College Hacks: How to Save Money While In College

College applications are due for many in just a couple of weeks. By this time next year many students will be starting their college experience. So what are a few things you can expect in college? Well for one thing, you will probably be broke most of the time. Like really broke. Like I used my friend’s Netflix account for four years broke. Last year I wrote a blog on some financial aid tips and resources to help you pay for college, but now I want to focus on how to save money once your already there. It can be hard to balance a budget in college, but there are a few things you can do to save a few bucks. Here are a few tips for saving some money in college:

Don't Buy Your TextBooks From the Campus Bookstore

Rookie mistake number one that will break the bank is buying all your textbooks from the campus bookstore. Yes it is convenient, but it is also a huge hassle and a big waste of money. Even the used copy that the bookstore sells is usually not that cheap, so I suggest shopping for your textbooks online if you really want to save money. Amazon, Chegg and even ebay are good places to start, but the website I suggest is because it compares different websites to get you the best deal. That way you spend less time roaming the internet looking for cheap textbooks and more time on tumblr… I mean studying. The library is also a great place to search for some class books. English classes usually use novels for many of their lectures and those can usually be found at your local library. For those harder books to find, I suggest using Link+ to see if any other libraries carry what you are looking for. Keep in mind that these requests can take a little longer to fulfill, but it will definitely be worth it when you see all your friends standing in line at the bookstore.

Learn to Cook

Food is a necessity. You have to eat, but you don’t have to always eat overpriced campus food. If your school requires that you buy a meal plan then take advantage of that, but for those who don’t I suggest you start hitting those cookbooks. Cooking is a great way to save money because it allows you to make food for home and also food you can eat on the go. You don’t always have to eat ramen, but there are plenty of posts online on how to spice things up. Also, stop drinking at high priced coffee places. You can make coffee at home and even save some time by skipping the long lines at the café. Here are a few cookbooks for all you young college students so you can make sure you eat. For some easy college snack hacks, watch the video below:

Thug Kitchen cover SJPL catalogMy Drunk Kitchen CoverEat Cheap and Eat Well coverVegan on the cheap cover


Learn to Budget

This one kind of goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway. Learning to budget early is a great way to stay afloat in college. The library carries plenty of books on how to budget your finances and even some clever ways to save money. For those of you who will be receiving financial aid, it is a good idea to save some of that money for a rainy day.

Budgeting Smarts CoverFAQ budgeting and money management coverThe everything college survival book

Hopefully these resources will help you save a little money and keep a little bit of your sanity come next semester. Happy reading, eating and studying!


Great blog! I would also recommend the cookbook How To Cook Everything by Mark Bitman. His recipes include basics like how to fry an egg, an easy tomato and basil bruschetta, and more elaborate fare like a great vegetable lasagna. Entertainment could also be expensive. I relied on library videos (they were on VHS tapes, it was so long ago) and worked part time at a movie theater to make extra money and to be able to see movies for free. Nowadays there are a lot of free entertainment sources including the library, hoopla, crackle,, podcasts, etc. Once you learn to budge and save money it becomes kind of addictive, so I always tried to have fun with it rather than seeing it as a form of depravation. In the end it was worth it. I ended up with a college degree and some mad financial skills that have served me well!

Add new comment

Comments are expected to follow the basic rules of civility and be relevant to the topic being commented upon. Comments will be reviewed prior to posting. Blog comments represent the views of the person commenting, not necessarily those of San José Public Library. For more information see SJPL's Comment Guidelines.