saving money in college

[ by Amanda Hopkins, CORT Furniture ]

Many a GIF has been made of one of Kristen Wiig’s classic lines from the movie “Bridesmaids.” During an attempt to keep her pilfered first-class airplane seat, Wiig’s character looks pitifully up at a flight attendant and pleads in the smallest of slightly medicated voices: “Help me, I’m poor.”

College students readily identify with the Wiig GIF, since college life often consists of balancing the ability to ace your courses, enjoy a social life, and feed yourself without going totally broke. Being smart about your budget can play a big part in keeping your sanity during college. So here are seven smart lifehacks to soothe the college kid financial blues (and maybe even put you in first class with Kristen Wiig one day).


1. Do Some Extreme Couponing.
At the beginning of the year, many campuses pass out enormous books of coupons. Lots of students walk right on by these coupon hawkers—but not you! You’re smart.

While a lot of what’s in these books might not apply to your needs, you should comb through them anyway. A 10 percent discount here, a two-for-one discount there, and your savings can start to add up. Tear them out ahead of time and store them in your wallet to enable thriftiness at a moment’s notice.

2. Go for Furniture Rental.
Most student apartments come unfurnished, and unless you’ve somehow managed to amass a full living room set and spotless kitchenware, you likely need furniture for your new pad. Student furniture rental is a good alternative to paying for secondhand furniture that’s going to give out in a few months anyway. You can rent by the room or by the piece; full furniture packages also are available.

3. Team Up on Self-Storage.
Sometimes roommates have better furniture. If this happens to be the case, you may need to stow both your jealousy and your couch, leaving you in need of temporary storage.

Because you probably don’t have enough stuff to fill up a whole self-storage unit on your own, go in with your friends to store your belongings for the semester or for the time between apartment leases. Make the process easy by using SpareFoot to help you get a unit and price you all can agree on.

4. Pop Some Tags at the Thrift Shop.
For thrifty threads, pull a Macklemore and head down to the thrift store to get some duds for the new school year. If the thought of wearing clothes from Goodwill or Savers makes your skin crawl, organize a clothing swap with your friends or a group on campus instead.

macklemore thrift shop

5. Rent Your Textbooks.
The semester’s textbook bill can be a heart attack-inducing piece of paper, especially if you buy your books at full price. Cut your costs by opting for textbook rental from companies like Chegg, or by choosing eTextbooks (although you might have to make sure that an electronic textbook is OK with your professor).

6. Cook It Up.
No, we don’t mean like meth cooker Walter White on “Breaking Bad.”

Cooking your own meals instead of eating out can save you tons of money in the long run. It’s cheaper to assemble and cook a dish that you may be able to eat for two or three meals than it is to go out to a restaurant. Plus, you’ll be forced to eat healthier, since raw ingredients you buy at the store and cook at home normally are better for you than processed foods.

7. Get Financial First Aid.
As frustrating as the system may be, your school’s financial aid office is there for you to use. Go in and sit down with someone to talk about assistantships, scholarships, research positions, tuition waiver programs—leave no financial stone unturned.