Saving Money as a Student: My Top Frugal Hacks

December 12, 2011


If you’re a college student there are tons of great discounts out there and ways to save money.  I have been able to save $700+ EACH semester using these hacks by living frugally as a student. Enjoy!


Students are getting into debt at alarming rates, and for anyone that is getting into gobs of consumer credit card debt on top of student loans {or ahem, using student loans for vacations or sexy new gadgets} no amount of frugality will help them.

Debt should only be taken on to create assets (ahem, your degree!), not to fund your proclivity for bbq sauce and the fact you hate cooking or washing clothes.

This is the time of your life to live the bohemian lifestyle and be a bit of a fun cliche- live on top ramen, shop used book stores and thrift, learn how to build furniture out of cinder blocks.  If you’re using credit cards or student loans to fund your lifestyle, it’s fun now but sucks later.    It’s great to eat Jimmy Johns and Thai food 4 days a week, but after 4 years you’ll have about $5,000 in fast food expenses to pay back and nothing to show for it.

Most places don’t advertise that they’ll give you a student rate or a discount, ask, hell, DEMAND it, you’re broke!  I even got 10% of booze {I kid you not} and $300 off conference tickets by showing off my student ID.

Other Student Discounts:  Your cell phone {I g0t 15% off my monthly bill by logging into Verizon’s website and entering my student email address},  Insurance {you may have to send in your transcripts or grades},  Applications to graduate school {all you have to do is ask and many big schools will waive your application fee},  software.

  • Buying Textbooks Is For Schmucks.

I don’t understand why anyone finds reason to pay $80 for a paperback that is sold back for 1/4 the price.  “I want to keep it for reference later,” NO YOU DON’T.  Do not buy your books unless you finish the class and can’t live without it- THEN  buy it off a classmate for cheap.    It surprises me how many students don’t know about Interlibrary Loan. Even if your university library fails to have a book, they will track it down for you for free.  I have saved over $2500 over the course of my college career doing this.

  • Seriously, Apply For Scholarships.

I know this is annoyingly cliche, but so many kids aren’t doing it that it makes me want to hurt my frugally-hearted self.  If your scholarship office is of little help, don’t be so proud that you won’t call up local organizations to see if they offer anything.

If your college is totally unhelpful, poke around the websites of neighboring schools for local or academic related scholarships that may not be listed on your campus or see if any extra-curriculars you participated in during high school have scholarships at the national level.

  • Check Your School’s Math.

 Stick it to the man!  I can’t tell you how many times my schools tried to overcharge me.  Fees for things that were paid on time,  miscalculations of credit loads, mix-ups and other general shennanigans.  Look over your statements but also, make sure they aren’t tacking on stuff you don’t want.  Do you need health insurance w/ your school?  Many schools automatically opt-in unless you opt-out and it can cost $2k a year.

  • Take Every Freebie Imaginable.

Free things are abundant on college campuses.  Get involved to make the most of your student activity fees and get all the free pizza you can eat.  If your school offers job fairs, health days or information sessions on any helpful topic you need to be all over that.

You are automatically charged for (sometimes) stupid things like the gym, student activity fees and library usage charges can’t be waived so milk it for what it’s worth and make lots and lots of color copies for free if you can! Muahaha.

  • Cut The Fat. 

Colleges oversell, they have to.  Unless you’re gaga for your institution- you don’t need to pay to join the alumni association, you don’t need an overpriced diploma frame and all the extra regalia for graduation is sooo not necessary.   As much as you would love the 15th sweatshirt, branded waterbottle or coffee mug…nobody needs to be a total brand whore for their school if they can’t afford it.

At my graduation I was almost conned into buying a “honor medallion” for $30 because it was considered “mandatory attire.”  Well, turns out it wasn’t. I just had to tell the cashier that it was bull and she agreed and took it off my receipt but don’t think she didn’t try to upsell me on getting an alumni mug, subscription to the university newsletter and some stupid brick thing for the library.  No. Thank. You.

14 comments so far.

14 responses to “Saving Money as a Student: My Top Frugal Hacks”

  1. Jenny McD says:

    hahaha….stupid brick thing for the library…. you are shameless, CSUSM, SHAMELESS!

    • Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      HAHAHA- I know, honestly. I mean, in theory, it'd be nice to have a brick with my name on it in front of the library but I remember the prices being totally outlandish. What got me was the honor medallion that was "mandatory" but totally wasn't. I am so glad I caught that and had them manually remove it from my graduation package since I didn't want to pay extra!

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Great list, and I wish I had followed many of these when I was in college. I'm kicking myself now for not applying for more scholarships. Even a $500 scholarship for a few hours worth of work is totally worth it!

    I often bought textbooks used and then sold them at the end of the semester, getting back close to 100% of what I paid for them.

  3. Kevin Mzansi says:

    Great list!
    Schools do make math mistakes all the time: Just this year I found a late charge that was not supposed to be there, which would have cost me almost 5% on top of my yearly tuition. I would have felt really stupid if I did not catch that!

  4. taivins says:

    Great list. 🙂

    As an academic librarian, I do warn students not to count on us for textbooks. Some libraries carry textbooks, but many don't. Check early! Don't wait until the day before the reading is due and when the bookstore is out of texts…. no matter how hard you cry and how horrible I feel for you, if we don't have the book, we don't have the book.

    Regarding interlibrary loan: you can place the request, and we will try our best to track it down for free. But often we can't find the textbook because other schools won't lend them out because if they have bought an expensive textbook then they want it to stay at their school where their students can use it. Again, ask the librarian what the odds are of getting the book and how long it might take. If we can get the book, it might take 3 weeks and get here too late.

    Note that this applies to textbooks only. Other assigned books and reading are much more likely to be found in the library or gotten through interlibrary loan. Just ask the librarian, and we will do whatever we can to help you.

  5. Just told my college student sister about asking for discounts everywhere. That is freaking brilliant that you got a discount on your cell phone bill – who knew?!?

  6. […] not always about the money. Here are even more great ways to get more out of life by spending less.Saving Money as a Student: My Top Frugal Hacks [Frugal Beautiful] Get started on the right foot in life as a student who understands the meaning […]

  7. Lolita Oconnor says:

    Fabulous, what a website it is! This web site gives helpful information, keep it up.

  8. Michele L says:

    What great advice- my son will be heading to college this fall (and I'm returning after many moons!). Thanks!

  9. Krissy says:

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing these great tips that any student should use! Too bad I didn’t see these simple ways I could have saved money when I was a student. Hope others will learn from you 🙂

  10. Vivien Beaudet says:

    I’d like to say thanks- I’m always looking for ways to save money on stuff like this.

  11. Juliet Cuhel says:

    Great post.

  12. Stick it to the man is right! That stupid brick thing had me cracking up and I could just imagine the scenario.
    “Want to buy a brick?”
    “Depends, can I slap you with it?”

    Or at least that would be my response 😛

    Great tips by the way, I’ve noted some of these myself on the site I write for,

  13. Wyatt says:

    I lived on stipends during my college years and sometimes do odd jobs on the weekends (dog-walking, lawn mowing, cleaning pools and the likes). The work during weekends kept me focused on finishing my degree and took me away from weekend parties where you lose all your money and be wasted all weekend. Although I go and party every once in a while or at least once a month to keep me from being burned out. It was definitely hard but I don’t think I will be where I’m at had I done it differently.


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