4 Ways Incoming College Freshman Can Save Money


Are you getting ready to go away to college for the first time? Going to college is usually the first time you’ll live on your own and be responsible for the majority of your own decisions. I remember the feeling and one of the things I was most excited about was getting to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store. I’m pretty sure my first grocery store trip took 3 times longer than it needed to because I wanted to go up and down every aisle to pick out all of my favorite foods.

Alas, a lot of that food actually went to waste because I wasn’t used to shopping for one person. I was used to seeing the quantity my mom would buy for the 4 of us. Another factor that contributed to my food going to waste was that I lived in the dorm and ate 80% of my meals in the cafeteria. The other 20% of the time was split between eating my groceries and going out to eat with friends or my boyfriend.

I made a lot of financial mistakes my first year of college and I know I would be a lot better off today (financially) if I hadn’t started digging myself a hole from day 1 of living on my own up until I graduated from college 3 years later.

Here are 4 ways that incoming college freshman can save money and avoid the money mistakes I made.

Compare Housing Options and Costs

I lived in a suite-style dorm my freshman year of college. We had our own bathroom and it cost about $600 extra/semester (I think) vs. traditional dorm living. Another down-side of suite-style living is that you have to clean your own bathroom. If you live in a traditional style dorm there is usually a paid cleaning person that takes care of the common room, bathrooms, and hallways.

Living in a suite-style dorm room cost about $700/month during the school year with a full meal plan. That’s quite a bit considering you are basically sharing a 1 bedroom apartment with 2-3 other students.

Off-campus living can be quite a bit cheaper if you go about it in the right way, but the dorm is often a good starting point if you’ve never lived on your own before.

Avoid the Campus Book Store

Nearly everyone knows that you should buy your textbooks used whenever possible, but did you know you should also avoid the campus book store at all costs? After enrolling for each semester I sent an email to my teachers to find out if there would be a required text and what it was so I could order it from Amazon and give it plenty of time to arrive before the class started. This saved me a TON of money over the course of my college education. I also made sure to re-sell my books on Amazon at the end of the semester too.

Live Like a “Broke College Kid”

It’s okay to be a “broke college kid”. In fact, nearly all college kids are broke. It’s not smart to try and live like anything other than a broke college kid when that’s what you are. You don’t need a flashy car, fancy clothes, or a designer handbag. You need a decent and safe place to live, and good food to eat. Make sure you prioritize properly and don’t be afraid to embrace the “broke college kid” stereo-type.

Go to Lots of Campus Events

On that note, you should attend as many campus events as you can while you are a student. Campus events provide free (or super cheap) entertainment and usually some free food too. Again, take advantage of the broke college kid stereo-type and you might actually save some money.

College is one the most exciting times in your life and you should definitely enjoy it while you are there, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to do so.

How did you save money during college, or were you spendy?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Shoeaholic No More*

Photo courtesy of: Drew Coffman

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7 thoughts to “4 Ways Incoming College Freshman Can Save Money”

  1. I picked the cheapest dorms most years that I lived on campus – and I totally second that living on campus your first year at a school is a good idea, even if it’s a bit more than an off-campus apartment. It’s so much easier to meet people. Once you’ve got a core group of friends and acquaintances from that first year, it’s easier to save money off-campus but still be plugged into campus life.

    Also, I think it doesn’t hurt to check out part time student jobs. Some can be time consuming, but I remember lots of my friends working in the box office on campus and 80% of the time they just sat there and did their homework.

    1. Great point about the student jobs! I got a job at the front desk in my dorm building and I worked on homework and watched Netflix most of the time.

  2. My daughter’s college only offers suite-style or apartment living. The apartment means they save money on food. On-campus vs off-campus can mean balancing different things. She might be able to live more cheaply off-campus, but then she would need a car; now she doesn’t have one. On-campus, the amount her roommates’ irresponsibility can financially hurt her is limited. Off campus, if a roommate doesn’t pay rent, or have money for utilities or decides to quit school, it is her problem. On campus, the housing office just fills that bed with someone else.

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