5 Ways to Look for Savings in College

Check out these tips for eating well, dressing well and living well without breaking the bank


One of the great things about college is that it can be a time of personal development. You’re focusing on your studies, learning about who you are and figuring out who you want to be. But it’s hard to grow when you’re worried about money. 

For many students, getting creative with finances is just another part of college life. But living on a budget doesn’t have to weigh you down. Read on for ways to save more by spending less as you get ready to take on the world.

1. Create a College Budget

Setting a budget while you’re in college can be important for a couple of reasons. It can help ensure you have enough money for the things you need. And it may help you save money in the long run.

Here are a few quick ways to start budgeting:

  • Keep a money journal. Writing down what you spend money on can be a real eye-opener. For example, you might find that eating out with friends is taking a bite out of your budget. By cataloging your expenses, you can find ways to save—like taking advantage of your college meal plan. Having awareness of your spending habits can help you adjust them to fit your goals.
  • Set a budget—and stick to it. Once you understand your spending habits, create a realistic budget that you can stick to. Set aside money each month for essential expenses like rent and utility bills. Then come up with a monthly spending limit for things like eating out and entertainment. That way you’ll know when you can afford to splurge and when you should stick to instant ramen. 
  • Set financial goals. If your budgeting goes well, you may be able to start squirreling away a little bit of money every month. Building good habits—and savings—can help you make progress toward bigger life goals. College is a great time to start thinking about the future and making plans. 

2. Save Money on Groceries

Being thrifty doesn’t necessarily mean skimping on taste. Learning how to eat well on the cheap is a great way to save when you’re living on a budget. Here are some ways you can keep your wallet—and belly—full:

  • Make a shopping list. Unnecessary items can make their way into your cart if you shop without a grocery list. By planning meals ahead of time, you can stay on budget and avoid wasting food.
  • Cut down on food delivery. Having meals delivered is very tempting—especially when you’re in the middle of an intense study session. And apps make it easier than ever. Unfortunately, it can also get expensive when done too frequently. Save delivery for special occasions, and consider stocking up on less-expensive frozen dinners. They offer all of the convenience and speed of delivery—and you only have to wait for your microwave. 
  • Explore local food pantries. Some universities have free food pantries for students. They may offer canned foods, nut butters, bread and other staples to help you when things are tight. Explore your school’s website to see what services they provide.
  • Buy your own coffeemaker. No doubt, it can be a treat to head to the local coffee shop for a daily pick-me-up. But buying coffee out can really add up. So you may want to consider buying a coffeemaker for your place. You can even split the cost if you have roommates.   

3. Consider Car Alternatives

As a college student, you need to get around. But having a car on campus can be costly. There are ways to get to classes and clubs that won’t cost you a fortune in gas, parking, insurance and upkeep.

  • Bicycle to biology class. Biking is a great way to get around. It keeps you active, it’s eco-friendly and it saves you money on gas or bus passes. Use a bike to zip around campus so you’re never late for a final exam.
  • Carpool with classmates. Home is where the heart is, but getting back to visit family can sometimes be a financial strain. Find other students from your hometown and carpool with them. Not only will it save you gas money, but you might make some new friends along the way.
  • Take advantage of student discounts on transportation. Lots of cities have public transportation deals for students. Look up what your city offers. You could get a discounted bus pass or even free bus rides with your student ID.

4. Take Advantage of Student Discounts and Other Ways to Save 

Be on the lookout for discounts and other ways to help stay on your budget. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Use student discounts. Student discounts don’t stop with bus fare. You’d be surprised at the variety of places that offer student discounts. From movie tickets to restaurants and museums, businesses love to offer a helping hand to students. 
  • Find online coupons. You can look online for coupons offering savings on products, food and more. You may find them on company websites, in apps and on social media. There are also web-based tools like Capital One Shopping for finding deals online. Just keep in mind that online coupons may work best for things you’re already planning to buy rather than expensive “splurge” purchases.
  • Buy used textbooks. Used textbooks, which may cost less than new ones, may be available online or at local bookstores. Digital copies, if they’re available, may also be more affordable. 

5. Visit Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are an oasis for style-conscious college students. There’s something fun about buying a piece of clothing with history. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are often ridiculously low compared to department stores—like $6 for a ruggedly cool jacket kind of low. 

Thrifting can turn the average person into a treasure hunter, collecting pieces to create a unique wardrobe. If you’re lucky, you could even find vintage designer pieces. All it takes to create a personal style from thrift shopping is patience, creativity and personality. Borrowing clothing from friends is another thrifty idea.

Save Money While Having Fun in College

Being a student doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You can eat well, dress well and live well without flattening your wallet. 

As long as you live within your means and are conscientious about your finances, there can be some real flexibility—and fun—in your lifestyle.


Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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