Surviving College on a Budget: Tips from Students to Students

It's no secret that college is expensive -- and that's just the cost of classes. Add in books, supplies and general living expenses and you're looking at a very daunting bill. Back in December we announced the Shop Smart Scholarship Competition asking students to show off their frugality and thrift for a chance to win a scholarship to continue their education. Saving Money in CollegeThe competition is now closed and we received over 4,000 entries! While we're still carefully reading entries and narrowing down our winners, we wanted to share some of our favorite tips from applicants on how to save money in college.

Leave Your Car at Home or Carpool: The price of gas can really take a toll on your monthly bill, so don't drive unless you have to. Look into local buses and see if your school gets you a discount. Chat with classmates about how they get to school and try and organize a local carpool. Invest in a bike. How you get to class should be the least of your worries.

Take Advantage of Thrift Stores: Thrift stores contain tons of hidden gems as long as you're willing and patient enough to look. You can get everything from used housewares to furniture to clothes as long as there is a good one in your area!

Buy in Bulk: When you're living in a tiny dorm room you're already sharing with someone else, buying in bulk doesn't exactly seem feasible. But when you can split the items with neighbors or friends it can be a great way to save some cash. Carpool to bulk stores and decide ahead of time what items you can split, and then divide the cost.

Utilize the Dorm Meal Plan or Ditch It: Meal plans aren't always the cheapest option, but are certainly worth while if you don't have access to an affordable grocery store or are often short on time. If you're opting for the meal plan, make sure to eat your allotted amount of meals there. If it doesn't make sense, cooking food in your house can undoubtedly be very affordable.

Dumpster Dive: It doesn't have the most glamorous name, but when not taken literally, dumpster diving can be a great idea for those living on a college campus. Common move-in and move-out dates in the summer are the best times to take a drive around the neighborhood. Snag a free couch, dresser, coffee table, etc. With a little DIY you can even make a decent piece of furniture into one you truly love.

Never Buy Books from the Book Store: Even used textbooks at your college book store are almost always pricier than used books on Amazon. Shop around, and as we always say, make sure to price compare! Renting textbooks has also become increasingly popular with services like Amazon and Barnes and Noble jumping on board. On Amazon, choose from a variety of digital versions, and you can even choose the length of the rental, between 3 and 360 days, so you only pay for the time you use it. With Barnes & Noble you can have the actual book shipped to your house for your rental. Also be sure to checkout Chegg.com and BookRenter.com.

Put Your Skills to Good Use: We had some amazing entrepreneurs in our group of applicants that were taking advantage of their skills and using them to make extra cash. Crafty people sold hats they knit or jewelry they made, one applicant was selling tamales out of his home, and good students offered to tutor other students in subjects they excelled in. The possibilities are endless!

For more places to save as a student, check out our 40 Stores with Student Discounts List.

How do or did you save money during college? Let us know your tricks in the comments below!

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