Frugal Living Tips I Learned in College

11 May

close up dollar bills

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

There is a lot of information out there about how to live frugally, how to retire early, how to DIY this or that or this AND that, and multiple success stories of people escaping debt. It can get overwhelming, and a little hard to translate to college life since most of the sources out there are addressing “life after college.” Here are some tips to make it a little bit easier now rather than later!

Buy your books used

Whether that’s in the bookstore or online or wherever, you will most likely not use that textbook again. This is one of the easiest places to cut costs. However, there can be exceptions; I was an English major and most of my “textbooks” were novels and professors always wanted a specific version of a text, so sometimes it was more convenient to just buy it new, have the right page numbers, and gain a new novel for my shelf in the process. You may also have a newer version of a text written by the professor or a school-specific book and there’s usually no way around buying those new. But most of us find that used books are an accessible option each year for helping reduce costs!

It’s okay to say “no” to friends sometimes

There’s a lot of pressure in college to keep up with a lot of things: school, work, friendships, your finances, applying for jobs after college, keeping up with your family, your weekly TV, etc. That can get really overwhelming really fast! And it can get especially overwhelming if you’re worried about money. And add friends who constantly want to go out and do things…it can be a recipe for financial disaster! Let your friends know that you’re not trying to be a ‘Debbie Downer’, but you’re just really focusing on being smart with your money right now and that means limiting how much you spend. Be sure to always offer a less expensive (or free!) alternative such as a movie night in your residence hall or baking cookies together. Spending time together is often way more fun than spending money together.

Pack your lunch

This is for those who live off-campus or are commuting. You’ll quickly spend a lot of money on convenience food if you don’t watch out. Packing a lunch (or breakfast or dinner, depending on your schedule) can easily save you $3-$10 each day. Plus, didn’t you go grocery shopping this week? You don’t want to waste the food in your fridge. And along these lines…you should try to break your expensive coffee habit. Making up a to-go mug of coffee at home can save you a whole bunch of money every day! And some coffee shops may even offer discounts for using your own mug, so if you need a second cup of joe in the middle of the day, you can save a little that way too.

Just take the bus

It can save you time and money. It’s really not that scary. It is also better for the environment and helps avoid the stress of parking on campus!


What are some of your favorite spending tips you’ve learned in college? Share with us in the comments below!

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