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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.

Save Money On College

November 7th, 2015

101 Ways To Save On College

College is such an exiting time in a young person’s life. Unfortunately, it can be an incredibly expensive time as well. Tuition is expensive, the price of books is astronomical, and there’s so much temptation to spend money on fun things, all while learning to handle finances and make smart decisions with money. The good news is that college doesn’t have to mean going broke. Here are 101 tips for saving money on all things college-related.

Application Fees:

1. If you visit a college in person, ask your tour guide about application fee waivers for prospective students. You may get one as a thank you for taking the time and effort to check out the campus.

2. See if you can save money on your application fee (or have it waived entirely) by applying early or online.

3. If you don’t have the money to spend on college applications, you can apply to the College Board (the organization that administers the SATs and ACTs) for a College Application Fee Waiver. This gets submitted with your applications.

4. If you’re applying to a school that a family member attended, ask if being related to an alum is grounds for having your fee waived. Sometimes it is.

5. If you’re a graduating high school senior, ask your guidance counselor for free application opportunities. They may have some good information to share with you.

6. In general, it never hurts to ask about having an application fee dropped. The worst they can say is no! Call the admissions office, explain your situation, and ask if there’s anything they can do for you.

7. If you can’t get fee waivers, don’t apply to too many schools. Narrow your list down to a few top choices and maybe one safety school so you’re not spending too much.

8. Use the free Common Application ( to apply to schools that accept it.


9. When choosing a four-year institution, seriously consider in-state schools, which offer a high quality education at a fraction of the price of private colleges.

10. Fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can to see what kind of financial aid opportunities you qualify for.

11. If you excel in academics or even a particular subject, seek out and apply for academic merit scholarships.

12. Playing sports can earn you a free college education if you’re good enough. If you’re a talented athlete, look into athletic scholarships.

13. There are lots of other scholarship opportunities available, so take the time to research the ones you may qualify for. Things like art, excellence in a particular discipline, and even being a particular gender or raised in a certain neighborhood can qualify you for a scholarship.

14. Look for work study opportunities on campus to reduce your tuition bill.

15. Go to school part time so that you don’t have huge tuition statements. Take just one or two classes a semester. This prolongs your graduation date, but it makes paying for school a bit more manageable.

16. If your school charges a flat full-time student tuition rate, take the maximum number of credits you’re allowed.

17. Use your summer to take general education classes at a local community college, where tuition is often much less than four year schools. (Make sure the credits will transfer, of course.)

18. Try not to transfer from one four-year school to another. Many times, there are credits that won’t transfer, and you have to pay to take those classes again at the new school.

19. See if you can test out of classes. That way, you get the credit but you don’t have to pay to take them.

20. If your relatives are always asking what you want for your birthday, Christmas, and other occasions, you have an answer: money to help pay your tuition.

Classes and Learning:

21. Go to class! You’re paying for the priviledge of being a student, so use that money wisely.

22. Don’t pay other people to do your work for you, and don’t buy your term papers. Not only are they expensive, but they are highly unethical. Get the education you are paying for.

23. Tutor subjects you’re good at to make some extra money.

24. If you can print papers for free on campus, do so. You have to pay for what you print at home.

25. Pay attention to due dates on library materials to avoid paying late fines.


26. See if you can borrow books from friends or pay them a small fee to use them.

27. Buy used textbooks at bookstore rather than new textbooks.

28. If you have an e-reader, e-books are often less expensive than printed books, since there are no printing costs.

29. Check Amazon and other online retailers, which often have lower prices on textbooks than the campus bookstore will.

30. Buy used textbooks at, where you will often pay a fraction of the cover price.

31. Borrow textbooks from the library. Do this early, though, or other students may get the books you need.

32. Rent your textbooks from Chegg (

33. Team up with classmates with whom you can share nicely and buy one copy of the textbook to share.

34. At the end of each semester, sell your books to get money for the next semester’s books. Bookstore,, ebay, Amazon, and other places will all buy your gently used textbooks.


35. Buying a meal plan is certainly convenient, but you can eat on your own for a lot less. Unless your college requires you to eat their food, skip the meal plan and cook for yourself.

36. Get a job in the cafeteria. Not only will you get paid, but it’s extremely likely that you’ll be able to eat for free.

37. Find a group of friends to cook and eat with, and take turns preparing meals. You can often feed four or five people for slightly more than you can feed just yourself.

38. Cook big, inexpensive meals (think soups and stews), and eat the leftovers until they’re gone.

39. Wake up ten minutes earlier and pack your lunch. Yes, it’s easier to grab something on campus, but bringing your own sandwich and an apple, for example, will save you hundreds over the course of the semester.

40. When you go grocery shopping, have a list of what you need and stick to it.

41. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

42. Before you start school, or between semesters, learn how to cook inexpensive foods like beans, pasta, and cheaper cuts of meat. You’ll eat well on your limited budget.

43. Limit your meat consumption. Meat is usually one of the more expensive items you can buy.

44. Drink water rather than soda or energy drinks, which aren’t much better for you than soda anyway.

45. Gotta have your cup of joe in the morning? Make your own. Buying a cup at the campus coffee shop once in a while may be OK, but spending a few bucks every day on java can quickly deplete your wallet.

46. There will be many nights when you feel the urge to order a pizza when you’re studying. Resist that urge, or at the very least, give in infrequently.

47. Try not to do fast food runs when you’re inebriated. You won’t even realize how much your’e spending.

48. Buy in bulk when it makes sense to do so, since the cost per unit is often reduced. Five gallons of ice cream may not be a good idea, but buying a case of 12 boxes of pasta is.

49. Get some friends together and go in on a Costco or Sam’s Club membership so you can take advantage of their lower prices. Or, if your parents have a membership, see if you can use theirs.

50. Clip coupons, use coupon sites and apps, and do what you can to save a little bit here and there on your grocery bill.

51. Find out when there are events on campus that offer free food for students, and attend them. Things like welcome picnics and cookouts, pizza parties thrown by student clubs, and more are all fantastic and totally legitimate ways to score a free meal.

52. If you’re dying to go out to eat, find out when local restaurants offer deals for students. Depending on where you go, your ID can get you a buy one get one deal, half off, and more.

Living Expenses:

53. Living in the dorms can be convenient, but it costs a lot, and you don’t get much space. You can often live off campus for considerably less per month.

54. Or, work as a resident advisor (RA) in the dorms. A free room is often part of the job.

55. If your college is close to your parents’ house, live there.

56. Got relatives or close friends in your college town? Ask if they have room for you for the semester. They will often let you stay for free or for much less per month than a landlord will charge.

57. Live with roommates. Living alone may give you the solitude you crave, but it’s expensive.

58. Find a less expensive area of town in which to live. You don’t want to sacrifice safety, but definitely avoid paying a premium to live in the best or coolest areas.

59. Rent an apartment or house that has a washer and dryer. You’ll save money by not using coin ops at the laundromat, plus it’s a lot more convenient.

60. Be vigilant about your use of electricity, especially if it’s not included in the price of your rent. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room, keep the tv off unless you’re watching it, and so on.

61. Keep your heat turned down (or your AC turned up) when you’re not at home. This will go a long way in keeping your bill down.

62. If your heating bills are still really high, try insulating windows with caulk and plastic and using draft dodgers under doors to keep the heat from escaping.

63. Don’t linger in the shower or fill the bathtub on a regular basis, since doing so can make your water bill sky high.

64. You’re in college to study and learn, not to watch tv. This means that you really don’t need to pay for cable or satellite. Instead, use free or lower priced entertainment options, like watching episodes online.

65. Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees, which can add up.

66. For all of your living expenses, make a budget and stick to it. Know how much you have to spend so you avoid going into debt.

67. Decorate as inexpensively as possible. Think DIY crafts, inexpensive Christmas lights, posters, and work by friends who are art majors.

68. Before you start the semester, make a list of things you need, like a couch, desk, microwave, and so on. Then, see if you can get them free (or very cheap) from students who are graduating and don’t need or want them anymore.

