How to Save Money During Your First Year of College
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How to Save Money During Your First Year of College

One of the biggest challenges for college students is money. As the cost for tuition is continues to rise, college students also have to worry about how they will pay for books, supplies, and living expenses. This can even more challenging if they do not have financial aid or financial support from family. The following article gives basic tips on to save money during your first year of college.

One of the biggest challenges college students face today is money.  As the cost of tuition and fees increases, many wonder how they will be able to afford to get an education.  In addition, students have to worry about how they will be able to cover the cost of books and living expenses - especially if they don’t qualify for financial aid or don’t receive financial help from their family.  Getting a part-time job will help with some expenses, but no matter how you receive financial support you still need to know how to manage your money.  Here are some tips on how to save money during your first year in college. 

Stay At Home If Possible

Some students choose to start their college education at a local community or technical college for the first year or so and transfer to the university of their choice.  This option will help you save on tuition costs.  If possible you can save money by living at home instead of living in the dorm.  This option is cheaper than living on campus or sharing expenses with friends. 

Textbooks and Supplies

No doubt you will be needing textbooks.  Therefore, don’t pay full price for textbooks unless you have to.  Instead of buying new textbooks, look for gently-used textbooks at your campus bookstore, or other retailers who sell textbooks.  You can also rent or download textbooks online. 

It may be tempting to purchase your school supplies from the campus bookstore.  However, campus bookstore school supplies can be costly.  I have found that it is better to purchase supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, etc., from discount stores.  It is best to stock up on supplies during back to school sales.  Also, instead of buying new binders and folders each semester, reuse the ones you already have.  Only buy additional or replacement binders and folders if you have to. 

Scholarship and Grants

Look for opportunities to earn scholarships and grants.  Keep a calendar of scholarship and grant deadlines.  If you are turned down for a scholarship or grant, don’t give up.  You should continue to apply regularly, because this is free money that you do not have to pay back; and this will cut down on student loan debt. 

Keep Track of Your Spending

During your first semester, keep track of everything you spend your money on, including books to snacks out of the vending machine.  This will help you to determine what areas you are spending the most money on; then you can cut down or cut out areas that aren’t as necessary as others. 

Cell Phones

Everywhere you look everyone has a cell phone, and pay phones are becoming a thing of the past.  Cell phones come in handy for emergencies and staying connected with friends and family.  It may be cheaper to remain on your family plan or get a prepaid plan.  Check with your carrier to see which phone plan best fits your budget.  You may be able to eliminate features that you don’t necessarily need or will cost you more money.

Take Advantage of Discounts and Campus Services

Another way students can cut down on college expenses is by taking advantage of student discounts.  Buying electronics such as computers can be costly.  So check with your college to see if they offer discounts on computers and other eletronics before you purchase. 

Also, check to see what other discounts are available on and off campus.  Another way to save money is by using on-campus services and facilities.  If there is an on-campus gym, then you don’t need to pay for a gym membership.  Also, if you need help with your classes, check to see if your college or university offers free tutoring.  Don’t pay for services unless you have to.

The key factor in learning how to manage money is setting a budget and sticking to it.  Students who are learning to live on their own for the first time often spend too much money eating out or on expensive items at the grocery store.  Shop for items on sale or in bulk, and take advantage of coupons.  If you need help in this aspect, don’t be afraid to ask for it.


V, Kathryn.  “20 Tips on Saving Money in Your First Year of College.” Financial Highway. 

Mincer, Julian.  “How to Save Money on Your First Year of College.”  The Wall Street Journal.

“How to Save Money on the First Year of College.”  Accounting Web

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