give frugal gifts: Give thoughtful gifts that don’t cost a lot of money.
  22. Buy group tickets: Find out where you can buy tickets in bulk, then share the cost with your friends.

Shopping & Food

Use these budget hacks when you’re out shopping and eating food.

  1. Cool down impulse buys: Put "gotta have it" buys on a list, and revisit them 30 days later to see how important they are.
  2. Shop around: Don’t go for the first price you find-shop around first.
  3. Share: Lend and borrow books, clothes, toys and other items that you may not need anymore, and get the same in return.
  4. Buy in bulk: If you tend to buy a lot of a certain item, buy it in bulk whenever there is a savings.
  5. Put a stop to clutter: Know what you have in your home and simplify to avoid accumulating unnecessary stuff.
  6. Cook at home: Save money on food expenses by making your own meals at home.
  7. Eat stir-fry: Throw together some rice and vegetables for a cheap, healthy dinner.
  8. Use a toaster oven: Warm up a cold sandwich to make it more appealing.
  9. Eat before you go out: Leave home full so you won’t be tempted to spend money on fast food.
  10. Make salads: Make a salad out of just about anything.
  11. Buy rotisserie chicken: Get a rotisserie chicken and use every piece of it.
  12. Brown-bag it: Don’t rely on the food court for lunch-bring your own food along to save money.


With these hacks, you’ll help keep your health bills to a minimum.

  1. Exercise: Avoid huge medical bills later by exercising and staying healthy today.
  2. Eat healthy: Maintain your health with food that’s good for you.
  3. Exercise at home: Use your local track, do body weight exercises, and more to avoid a costly gym membership.
  4. Limit your vices: Don’t go overboard with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

Travel & Transportation

With these hacks, you can get around for cheap.

  1. Don’t use a car: Forego car maintenance, gas, insurance, parking and other expenses by not having a car and learning to use mass transit.
  2. Ride your bike: Exercise and save money at the same time by using your bike for transportation.
  3. Couchsurfing: Crash on a stranger’s couch, and offer yours, too, to see the world cheap.
  4. Use campus shuttles: Take advantage of free transportation with campus shuttles.
  5. Study abroad: Take advantage of free lodging and good exchange rates with study abroad programs.
  6. Stay close to home: Save money by going on economical group trips.

Earning Money

With the help of these hacks, you can start earning more money.

  1. Get a job: Whether you work on campus or off, getting a job can supply you with cash as well as experience.
  2. Freelance: Take on freelance jobs to earn a bit of money.
  3. Ask for a raise: Get more money for your work by simply asking for it.
  4. Avoid scams: Stay away from ventures that ask you to invest money to work.
  5. Sell your stuff: Get rid of stuff you don’t need anymore by selling it on eBay.
  6. Get a scholarship: Apply for scholarships, so you’ll have more money to work with.
  7. Tutor: Share your knowledge with students that need a little help and earn some money.
  8. Start your own business: Do what you’re talented at and make a little money on the side.
  9. Mystery shop: Get a little extra money and some free food or merchandise by mystery shopping.


Learn to cut your expenses using these hacks.

  1. Use a prepaid cell phone: Unless you are on your cell phone constantly, using a prepaid plan can generally save you money.
  2. Get cheap furniture: Use hand-me-downs, Goodwill items, and other cheap furniture for your dorm room or college apartment.
  3. Wash only full loads: Don’t waste water or your money by washing only small loads of clothing.
  4. Live at home: If you’re going to a commuter college, live at home so you won’t have to worry about living expenses.
  5. Get a roommate: Find someone to split your bills and space with.
  6. Stay at home: Going out increases the possibility that you’ll spend unnecessarily, so enjoy your time at home.
  7. Don’t hang out with spenders: Hang out with spenders, and you may spend more than you can afford.
  8. Always assume they want your money: Always remember that companies are out for your cash.
  9. Try bartering: Barter for items and services to save money on what you otherwise would have paid for.
  10. Stay busy: Avoid bored spending by keeping up with your schoolwork, joining activities, and visiting with friends.
  11. Save first: Once you’ve saved, then you can splurge.
  12. Stop catalogs and emails: Don’t sign up for catalogs or promotional materials that will entice you to spend money.

Money Management

Use these hacks to better manage your money.

  1. Track spending: Keep good records to avoid getting overdrawn or spending too much.
  2. Use envelopes: Put your spending cash into categories using the envelope system.
  3. Get a better interest rate: Either by negotiating, or moving to a better bank, work to improve your interest rate.
  4. Pace yourself: Avoid spending all of your money early on in the semester.
  5. Use online bill pay: Save on stamps, checks, and late fees with online bill pay.
  6. Create a budget: Figure out how much money you have and where it needs to go each month.
  7. Plan ahead: When you know you have expenses coming, set aside for them ahead of time.
  8. Have an emergency fund: Save yourself from going into debt in a crunch by maintaining an emergency fund for car troubles and other unexpected expenses.
  9. Join a credit union: Become a part of a credit union that offers lots of perks.
  10. Use debit card cash back: Instead of paying ATM fees, just get cash back with your next purchase.
  11. Pay your bills on time: Avoid paying late fees by paying your bills on time.

School Expenses

Cut your school expenses using these hacks.

  1. Buy used: Don’t shell out for a brand new book-buy used to save money, and be sure to sell it back when you’re done.
  2. Negotiate fees: Ask your financial aid office to remove fees for services you don’t take advantage of.
  3. Study groups instead of tutors: Save money on tutoring by joining a study group.
  4. Get good grades: Earn merit-based scholarships to qualify for good grades.
  5. Start out at a community college: Save money by completing your core classes at a community college.
  6. Use what you’ve paid for: Make use of the library, gym, and prepaid meals.
  7. Get free or cheap software: Download free and open source software, or get student priced-software from your school’s technology center.
  8. Share textbooks: If you and a roommate or friend have the same class, study together and share your textbook.
  9. Be an RA: Get free room and board by working as an RA.
  10. Spread out purchases: Buy books as you need them, not all at the beginning of the school year.
  11. Test out of classes: Instead of taking classes, try taking a test to see if you can fulfill your class requirements.
  12. Max out on classes: Take as many classes as you can handle to save on per-semester fees.
  13. Check out textbooks from the library: Get your textbooks for free by getting them from the library.
  14. Use student services: Take advantage of free student programs like health care and transportation.
  15. Finish early: Save on room, board, and other expenses by getting out of college early.

Debt & Savings

With these hacks, you’ll be able to pay less and keep more.

  1. Avoid credit cards: Stay away from credit cards to avoid going into debt.
  2. Keep an imaginary credit line: Only spend what you know you’ll be able to pay back.
  3. Pay your savings and debt first: Make sure you don’t end up shortchanging your debt or savings payments by paying them first.
  4. Avoid non-academic debt: Use your credit for student loans and nothing else.
  5. Make small weekly savings transfers: Deduct a small amount from your checking each week, and you won’t notice it’s gone until you have enough for that trip to Europe.
  6. Use online savings: Keep your money a little bit harder to get to and earn higher interest with an online savings bank.

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