How to Save Money in College


As bloggers at Transy, we write almost exclusively about Transy-specific information. But let’s be real. Not every single high school student who reads Write on Broadway will end up attending Transylvania. (But hopefully we’ll encourage you to check us out!)

No matter where you go for college, you’ll be looking for ways to save money. I can promise you that. Because college is expensive. And none of us have made fortunes just yet.

By now, high school seniors, I’m sure you’ve heard back from all your potential schools with scholarship and financial aid offers. But don’t forget, that’s not all of it. You won’t just be paying for tuition, room, and board. Sorry.

You also have to live! You’ll need gas money, school supplies, snacks, appliances, etc. etc. Now, hopefully you can split a lot of those big costs with your roommate (One buys the fridge and TV, one gets the microwave and carpet, etc.), but all those extra costs will start to add up.

Not trying to scare you, but it’s helpful to be prepared!

So before Move-In Day approaches, here are some ways to save money as you head off to college:

  • Choose your meal plan wisely. Sometimes the one that has the most value for you isn’t the most expensive one. For example, at Transy (and most schools have similar meal plan programs), the biggest meal plan has 19 meals per week, which would be 3 a day. But it doesn’t include flex points (at some schools the points might be called bonus dollars, etc.) So you can only get what counts as a meal equivalency, but would have to pay extra if you wanted more food. So I switched to the smaller meal plan that has fewer meals (our other options have 10 and 14 meals per week), but more flex points. That way I have more flexibility in when and how I use my meal plan money, and it’s cheaper too!
  • Check out yard sales. You don’t have to buy everything brand-new. You may want to invest in nicer stuff once you’re out on your own in the real world, but take your time spending all that money. For now, save where you can. I got all my dishes and silverware from my church’s rummage sale the spring before I started college. If you can find the supplies you need super-cheap just by paying attention to sales in the area, why not?
  • Similarly, use the people you know. Maybe you have an older friend, cousin, friend-of-a-friend’s-sibling, etc. who is graduating college or moving to a new house or making some other life change and has stuff to get rid of for free or cheap. Ask around! Post on Facebook the supplies you’re looking for, and maybe someone will know of where you can get one cheap! They might be just as eager to get rid of it as you are to find one, so you might get a fridge or futon for free!
  • Above all, REUSE. This may be partially coming from my “go green” obsession, but there’s no reason to buy something brand new if you or someone else has it perfectly good already. Save the notebooks and folders that didn’t get totally ruined from getting constantly crammed into a locker, and use them next year! Another example: dorm beds will require XL Twin sheets, but a regular Twin comforter will fit the bed. So if you have a twin bed at home, don’t buy a new comforter! Surely there are other supplies that you have too much of at home like cups or towels that you can take with you. Think before you spend all that graduation money!
  • When you do go shopping, be smart. I’m not saying turn into an Extreme Couponer, but it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to sales. And at least at Transy, in the first few weeks, a giant Lexington coupon book will be sent to your campus mailbox, filled with coupons to the stores and restaurants you’d be going to anyways. Save money where you can so that you have enough when you need it for big/necessary purchases.
  • Compare textbook prices. College bookstores are wonderful for all the spirit wear you’ll want for sports games, and all kinds of other supplies. But often, that’s not the only place you can find your textbooks. When your professor posts textbook lists, see if they’re available on Amazon. (There are other sites that sell textbooks, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which are legit. Amazon is safe and super-easy to use.) Check out your local Half Price Books. It won’t always be cheaper from an outside source, but a lot of times it will, and it’s worth checking. When you do buy from your college bookstore, rent or buy used whenever the options are available. You can still write/highlight in rented books and if you realize by the end of the semester that you want to keep it, you can still buy it.
  • Just be smart about spending your money. College is expensive. It would be dumb for me to try to tell you otherwise. But you can make it work! Spend your summer taking extra shifts at your part-time job while you can, so that you’ll have time for studying and fun in college. You’ll have plenty of time to buy expensive fancy things once you have a big-time job that you got with your impressive college degree 😉