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College is famous for empty wallets and cheap meals. It doesn't always have to be that way though! Check out these tips on saving money on textbooks, food, and going out while in college!

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College is an exciting time in life, but unfortunately, it’s hard to afford the lifestyle we we want to be living! However, there are many ways to manage your lack of cash. While I was in college, I purchased a house (under my sister’s name, but I contributed to the down payment and mortgage of course), and I began leasing a brand new car. I have worked part-time almost every semester of undergrad and grad school. I also receive a loan refund almost every semester as a form of “cushion” for my bank account, but smart saving and spending decisions led me to those larger purchases! Keep on reading for my tips on saving money on textbooks, food, and social activities while in college!


I hate spending money on textbooks. They’re one of the most expensive things to purchase (especially being a Biology major), they usually can only be used 1-2 semesters, and they’re hard to sell because they come out with new editions! The last thing a college student wants to do is drop $200+ on a book. Here is how I have saved hundreds on books throughout college:

1. Search elsewhere

Your school bookstore typically has the highest priced textbooks. Sometimes you have no other choice than to purchase there, because some textbooks are custom school editions which is just bull! If you do have the opportunity to purchase somewhere else, try these websites, and compare:


You could also exchange/purchase via your friends! Someone from my University created a Book Exchange Facebook page which is AMAZING! I have purchased several books using this Facebook page, and I just meet up with the seller on campus.

2. Sell your textbooks

If you think you’ll need textbooks after you graduate, you probably won’t…unless it REALLY pertains to your career. Sell it!!! You can usually try to sell textbooks back to the bookstore, but for less than half the price of what you originally purchased it for. Try selling it to friends, or posting them on which is my favorite way to sell them.

3. Buy Used

It’s a textbook. It may have bent pages, highlights, or pen marks…it’s okay!! You don’t need the newest book on the shelf. You can save tons by buying used books!

4. Rent

I’m not a huge fan of renting textbooks, only because I like to sell my books later. If you have a super tight budget at the moment, I suggest renting. Just be sure to understand the rental contract, a lot of them make you pay the entire purchase price + a fee, for water damage/torn pages. If you are an excessive highlighter, renting is probably not the best idea!

5. Share with Friends

You could split the cost of a textbook with a classmate/friend, and share the book! Sit together in class and study together! Just make sure they are trustworthy. Try asking around if any of your friends previously took the class you’re taking and see if they have the book for you to borrow!


Take advantage of your meal plan if you have one, use it as often as you can! If you’re like me, and never had a meal plan, purchasing groceries can be a struggle.

1. Grocery Shopping
Having a stocked fridge is one of the best things ever! Blowing $100 on groceries is not. Here is what I suggest:

  • Plan your meals: At least try to come up with some ideas, so you’re not clueless about your grocery list. Read these tips for planning meals and saving time at the grocery store!
  • Make a List: Take your meal plan, write down everything you need for those meals, and buy ONLY what is on the list. Don’t get sucked into good deals on unnecessary items.
  • Shop on a Full Stomach: Everyone has gone to the store super hungry, and wanted to eat/buy everything yummy they see! Try to avoid this, and go grocery shopping right after a meal so you’re not tempted to purchase excessively.
  • Clip Coupons: I know, I know! You would be surprised how much you can save with coupons though. You could purchase the Sunday paper, or check out websites such as I use the IBotta app to save money as well as Receipt Hog to earn money back! Check out the other apps I use to save/make money!
  • Shop the Value Brand: 9 times out of 10, the food tastes the same.

2. Avoid going out to eat/Ordering Take-Out

I understand that ordering pizza or Chinese food is convenient, but think of how much more food you could buy with $20. Just be sure to have a solid fridge stock, and this is completely unnecessary. Occasional outings with friends or super busy nights are okay, but I see college students ordering food almost everyday. That is not only draining your wallet, but usually destroying your health as well!

3. Free Food Anyone?

This is like a weekly thing at college, especially if you live on campus! Take advantage of it, and go get some!

Hanging Out with Friends

Hanging out with friends does not mean you need to blow your whole pay check on going out! Have a game night, watch some movies, do at-home mani/pedis. If you really want to go out, opt for something cheap like bowling (on a night with deals), or grabbing an ice cream cone. I’m sure majority of your friends are having money trouble as well.

Be Smart with Your Refund Money

Students can get back thousands of dollars at the beginning of each semester. This refund is not an excuse to buy anything and everything. Be smart with your money, and place a large chunk into your savings account. Budget the rest! Read this post for more smart ideas for what to do with your refund money!

Retail Therapy

I get it, we all get stressed out, and many of us like to go clothes shopping…just control yourself. Set a budget, and don’t go over it. Here’s another idea, you know when your family asks, “What do you want for your birthday/Christmas?” Ask for gift cards to your favorite stores, and use them when you REALLY feel the need to shop. This way you’re not using your own money, it’s your birthday money!

College can be a really stressful time, debt and low income can add to that stress. This is a temporary time in your life, so do your best to save and spend wisely, but enjoy college while it lasts!

How do/did you save money in college?

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