The term “broke college student” was created for a reason. In the span of four years, or more in some cases, you will work, and spend, toward a college degree. This is likely the first time you will be on your own and taking care of yourself. It's time to think about your own personal finances. I worked part time all through college. It was a great way for me to make some extra income.

Trying to save money while in college can feel like a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be. You can save on necessities like food, clothing and shelter and still have funds for the fun stuff, like entertainment.

Below are some ideas for how to save that you may not have thought about, but keep in mind that you should explore options and determine which ideas would work best for your situation.

Course Materials

Ask the professor if all of the books listed are required. However, be sure to double check to see if the professor is the author of the books listed first. There’s no need to insult the person that has control over your grade before the class even starts.

For the required materials, you can save money by:

  • Renting textbooks online
    Renting textbooks for the weeks that you are using the materials is typically cheaper than purchasing the book new or used.
  • Sharing materials with a reliable roommate
    Reliable is the keyword here. You want to be sure that the person you are sharing materials with matches your work ethic.
  • Checking the library for old versions
    Often, older versions of the textbook you are using have been donated to the library. If the library has an older version, you may be able to use it without losing any important information. However, it would be smart to verify against a current copy just in case.

Living Expenses

At some colleges and universities, living on campus is a better and cheaper option, but at others that don’t require added transportation options, living off campus can help save money.

Consider renting a house or becoming a nanny. Once you have a core group of friends, you can rent a house along with several roommates. Your cost of living may decrease, drastically, in some cases, and you may have more freedom than you had while living on campus.

A very rewarding option can be to become a live in nanny. You will likely receive room and board in exchange for your time watching the kids. The key here is to make sure that the family understands that you will need time “off the clock.” If you are required to watch the children weekdays and weekends all day, you will likely lose out on important study time and sleep.


I have to admit, I probably think about my clothing a bit more than the next person. I want to make sure I look my best no matter where I go, so college was an interesting time for me. If you are fashion conscious, here are some ways to save money on clothing.

Shop Smart
Looking for designer duds? Find stores that resell gently used designer clothing. If you're into wearing new clothes, there are stores that sell new designer items that were overstocked.

Keep it Simple
Not so image conscious? Buy a college sweatshirt. This is a staple piece that you can throw on before walking to class. You are guaranteed never to look out of place. And you can wear it almost anywhere. In fact, I'm wearing my college sweatshirt at this very moment.


Free Food at College Events
My college always has a welcome barbecue at the start of the semester. If you timed it just right, you could get there early for lunch and visit again right before things closed down to get dinner. You obviously don't want to eat hot dogs and baked beans every day. But getting free food at college events will help you save money.

College Pantry
If you decide to cook for yourself all semester, check to see if your college has a pantry. At my college, there is a student pantry where you can pick up canned goods and condiments, for free! The entire pantry is stocked from alumni who remember what being a “broke college student” feels like. They will likely remind you to donate to the pantry once you become an alum as well, so make sure you keep in mind the students that come after you.


And now, the most important part of college. Fun!

There are plenty of ways to have free fun in college. For example, you can join the student union or a special interest group. Kickball league anyone?

There are also free plays and student specials on movies. Find out what perks are offered in your college’s town. Many local places have a college night or college special if you show your student ID.

So, perhaps you've saved some money and now you want to know how to make extra money...

How to Make Extra Money in College

Take on a part-time job. Here are 3 typical jobs that you can get as a college student.

Federal Work Study
This is another great way to combine study time with a paycheck. Be sure to check the requirements for eligibility.

Internships can be paid or unpaid. While I would recommend looking for a paid internship to help offset the cost of going to college, an unpaid internship can launch you into your career just as well.

Note Taker
You've just combined something you have to do, with something you get paid to do. Congratulations!

How Will I Do All of This?

Well, there are 24 hours in the day and 168 hours in a 7 day week. Expect 2 hours of study for every hour of in class time. A 15 hour course load typically requires 30 hours outside of class. That's only 45 hours a week. Factor in 8 hours of sleep each night and you're at 101 hours. If it takes you 2 hours a day to shower, dress and get back and forth to class, you still have 53 hours each week for extracurricular activities, a part time job and fun!

How do you plan to save money in college?