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5 Money Saving Tips for College Students

Summer is quickly coming to an end and for many it means the inevitable–it’s back to school time! With tuition on a constant rise, money can get pretty tight for students. In addition to keeping up with your extreme couponing, save yourself and your loved ones some money by using these quick tips!

1. Rent Your College Textbooks

College texts at the bookstore can carry a stomach-wrenching price tag. Hardcover books easily go for over $100 each, and if you average four classes per semester, well… Fortunately, there are textbook rental services available for a fraction of the price. You rent the book for the amount of time you need it and ship it back for free when you’re done!

I use SJ Books to rent my textbooks: http://sjbooks.bookrenter.com/. I find that they always have the books that I need, and they ship for free across the U.S.

2. Get Roommates/Housemates

As much as everyone likes having their own space, cutting your rent in half by adding another person to the lease can save you a tremendous amount of money. You now have someone that can split all those pesky utility bills that never stop coming (and your house chores just got cut in half!).

3. Cook At Home

Too busy with school to cook everyday? Consider setting aside one day out of the week and preparing all your meals at once. This way you can freeze home-cooked meals and reheat them as necessary. Not eating out everyday can save you an average of $8-10 per meal!

4. Take Turns Carpooling

Whether you are a daily commuter or you’re just making a trip to the grocery store, consider sharing the cost of gas with others. It’s good for the environment and good for your wallet!

5. Do Your Research Before Making a Purchase

Couponing extends beyond the limits of brick and mortar (BM) stores. Online retailers often have coupons or deals available that are not advertised directly on their websites. I always head over to user-edited forums such as FatWallet and Slickdeals to look for a deal before making a purchase. At these sites, I just type in the item or store I’m looking for, and I can see all deals available for what I want to buy.

Also, if we’re talking about a specific online giant retailer (I’m looking at you, Amazon), their prices are changing all the time–sometimes even by the hour! So how do you know if you’re paying too much? Price history websites do all the math and algorithms so that you can see a nice, organized graph of all the prices an item has gone through including the highest and lowest prices that item has sold for. If you’re not in a rush for an item, camelcamelcamel can even send you an email notification when your item drops below a price point that you set.

Going to college doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drown in debt. Spending wisely and saving where possible will help keep your head afloat while you’re working your way towards that diploma.

This has been a guest post by Jessica, San Francisco, CA
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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44 thoughts on “5 Money Saving Tips for College Students”

  1. compulsive-shopper says:

    Check with the campus library. We just went on a campus tour for our state college for my son and their library offers free rentals right on campus! Especially if it’s for one of your Gen Ed classes…you don’t want to have to BUY that book…what a waste of funds.

  2. Rachelle Gibson says:

    I recommend students do some digging before deciding to rent textbooks or buying a previous edition. Depending on your major, the information will change drastically with each edition. I have a B.S. in Social Work and have saved a lot of the textbooks from my undergrad years. I used them to prepare for my licensing exam and also as references while working in the field. Now that I’m in grad school the books are 5x as expensive and a lot of them are written by my professors…meaning you have to buy that current edition and often have to buy directly from the bookstore. We’ve had several students buy the previous edition and they had to turn around and buy the current edition just to be able to keep up with everyone. I have kept all of my books so far in grad school and plan to keep them as references for the future.

  3. Cash says:

    I recommend buying your books off craigslist, not renting. Then, you have the chance to sell your books when you are finished. There are usually great deals on craigslist and it is all negotiable.

  4. Aubrie says:

    As a current college student I highly discourage renting textbooks. They are normally only a few dollars cheaper than used so you save approx. $20 for a full class load. However, if you buy used and sell them back to the bookstore, or online if they no longer carry the book, you will normally get back approx $150 (full class load). Renting textbooks is a waste of money in the long run.

  5. kat says:

    i got my AA at a community college and now i am finishing my BA at a university. I work part time and go to school full time. I sell on ebay and etsy. I am graduating with honors and have $20,000 saved for a down payment on a house. I would recommend buying textbooks during the summer. Most people are partying during the summer and aren’t worried about buying their books. I buy the books i need for really cheap in the summer and the price quickly increases as the fall semester is approaching. I also research the books that other students will need and buy those for cheap and sell them for a profit during fall. With the profit I made not only do I get my own free textbooks but I make a profit :)

  6. Amanda says:

    Nice idea, but these tips don’t seem to make sense for the typical college student who lives in a dorm and has a meal plan. My tips would be:

    Live off campus. I realized took my what I was paying for my dorm, divided it by 12 months, and realized I could get a really nice apartment 2 miles from school which wouldn’t require me to leave during Christmas break, during the summer, and it was way bigger, nicer, and had my own room!

    Don’t buy the latest edition of books. I once found the previous version of a book I needed for $10 online, and it was about $120 new. Sell back your books online and you will make most of your money back.

    But my BIGGEST tip is don’t go to a “good” school. I realized that in the real world, they only care about experience. You just need a degree…ANY degree to get in the door, then it’s all about what you do on the job. I will be paying back school for 20 years when I could have had it paid off by now if I choose to go to a state school.

    • Cat says:

      I go to a state school that is a “good” school.

      • Amanda says:

        That’s what I’m saying, that there is often an assumption that going to a overly priced big name school is better, but state schools are just as good, and even better because you save a lot of money!

        • yeah i agree with your tips totally! but for my situation i lucked out. my dorm is 250 a month (2grand a year) and i pay for my food. im not going to a typical college. it has about 120 students all going for the same degree. i feel very blessed to be going to the school i am.

  7. EGS says:

    Only buy books you’ll really use, which you can usually tell by looking over a course’s syllabus. Always buy used, if at all possible. Try to sell books you won’t need again as soon as the course is over.

  8. Druidess8907 says:

    Try checking your campus library to see if they have the book (even it it’s an older edition). It’s better than spending $200 on a new book. I’ve done this before during a one month summer class where it wasn’t worth it to purchase the book. Just make sure you check out how long you can check out the book & if you’re able to check it out/renew it again.

  9. Nikita says:

    If you are going away to college try working for the university, I was an RA for 3 years in college and saved 10,000 a year because you get free room and board and a meal plan in place of a paycheck. Plus it’s great experience a leadership position that looks great on a resume and helps cut tuition costs and the amount of loans you need take out. Also there are grad positions available for RA’s after the graduate if they decide to go back for another degree

  10. JenU says:

    I always by my textbooks online,but a great tip is to buy the previous edition of the textbook.Usually they will only change a few of the pciture in the book and all the text is the same!! My professor taught me that my sophmore year. My husband went back to school last year and his economic book was over 200.00 and he asked the professor if he could get the older edition and he said that is fine,but he isnt suppose to tell the students that!!!So we only paid 10.00 for the textbook,WOW what a savings!!!!

    • Angela says:

      It really is a big racket; your husband was just lucky his professor likely wasn’t the one who wrote the book!

  11. GUEST says:

    Another tip, dont bother going to college. I went to college graduated with multiple Honors, full scholarship, got my B.A and currenty am unemployed. Degrees do not always equal jobs.

    • jenn says:

      I don’t have a job yet either. I’m getting my Masters right now. It also depends on the type of degree one has. I know that liberal arts degrees have a hard time getting jobs but my friends in Engineering, and math have gotten jobs. I guess there isn’t a great deal for psychology, sociology or english degrees.

      • GUEST says:

        Thats the degree i have: Psychology. At the time a liberal arts degree could get you many different types of jobs. Now tho, nothing.

        • jenn says:

          For a degree like Psychology my friend needed to get her Masters and she is thinking about a Phd. Only a B.A. will not cut it anymore it seems. Degrees like it and similiar ones are not in demand anymore. Perhaps learning a foreign language that is in demand will assist in getting a job. Have you considered teaching perhaps overseas in Germany, Dubai, Turkey, South Korea. They are ALWAYS hiring!

          • EGS says:

            Teaching abroad isn’t as simple as people like to think. 1) You have to be VERY careful that you are getting a legitimate, legal job (as in, you are having a work visa sponsored by a company/school and not working without a work visa) and 2) are getting paid what is promised and not being screwed over. Most jobs teaching English in Europe are going to go to legitimate professors with masters (not to mention a lot of Western Europe speaks English well anyway). Such places as Dubai may be hiring but aren’t the safest places to live. China is probably the country with the most jobs, but again, do your research and be certain you know what you’re getting into. America’s economy is bad but our recession also affected many other countries, and thus, the English-teaching jobs abroad are not as widespread as years ago.

          • EGS says:

            Teaching abroad isn’t as simple as people like to think. 1) You have to be VERY careful that you are getting a legitimate, legal job (as in, you are having a work visa sponsored by a company/school and not working without a work visa) and 2) are getting paid what is promised and not being screwed over. Most jobs teaching English in Europe are going to go to legitimate professors with masters (not to mention a lot of Western Europe speaks English well anyway). Such places as Dubai may be hiring but aren’t the safest places to live. China is probably the country with the most jobs, but again, do your research and be certain you know what you’re getting into. America’s economy is bad but our recession also affected many other countries, and thus, the English-teaching jobs abroad are not as widespread as years ago.

      • GUEST says:

        Thats the degree i have: Psychology. At the time a liberal arts degree could get you many different types of jobs. Now tho, nothing.

    • EGS says:

      You’ll be more screwed over not going to college than going, at least right now.

  12. Sallythecouponer says:

    In my opinion I buy the last edition of the book and use that for the course. 9 times out of 10 it’s the same. The page numbers may be off by a few – but generally, word for word most of it is the same.
    This did not work for my tax classes since those laws change frequently.
    I would always contact the professor and ask if he/she thought it would be ok.
    If something was ever different (say a discussion question) I would just copy it from another’s book or the professor might copy it for me.

