Best Ways to Save Money as a College Student
When you think about the best ways to save money as a college student, you are probably thinking about getting help paying for college tuition or saving money paying for college. While those latter two topics are completely legit, let’s be honest.
If you’re reading this post and your high school senior has just made their decision about where to go to school, it’s probably a little too late to look for help paying for college. I’m not trying to be depressing. I’m trying to be realistic.
Usually there are four times during the year when parents and students stress about paying for college. Those times are:
- Fall, when high school seniors are applying to college
- Spring, when high school seniors are weighing their admissions options
- Summer, when that first tuition bill arrives
- Winter, when spring tuition is due
So pretty much you could be stressing year round about how you’re going to get help paying for college tuition. I did write a book called The Complete Guide to Paying for College. Much of it focuses on just that–paying for college. But many of the tips I share require you to be years away from sending your son or daughter to college.
That being said I understand that many parents haven’t planned about how they are going to pay for college. So the book also offers tips on some of the best ways to save money as a college student. Why? Because you can ease the sting of soaring tuition by being money-smart when you get to college.
Best ways to save money as a college student
It’s almost May 1st. That is the deadline for many high school seniors to decide where they will be going to college in the fall. So I figured now was a great time to focus on how you can save money as a college student.
This advice also applies to parents and family members. This is advice you can put into practice even before you move your freshman into their dorm. Here now are some of my best ways to save money as a college student as well as money tips for college students.
Stores that offer college student discounts
One of the benefits of having a student ID is getting discounts at stores. Having spent much of my life living in college towns, I know how many shops have signs in the window saying that they offer college student discounts.
When in doubt, ask. In The Complete Guide to Paying for College, I have a whole section on stores that offer college student discounts. I also talk about stores that are designed to save college students money when shopping.
Amazon Prime can save your college student money
One of the best examples of this is Amazon’s student Prime account. Both of my daughters signed up for Amazon Student Prime when they went away to college. Having this Prime account saved them thousands of dollars on books and other supplies. It’s one of the best ways to save money on college textbooks.
The account also saved their father and me tons on shipping costs. That’s because with an Amazon Student Prime account, other family members can use the account.
In 2017 Amazon Student Prime began offering a more affordable option. Rather than paying annually for a membership, college students had the option of paying for Amazing Prime Student monthly. For students on a budget, this may make more sense.
A Target college registry can save your student money
I love the fact that Target has a college registry. My daughters have always loved shopping at Target. To be honest, it is where we ended up getting the extra-long twin sheets that dorm beds require. I think Target is one of the best places to get extra long twin sheets. And they’re soft, too.
With a college registry set up, friends and family will know exactly what kind of sheets she wants–and other college necessities.
Benefits of a Target college registry
Here are some of the benefits of the Target college registry:
- 15% off coupon to shop online and finish out your registry
- A generous one-year return policy for anything purchased off your registry
- Free shipping on orders over $25
You can save even more when you sign up for the Target Red Card. For example, you always get 5% off.
Other tips to save money in college
When your student goes away to college in the fall, there are ways to save money in college that you might not realize. Two biggies are all about insurance. That would be with the following:
- health insurance
- car insurance
How college students can save money on health insurance
In a blog post on how to understand a financial aid letter, I explained how college students could save money on health insurance. Here is what I wrote:
All schools want to ensure their students are insured. They usually include the cost of health insurance in that cost of attendance. However, if you have health insurance, you can usually knock at least $1,000 off the bill. Just have your student provide proof of coverage (i.e. a copy of her insurance card).
At one of the schools our daughters attended, the bill for college-provided health insurance was $1,500 annually. By submitting a copy of her health insurance card, $1,500 automatically came off the tuition bill.
Help paying for college tuition
I’ll bet that’s a tip for saving money in college that you and your family will be grateful to learn. I truly believe this is one of the best ways to save money as a college student or the parent of a college student. You might even call this help paying for college tuition.
Another tip (not related to insurance) applies to families with more than one child in college at the same institution. Ask if there is a college sibling discount. Some schools offer them. It’s yet another one of those easy ways to save money in college. Easy why? Because all you have to do is ask about it. If there is a sibling discount, you’ll likely have to submit some paperwork but it could save you thousands.
Save money on car insurance
Many car insurance companies will give you a break on your insurance rates when your son or daughter goes away to college. Usually, you have to meet the following criteria to get that car insurance break:
- Your child attends college 100 or more miles away from home
- Your child does not take a car to college with them
With many colleges having a no-freshman-car-on-campus policy, you can enjoy a one-year break on insurance costs. The idea here is you don’t have to pay to insure your younger driver when they are away at college. Since younger drivers are often riskier and more expensive to insure, this can add up to a big savings for all of you.
How to save money on food in college
A college student has to eat. We all know that. Most students are required to sign up for the college’s meal plan as a freshman. Sometimes it is required all four years, especially if you’re living on campus.
One of the best ways to save money on food in college is to encourage your student to use their meal plan. That’s money you’ve spent and budgeted for. It’s crazy not to eat in the dining halls.
Buying in bulk to save money on food in college
Another way to answer the proverbial question of how to save money on food in college is to buy in bulk. We’re Costco members and share our membership with our daughters whenever possible. However, Amazon Prime offers tons of options for buying in bulk. Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry both offer options as well. All Amazon membership programs come with a free trial, so why not try them out?
Using an online bulk shopping option like Amazon Prime is smart. Your student can use it with roommates or suitemates. Everyone can pool their funds to get food affordably.
Of course, this is designed to complement any meal plans you might have paid for, not replace it. Again, if you’ve paid for the meal plan, impress upon your student the importance of eating all the “free” food the meal plan has to offer.
Are you aware of some other of the best ways to save money as a college student? If so, post a comment or share on The Real Sophisticated Facebook page. I’m sure readers will appreciate reading other people’s advice, too.