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Learning how to save money in college is a skill many students have trouble mastering, and it’s not exactly something you typically learn before you finish high school. However, managing and saving your money in college or university is extremely important.

Dealing with student debt and living on a student budget is tough and a major source for anxiety or stress at any level. Taking steps to save money while you’re in school can also help set you up for a more stable financial future. It’s all about building those money-saving habits as soon as you can and spending wisely!

Read this ultimate guide with 25 tips for learning how to save money in college and make your student budget work for you without sacrificing more than you need to. You’d be surprised how big a difference even the smallest change can make.


One of the biggest ways you can learn how to save money in college starts with your tuition. Landing a scholarship or a grant can really help lighten your financial load because it will cover at least a large portion of your tuition.

It’s important to remember, though, that each type of scholarship is different and you’re still going to have a lot of expenses to cover outside of your awarded money. Therefore, you shouldn’t apply for anything with the expectation that you’re getting a completely free ride.

There are plenty of places to search for available scholarships and grants that you may qualify for. Sometimes you’ll need to be chosen by a committee for performance in a certain field or extracurricular activity, but other times you just have to apply (usually by writing an essay Be sure to search websites like ScholarshipPortal for any options that might be suitable or available in your area.

While you’re applying for scholarships for some helpful tips you can use to make your application stand out from the rest.


Keeping track of your income and expenses is an important step in creating the budget you have to work with. It will also help you visualize and see exactly where you’re spending your money, which will give you a better idea of the areas you can make cuts. While doing this might seem like a tedious task, it makes a major difference when you can actually see where all of your money is going and where you’re spending too much.

When creating your student budget, break down your expenses by priority. Determine what you need and what you want – those are two very different things. List out everything you spend money on. Items like rent, tuition, housing fees, Internet bills, and textbooks should be at the top of your list. These items you can’t really avoid paying, so they have to be your big priorities. Then, you can start adding in the fun stuff to determine which of those fun things you can afford to keep doing, and which you should cut.

It’s helpful to use a spreadsheet like Google Sheets to help you with your budgeting and income/expense tracking. This way, you can lay everything out in a column and examine money in versus money out in a straightforward way.


Textbooks are a big money sucker, but they are necessary to get the grades you need to pass with flying colours. Therefore, a key tip every student should know when learning how to save money in college is reducing your textbook costs, and it starts with not buying them brand new from your school’s bookstore.

University and college bookstores are notorious for selling textbooks and even photocopied article collections at sky-high prices. Depending on how many courses you’re taking and what program you’re in, you could be looking at thousands of dollars each year just in course materials. On top of that, textbooks are a requirement for your classes and you can’t just avoid using one if you plan on getting top marks. There are a few options for buying textbooks cheaper than your school’s store, so don’t make this your first stop.

Firstly, you can opt to buy them used. Some university bookstores will re-sell used copies at a cheaper price, run buy-and-sell events at the beginning and end of each semester. You could also try networking with students in upper years or who are just finishing the classes you’re taking next so you can arrange to buy their used copies they don’t need anymore. Sometimes students will sell their used textbooks on marketplace sites like eBay, so be sure to check there.

Another option you can try is searching for your textbooks online. Often, you can find textbooks on Amazon,, or Chegg. A lot of these websites offer ebook versions as well, which tend to be cheaper and can be downloaded immediately if you need the book quickly.

You also have one other option you can try – split the cost of a textbook with your classmate. If you choose this route, it means you’ll have to share the book, so make sure you communicate a plan to go back and forth or stagger out your study sessions so you both don’t need the book at the same time. This option is perfect when you live with roommates who are taking the same courses as you.


Every time you use an ATM that isn’t at your bank you have to pay a fee, and that fee varies depending on which bank owns that particular ATM machine. When you’re already out for the night and need some quick cash, paying the $2 or $3 ATM charge might not seem like a big deal at the time. But when you start doing this every time you go out, those small charges add up really fast.

Here are a few different ways you can avoid using ATMs and save yourself the extra money when you need cash:

● Use the ATM machines at your own bank

● Get cash back when you’re at the grocery store (or other stores that offer it)

● Search out and switch to a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees (or reimburses them)

● Save any cash gifts or extra cash from a night out for the next one instead of putting them in the bank or using them on something you could pay with a card for

● Use credit cards if your debit card has a monthly transaction limit

● If you use online banking, see if your app has an ATM locator that will help you find machines your branch operates

If you do have to use an ATM, take out more cash than you need and save the rest. The ATM fees don’t vary depending on the amount you withdraw, so if you’re going to have to pay that fee you may as well try to only pay it once.


A rebate is a cash back reward system where you get a certain percentage or amount of your purchase back when you show proof or purchase of specific things. Basically it works the same way as a coupon, but instead of giving you the discount on the item, you just get some of the money back later.

Usually, all you have to do is buy the specified brand or product, upload a picture of your receipt, and then the app will review and confirm. They’ll send you money via PayPal or mailed check when you decide you’re ready to cash out. Some apps will also give you your payout in gift cards that you can spend at your favourite places. It won’t be a ton of money back right away, but since you were already going to buy these things, it’s a great way to benefit without going out of your way. When you use rebate apps for your everyday purchases that you were going to make anyway, you can essentially get free money if you collect it over time.

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