11 Great Ways to Save Money Your Freshman Year of College

First year college student studying on floor, taking notes in bookWhile college is full of new friends, a new school, and completely new experiences altogether, it also goes hand in hand with a whole new world of…adulting. Buying your own toilet paper? Figuring out every meal on your own? Budgeting??? Yep, all of these things need to get done. But don’t fret; being a college student also comes with tons of perks, especially when it comes to saving money. Check out these ideas for stretching your dollars and keeping it up for the rest of your college career, and hopefully, life!

1. Can you smell what they’re cooking down the hall? Instead of eating out all of the time, cooking can help save you a boatload of money. In fact, the Flannel Guy estimates that cooking for yourself saves about $6 per person, per meal. To save even more (and have fun while you’re at it) organize family meals with friends and have everyone bring things to share potluck style. And when grocery shopping, always look at what’s on sale and make it a game to cook something with only those ingredients. Then you’ll be forced to step outside your comfort food cooking zone and learn how to make more than just scrambled eggs and spaghetti!

2. Read the fine print. In this case, the fine print is the fact that many of your textbooks can be found in the local library, online, or even on a friend’s bookshelf. Don’t waste your money and assume that you A) need your books before class starts, unless the professor says otherwise, and B) have to buy your books at the campus bookstore. Instead, grab your syllabi and look on discount sites like Amazon, Half.com, and Chegg. Hit up both the university library and public library too. There’s a good chance the titles on your book list can be found for much less than the going rate on campus. Even if the edition you find is an older one, chances are that most of the text is the same; you can always reference a friend’s copy if you think something may be different too.

3. There is such a thing as a free lunch. If you’re willing to donate a little time to a cause, you’ll find that many events offer free food and drink. You may have to look at some artwork, attend a festival, or watch someone’s powerpoint presentation on “Animals of the Arctic,” but trust us, free lunches exist. Keep an eye out for free events on campus, including art shows, festivals, and student organization gatherings. Who knows? You might even end up liking the cause and learning something new!

4. Scholarships, grants & funding – oh my! While you may think that it’s not worth your time to write an essay about one of your many awesome life experiences, a few hours could lead to some serious cash! Many people don’t realize just how many scholarships and grants there are, and how few students actually end up applying to them. Try searching for specific ones based on qualities that you already possess: there are literally scholarships related to everything from your hair color to where your parents attended college. Check out this full list of unique, need-based, academic scholarships, and more on Unigo, then apply and watch the money roll in!

5. Be a student of LIFE. That student ID won’t be in your possession for long. Use it. Student discounts are EVERYWHERE, from major retailers like J.CREW and Banana Republic, to the local movie theatre and concert venue. Whether you’re paying for admission to an event, buying a meal, getting an interview outfit at the mall, always ask if they have a student discount. What do you have to lose? That card is your ticket to more cashola in your pockets. In fact, here’s a list of 100 + stores that give students a discount!

6. Budget and don’t fudge it. Be honest with yourself: are you spending more money on fancy meals than you should be? Are you going to bars with craft cocktails when you know your wallet can really only afford a 6-pack of warm soda? It’s okay to spend money on the things you enjoy, but all in moderation. Make a budget and be realistic about it. Tally up the actual amount of money you’re spending in each category (food, lodging, transportation, etc.). You may be spending more, or less, than you think. Either way, you won’t know where you need to cut back unless you actually count each and every cent.

7. The more roomies, the bigger the wallet. Not keen on spending all your money on rent? Find people that you can live with and rent a house or apartment together. If you can handle it, put two or three people in each bedroom. It’ll help keep everyone’s budget under control and you’ll always have someone around to watch a ridiculous reality TV show with. Don’t know anyone in a new city? Many apartment complexes have a roommate matching program if you’re willing to splitsies with some new friends.

8. Don’t rush. Not sure what kind of world problems you want to solve as an adult? Check out the price difference between a community college and the four-year university you’ve been eyeing; it’s likely a big one. If you’d rather get your basics out of the way and transfer into a larger school when you’re ready, spending the first two years at a community college is a great way to drastically reduce the cost of a four-year degree. Assuming you complete 60 units (two years) of required classes at a community college, you could save $12,000 to $66,000 compared to the same education at a state or private school, say the number crunchers at Money Crashers.

9. Cha-cha-ching! Need a credit or debit card? What about a checking account? Use your resources; as a student, there are plenty of options when it comes to free checking and savings accounts, along with lower or no interest rates on credit cards. If your school has a bank associated with it, that’s your best bet. But if it doesn’t, talk to your local bank about their special deals for students.

10. Is it worth it? Lemme work it. Who dishes out extra money for a gym these days? The wellness center at your university is usually included in the fees that you pay to go to school there. Use it! Want other options besides the great indoors? Get outside, join an intramural team, or go online; there are tons of free workout videos that offer every type of exercise your toned college bod could dream of.

11. Back away from the IKEA. Your apartment furniture shouldn’t consist of twelve boxes with stick figures showing you how to put it all together. It also shouldn’t be so easy to throw away and replace at full price. Want to really save some money? Stop buying furniture altogether and check out the wide, wide world of student furniture rental at CORT.com.

Companies like CORT are super easy to deal with and could save you time and money not only when it comes to furniture, but also on packing and moving. CORT’s crew handles all the tough stuff, from helping you coordinate different pieces and rooms to handling the delivery, setup, and pickup. With their student packages, you can be an uber-involved decorator à la Martha Stewart, or literally sit back and eat pizza as everything is set up in front of you. It’s your choice!

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