    Usually these books can be picked up for less than $20 (sometimes even a PENNY on amazon)
    You won’t be able to sell them back to the bookstore- but I had some luck if I took it to the next semester’s class and offered it for $10 bucks to another frugal student. (I even made money sometimes!)

  13. Kaitlyn says:

    I would recommend not renting textbooks. I am currently a junior in college and i buy all my textbooks on line then sell them back and always end up making money. Renting is like throwing away your money.

    • Michelle says:

      I agree, I tell my daughters to never rent a textbook and I have specifically told them to buy them on my dime and then sell it back and they can keep the money afterwards. They usually sell the books in August and January for the best profit of at least 20.00 or more. I also tell them to write down at least three times a week how much that book costs, since textbook prices are never steady.

      Also the best time to buy, is after finals are over since alot of students are trying to sell their books to get cash to go out and what not.

  14. Dfwgirliegirl says:

    I have never heard of textbook rental services…but then I have been out of college since 1998 and do not have one going off to college soon. That is a great service.

    I remember there was a book for my shakespear course that was almost 200.00!!!! There was no way in HECK I was going to pay for that….what ever was left over from my supplies money went in my wallet. I went to the library and just checked out the plays individually or at leaste they were not ALL in one book (that thing was HUGE…so heavy to carry around so I saved money and back pain). You can do this was other Lit books, too. As long as you study and read what you are supposed to, the plays and Lit have not changed from when they were writen. I really liked the Shakespear book and thought it was pretty so when I had a job I found one and bought it to keep…and it was a lot less than the campus bookstores 200 bucks!!!!

    Tiff

  15. Many of the textbook rental sites offer coupon promo codes as well. Look those up before you rent.

  16. cheezeaddict says:

    As a recently graduated college student, I’d say rent the textbooks that are for classes outside your major, and buy the ones for your major used online.

    Also, live at home with your parents if you can, unless your scholarships cover room and board.

    • Lacey says:

      I agree about the living at home. My dad enjoys knowing I am safe and staying out of trouble. About textbooks, I would say try to BUY them all online (Ebay, Amazon, etc), then at the end of the semester sell to the school’s bookstore. I have bought books that I made $20+ more than I spent originally when I sold them back.

      • Elizabethchang8 says:

        It’s better to rent the books instead of buy because if they come out with a new edition you can’t sell the book back.

        • Michelle says:

          Yes, that is true, that’s why you must sell the books back as soon as the semester is over. Also check the authors previous editions. How long does each new edition come out? They usually release it every three years or so.

      • jenn says:

        I agree on buying the books. It also depends on your major. I’m an international studies major and use almost every book I purchased for research in other classes. those same books have also assisted me after the class was over for references. It also helps to take classes with a friend or two. That way you can share a book or two.

      • Michelle says:

        Wow your bookstore is amazing! My daughter’s school’s bookstore is a major ripoff, offering only 20cents on the dollar for expensive books. I really dislike efollet and tell my daughters to never step into the school’s bookstores unless they have to!

      • Michelle says:

        Wow your bookstore is amazing! My daughter’s school’s bookstore is a major ripoff, offering only 20cents on the dollar for expensive books. I really dislike efollet and tell my daughters to never step into the school’s bookstores unless they have to!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I just p a i d $21.87 for an i P a d 2-64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasonîc Lumîx GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS.I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, http://bit.ly/Bid1st

  18. take as many classes as you can at a community college (while you live at home). then transfer to a bigger university. this way you avoid dorm fees as well as higher tuition rates. im looking to be debt free at the end of my bachelors, im proud of myself! *does happy dance* (and my parents didnt pay any of it)

    • dong nguyen says:

      how are you debt free? I took the classes I needed at my community college and transferred just like you did. I transferred to NIU, but I’m still going to be in debt once I get my bachelor’s degree. I got a few grants and scholarships but even after I still owe 10,000. I’m kind of nervous about the transition from community college to a university. I’m afraid I wont be able to handle it, even though I got a 3.5 gpa at community college.

      • idk how financial aid works in all states. my family is “low income”: so alot of money is provided for people in my situation. with outside scholarships and grants i end up having extra money at the end of every year. im putting this money away (and working- i am a big finances person, and i save almost every penny) for when i will have to transfer again to a larger more expensive university. its all about planning and setting goals, and a budget. having a financial adviser is a great way to keep you on target for your goals

    • Eva says:

      That’s what I did. Originally I was opposed to going the Comm. college route, but it saved me a boat load of money. I transferred to a bigger university back in ’09, and now I’m going into my last year there with minimal debt (compared to the tens of thousands my friends have accumulated thus far).

  19. Kayla says:

    Tip #1 :

    Dont have kids !

  20. Kayla says:

    Tip #1 :

    Dont have kids !