69. Hit up local thrift stores, garage sales, and Goodwill to get whatever else you need.

70. It may seem extreme, but using the computer lab instead of buying your own can save you about a thousand dollars.

71. If you really need your own computer, though, take advantage of student pricing to save a bit on the cost. Your school’s bookstore should be able to help you out, or you can visit Apple’s education store website ( for lower prices on Mac desktops, laptops, and software.

72. Use free software instead of buying it. Google’s vast array of web tools, for example, can save you hundreds of dollars alone.


73. Your student ID can get you significant discounts around town on things like movies, plays, concerts, and more. Always ask if there’s student prices when you buy tickets.

74. Make an effort to not go out out at least once night per weekend. Instead, stay in and watch a movie.

75. Take advantage of free movies, concerts, and other free entertainment on campus. As a bonus, there’s sometimes free food too.

76. Listen to free internet radio and music streaming sites instead of buying music.

77. End your magazine subscriptions, and read them online or at the library instead.

78. Limit how much alcohol you consume. Drinking is expensive, and alcoholic beverages really doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition.

79. If you must drink, don’t go top shelf. When you have a high-paying job, spending $15 on a single glass of wine is OK, but until then, you drink cheap beer and no-name liquor.

80. A fun way to get some extra cash for entertainment: at the end of every day, take any change in your pockets and toss it in a jar. Then, every few months, count that money and bring it to the bank (or visit a local store with a Coinstar machine) to get an extra $20 or so for something fun.

Getting Around:

81. If you live off campus, try to carpool to school with a friend or roommate. Not only will you save money on gas and car expenses, but you can usually get away with buying just one parking pass and sharing it.

82. If you drive to campus, see if you can park off campus for free rather than paying for a parking pass.

83. See if your college town’s public transport system allows students to ride for free or reduced cost. You’ll have to leave extra time to wait for a bus or a subway, but doing so will lower your transportation costs.

84. Walk or bike if you can.

85. Try to live close to campus to keep your commute short and your gas prices low.

86. When you get ready to go home for school breaks, look for free or inexpensive options. Consider ride sharing, taking the bus, or using Amtrak’s student pricing.

Money Matters:

87. Get a student checking account at a local bank or credit union. Student accounts often have very low fees as long as you don’t overdraw them, so make sure you don’t.

88. Your campus probably offers a lot of free services that you’d pay for off campus. Things like gym memberships, tutoring services, intramural sports, tickets to athletic events, and more are often free for students.

89. Don’t think of student loans as free money. After you graduate, you have to pay them back — with interest. If an amount seems too high to borrow, it probably is.

90. Pay for things with cash. Withdraw a set amount per week, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

91. Try to avoid having a credit card so you’re not tempted to spend more than you have. Credit card companies will try to lure you into getting one, but don’t fall for their slick marketing lines.

92. If you must have a credit card, make sure you get one with the lowest interest rate you can find. This might mean no cards aimed directly at students (which tend to have high APRs).

Other Tips for Saving Money

93. Pets are great for companionship, but they’re also expensive. Food, vet bills, and other costs can break your budget. College might not be the best time to have a pet.

94. A part time job will help with your income, but make sure the hours won’t interfere with your studies. Remember your main purpose for being in college.

95. Use free means of communication, like email, Skype, and social media, rather than racking up a huge cell phone bill.

96. Share a cell phone plan with friends or roommates, or ask your parents if you can get on theirs. Sharing a plan is often cheaper than buying a single one.

97. If you smoke, do everything you can to quit. The cost of cigarettes is an unnecessary expense.

98. Spring break can be really expensive! Instead of spending the week in Cancun with your friends, see if you can visit family or friends who live in a warmer climate. Better yet, spend the week working or volunteering.

99. We all feel generous around the holidays, but being a poor college student means not buying expensive Christmas gifts for others. Spoil your friends and family after you graduate and get a good job.

100. Wear your hair longer. Longer hair means fewer haircuts, which means less money spent at the salon or barber shop.

101. If you’re not using something, sell it or bring it to a consignment shop. This will make you some money, reduce your clutter, and help someone else save a few bucks on something they want or need.



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