Skip to main content
icon menu Standard.
Explore Health and Human Development
icon menu Standard.
Desktop Search:
Search search
Mobile Search:

Here are ten ideas to save money will in college.

#1 Buy used textbooks.

Consider using or to save hundreds of dollars by buying used versions of your textbooks. Don’t be afraid to ask the professor if you can purchase an older edition of a book as well—it may be that the older edition has very few changes and would work just fine for your course, and they are often less expensive.

EXAMPLE: Development Through the Lifespan, 5th edition, By Laura E. Berk, sometimes required for HDFS 129: Introduction to Human Development & Family Studies may cost between $113-150 to be purchased new, however may be purchased used for starting as low as $79.99.

SAVINGS: Around $40 for one textbook.

#2 Make your own coffee.

Buy a coffee maker or even find a small used espresso/cappuccino machine for your dorm room or apartment and save hundreds of dollars.

EXAMPLE: A daily latte, cappuccino, or mocha can cost you between $2.50 and $3.50 depending on the size you buy. If you buy one every morning of the week, it can cost you $560 an academic year. If you instead purchase a cheap coffee maker ($20) and a tin of coffee for $8 every month—you could spend as little as $92 an academic year.

SAVINGS: Around $468 an academic year.

#3 Skip the fast food and late night take-out.

The cost of eating out adds up quickly even with fast food—not to mention the extra calories!

EXAMPLE: Say you grab a quick burrito after a night on the town every Friday and Saturday night—at about $6 a meal. This is about $384 an academic year of late night fast food fixes per semester. Instead, buy $5 of extra snacks per month and spend about $45 an academic year.

SAVINGS: Around $339 an academic year.

#4 Pack your lunch, don’t buy it.

Bring leftovers from the night before or make yourself a sandwich for lunch.

EXAMPLE: If you eat out even 1 day a week at about $6 a meal versus packing a brown-bag lunch (average cost about $1.50), you spend an additional $135 per academic year. Think what that could cost if you ate lunch out 5 days a week? Check out this Brown Bag Savings Calculator to find out.

SAVINGS: Around $135 an academic year with just 1 day a week.

#5 Split the rent by getting a roommate.

You can save as much as a thousand dollars a year if you have more than one roommate.

EXAMPLE: If you decide to live in a downtown apartment complex like University Towers, you could get a 1-bedroom 1-bath apartment for 2 residents and each pay around $470 a month when you include utilities/cable. Meanwhile if you have a 1-bedroom 1-bath large apartment for 3 residents, you could spend as little as about $350 a month for rent plus utilities/cable. This is $1,080 per academic year (9-months).

SAVINGS: Around $1,080 an academic year.

#6 Walk, bike, or skateboard around town.

You can avoid paying gas, parking, and/or bus fares if you walk or bike instead. Walk and bike enough and you might even be able to skip the cost of a gym membership.

EXAMPLE: If you decide to have a car around town you could spend hundreds of dollars on gas ($100/mo), parking at your apartment ($100/mo), purchasing a commuter lot parking pass ($90/yr), paying for your emissions/inspections test ($70/yr), and car insurance ($80/mo). This excludes maintenance and/or actual monthly car payments.

SAVINGS: Around $2,680 for opting to live without a car.

#7 Oatmeal is fast, filling, and affordable.

Shop in bulk for dried foods like oatmeal and save.

EXAMPLE: Grocery stores list per unit prices on the selves—consider these when buying dried foods and save. Oatmeal in a large tub can cost as little as 7.6 cents an ounce and includes 42 ounces. If you buy it in smaller containers it can cost almost twice as much at 14.2 cents per ounce. While the initial cost is slightly more (and is only pennies), the extra cost adds up quickly. If you eat oatmeal, for example, most mornings and buy a container every other week at 14.2 cents an ounce that contains 12 ounces of oatmeal throughout the academic year, you may only spend $30.60. However, instead if you buy a 42-ounce container 6 times during an academic year, you’ll end up with more oatmeal and only have paid $19.15. You save $11.45 just on buying this one dried good in bulk. Consider how much this will add up for other goods as well.

SAVINGS: About $11.45 for an academic year.

#8 Keep your heat turned down or off if possible.

Especially when you are not home and/or at night. Set the thermostat to between 55 and 60 degrees during the winter months and then turn it back up when you are home.

EXAMPLE: It costs $0.54 per unit of gas (pre taxes) through Columbia Gas here in State College. For each one-degree drop for an eight-hour period, your gas bill can be dropped about 1%. So, for example if you are able to drop your temperature 1 degree each day for even 25 days of the month (from 100 units for a bill of $54.00 to 75 units for a bill of $40.50) simply by dropping your temperature when away, you could save $13.50 per month. If you do this for each winter month (November through March) you could save $67.50 each year.

SAVINGS: Up to or above $67.50 per academic year.

#9 Turn off the lights and keep the A/C off when you are not home or in a room.

If you’re not using a light, you’re not spending money on the per unit charge from your electric company. The same thing goes with the A/C, if it is not on it is not costing you.

EXAMPLE: Like your heat, electricity is charged by the amount of usage, and costs 6.9 cents per unit (KWH) of electricity (West Penn Power in State College). If you turn lights off, you could use fewer units of electrical power. Better yet, if you keep your A/C off you can save on electrical power, which can use hundreds of units of power even over the course of a week. Say you drop your monthly usage by 300 units of power by not running your A/C for about 5 days (or so), you can save about $20.70 per month. If you do this for the 3 summer months (June to August) in particular you could save about $62. This could be even more if you also limit your use of lights and other electronics.

SAVINGS: Up to or above $62 per summer.

#10 Use your student discount.

Living in a college town, many restaurants and stores offer student discounts, but they might not post it. Don’t be afraid to inquire about a potential student discount. Some merchants honor LionCash and others will simply honor a discount by showing your student ID (e.g., College 9 Movie Theatre).

EXAMPLE: If you use your ID you can save $1 off of your movie ticket at the Movie Theatre. If you go to 10 movies throughout the year, you’ve saved $10 already just with your ID at one retailer. Consider using it at many locations and the savings add up!

SAVINGS: $10 off movie tickets and much more elsewhere.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* The ideas for this sheet came from a few different sources, including: