Money Saving

Back to School: 20 Tips on How to Save Money in College

July 27, 2021

Budgeting for college expenses in 2020-21 looks a little different than it has in previous years. This year, reports show that at least 81% of college students are facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19 and at least one in four students have recently lost their job due to the pandemic.

If you’re trying to make ends meet while preparing to go back to school, we’ve got some helpful tips for you. Applying for the right kind of financial aid can help alleviate a lot of financial and emotional stress. And, following these 20 tips for how to save money in college can help you save on textbooks, back to school clothes, and even electronics.

1. Sign Up for Amazon Prime Student

Amazon Prime Student is a great resource for students as it allows them to not only enjoy the regular perks of Amazon Prime (such as streaming, storage, and free two-day shipping), but it also grants them access to deals on electronics and accessories, plus access to cheap or rented textbooks. As a student, you can sign up for a free six-month trial. After the trial ends, you’re eligible to receive a 50% discount on a normal Amazon Prime membership.

2. Take Advantage of College Student Discounts

How much can your student ID save you? Quite a bit actually. AMC Theaters will give students a discount of up to 40% off on prepaid tickets just by showing their ID; STA Travel offers travel discounts for international students; H&M, Kate Spade and J. Crew will all usually give you 15% off while Forever 21 will give you 10% off when you shop online as a student.

3. Enjoy Back to School Sales at Best Buy

Best Buy is one of the best places to shop for back to school electronics. Visit the Best Buy Student Hub to search for the best back to school deals on laptops, tablets, and more. Similar to Apple’s 2020 back to school deals, Best Buy is offering a deal where students can get free headphones on select Chromebook purchases.

4. Use Your Student Email for Apple Discounts

You don’t even have to show your student ID to get a back to school discount at Apple. Numerous tech and software companies offer education pricing for students and faculty members. Apple, for example, currently offers education pricing on MacBook Airs for less than $1,000 brand new. And, this year they’re including free AirPods on all MacBook purchases for students.

5. Wait to Buy Back to School Clothes

Retailers often hold back to school sales, especially in states where there are tax-free weekends for back to school clothing, supplies, and electronics. However, some experts actually suggest waiting until about October to purchase back to school clothes. This is because they’ll start to have all of their end of summer and fall clothing on sale in order to make room for winter clothing.

6. Wait Until Black Friday for Non-Essentials

If you don’t absolutely need a new computer right now, it might be best to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to purchase non-essential items. There are often fantastic deals on accessories such as headphones, cameras, and other gadgets. And, you might still be able to add your student discount on top of the already discounted prices.

7. Have a Back to School Yard Sale 

Need to save money for college? Have a back to school yard sale before classes start. This is a great way for your whole family to earn a little extra cash at the end of summer to start planning for the school year and the holidays. Sell old items, including furniture and clothes, and take that cash to school with you.

8. Use Chegg to Save on Textbooks

Never buy new textbooks unless it’s absolutely necessary! Chegg allows you to rent books at a much cheaper price. And, if you need to make money, you can sell old textbooks and other books. If you’ve got a lot of textbooks lying around, you can get instant quotes for the sale price from Chegg (and shipping is free!).

9. Shop at the Dollar Store

Whether you’re buying back to school supplies such as notebooks and pens or need to stock up on cleaning supplies, there are actually quite a few things that are better to buy at a dollar store than at a major retailer. Cleaning supplies, beauty accessories, and storage containers are high-quality items you can find at dollar stores to help you stock your dorm for the school year.

10. Download a Price Match App

Even after the back to school craze ends, using price match apps is a good habit to get into. CamelCamelCamel, for example, tracks price drops. So, you enter a product you’re interested in and it’ll notify you when the price drops automatically. With ShopSavvy, you can scan the barcode of any item you see while out shopping. The app will compare the price of the product to other products both online and at stores locally.

Save money in college - Cheese

11. Shop via Cashback Apps

We’ve reviewed the top ten best cashback apps for this summer to help you figure out which is best for your lifestyle as a college student. Whether you’re earning cash for taking surveys or getting cashback via Rakuten for shopping at certain stores, they’re a great way to save money in college.

12. Start a Side Hustle

College students should engage in some sort of side hustle not only as a way to earn but also as a way to amp up their resume. Providing your services as a freelancer (graphic designer, writer, actor, etc.) are all great ways to build your resume as you earn a little extra money on the side to help you fund your studies.

13. Buy in Bulk with Friends

Living in a dorm or college apartment with other students? Pool your resources and shop in bulk together. You can chip in for a Costco card or buy in bulk from Amazon. But, the key is to shop for items that you can all split in your dorm or apartment. This includes toiletries, cleaning supplies, water, and other items that everybody uses.

14. Take Advantage of Groupons

Groupon is a great place to save money! There are tons of local deals offering you well over 50% off on local activities and services. From haircuts and salon services to local activities and even products, taking advantage of Groupon deals is an easy way to save money. Stay tuned for our updates on our Groupon offers as part of our affiliate program.

15. Conserve Energy

Conserve energy and sign up for Arcadia! It automatically matches your utility with clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy and ensures you’re getting the lowest rates. It’s a free hack that can reduce up to 5% of your monthly energy bill while helping you and your community benefit from renewable energy. Connect your utility account to Arcadia, and claim your $10 now. 

16. Get a Rewards Optimized Credit Card

Building your credit as a college student is a great way to begin building your financial health. And, there are credit cards for students that are optimized for savings and rewards. The Discover it Student Cash Back card, for example, allows you to earn up to 5% cashback on certain purchases. And, the EDU Mastercard offers users Amazon Prime Student for a year.

17. Apply Early for Financial Aid

Navigating FAFSA might seem daunting at first. But, the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to be awarded grants and scholarships instead of pure loans. We’ve developed a helpful guide for college students on how to apply for financial aid for the 2020-21 school year. Apply ASAP to ensure you’re eligible for scholarships and grants.

18. Reduce Your Subscription Spending

As a college student, you’re going to be so busy that you likely won’t even have time to get into any good shows this fall. To save money in college, think about reducing your subscription spending. Try to stick to one subscription per category. This means only one video streaming subscription and only one beauty subscription, for example.

19. Shop Back to School Supplies Sales

Which retailers have the best back to school supplies sales? Dollar stores are great for smaller items such as notebooks, rulers, and sometimes even paper and calculators. However, for other school supplies, shop back to school sales at Walgreen’s, Hollar, Office Depot, and Target. Shop the deals and coupons sections of their websites before heading in, too.

20. Sign Up for Cheese

The easiest way to save money throughout your college career? Sign up for Cheese Credit Builder. Without any admin fees charged, you can save more by doing, well, pretty much nothing. Just make payments into your Cheese account, let Cheese report your payment history. And the end of the term, you'll get your money back (minus the interest) plus see your credit built. Not only you are saving your coffee money, but also building credit for credit cards with better rewards, rent with less deposit, and so on.

Interested? Learn more and join our growing community of super savers using the Cheese Debit Card.