Best Ways to Save Money in College and Still Have Fun!

Ask any high school graduate or college student what their biggest worry is, and if they are paying rent they will most definitely respond with needing more money! In fact, I feel like most people I meet have the same problem, and they have well paying jobs!

What I have noticed is that it comes down to the little things. The daily habits and mindfulness. This world is full of marketing and tricks designed to get people to purchase “cheap” things that are not necessary and go unnoticed by us until we have only penny’s in our bank account.

Here is a new strategy and some life hacks for you to have and save more money in college so you don’t have to live off of ramen and Walmart protein powder like I did! Also, don’t forget to check out my post about awesome Part Time Summer Jobs for College Students!

The Little Things

Try to notice the small purchases that you make often. Some might be more unnecessary than you think and add up quickly over time.

Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash

Coffee – If you aren’t brewing your own coffee at home (or getting it from the meal plan you signed up for), you are losing a large amount of money. Buying a simple coffee maker and coffee grounds saves you so much in the long run.

Example: If you get a Starbucks coffee consistently throughout the week on your way to class, work, or studying, you can expect to pay between $400 to $560 across the semester depending on if we include weekends.

My girlfriend and I got two different cheap coffee-makers off of Amazon and they were our faithful companions for two years. Mine was a simple coffee pot and she got a slightly fancier espresso maker ( I still use mine today! Although now I buy myself a nicer coffee every now and then).

Stop getting guac and extras on your food! – I am super guilty of this. I love guac, bacon, and all the amazing extras. BUT, if you want to save money, go buy guac from the grocery store to use more than once. Most places charge $1.50 to $2 for a tiny scoop of goodness. If you got Chipotle once a week and had guac every time, you just spent $24 on guacamole across the semester, not including the price of the burrito bowl!

Photo by Juan Manuel Giraldo Grisales on Unsplash

Don’t listen to the deals! – During my second year of college, my roommate was a Publix veteran. He opened my eyes to the marketing evils of the grocery world. I never knew that sometimes the BOGO’s or sale deals are complete bogus and sale tricks. They raise the price, then “mark it down” and the big red letters get you to buy it.

Go in with a plan, and get only what you planned for and what you need. You don’t need the extra snacks and surely don’t need four pasta sauces because they are suddenly on sale. Then you are going to go buy noodles for the sauces, when you never planned to have spaghetti at all.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid man! – Stick to water as much as possible. Sodas, teas, and other flavored drinks cost a fortune over time, not to mention the cost on your health. I’m talking about fruit juices too! They are loaded with sugar!

Cook Food at Home

Start meal prepping! Without money, use the one thing you have! TIME. Food can be so cheap if you cook it at home (or in your dorm kitchen area). The less money, the more work, but sometimes it is so worth it. You can get 10 pounds of chicken leg quarters for around 5 dollars at Walmart! SO what, you have to deal with the skin and bones, you just got at least five meals worth of chicken for 5 bucks!

The options are out there. Stick to the periphery of the store and get only what you know you need and will cook. A go-to for me was to bake chicken in the oven with cut up bell peppers and lemon all over it, with rice cooking on the stove top, and I could focus on studying for the 40 minutes it took to cook.

Don’t go Crazy at the Bars

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By all means go out, but have a plan for when you do. Decide on a monetary limit that you will not go over on drinks that night. Stick to the cheaper beers or cocktail deals, and don’t go anywhere charging cover. Cover is a total scam. If you can, bring friends who are willing to buy you drinks.


Stay away from buying food after you’ve been drinking. You will probably buy more than you need and buy foods that you would not normally eat. Have a planned snack for when you get home that you already prepared.

Again, stick to the cheaper beers and cocktails until you are rolling in the dough later. Trust me, the cheaper alcohol works just the same.

Track Your Spending

Nothing crazy or time-consuming here. Just get a sheet of paper, and every time you make a purchase, write down the name and amount spent.

For example: Groceries – $35, Toiletries – $12, Gum – $1.25, Starbucks – $4.25, Chipotle w/ guac – $9.60, etc.

This will show you some things you can cut back on or live without, AND if you are writing down your expenses, you will think about things more thoroughly before you buy them. It is similar to tracking your food. Before you go to eat that cheesecake, you think about how you’ll have to write down that you bought and ate that 600 calorie cheesecake, and that alone may be enough to change your mind.

Have an accountability buddy. Get a friend or family member to check your spending sheet weekly and provide their outside insight or ideas.

Sell What You Don’t Need!

Chances are, you have plenty of things that other people want and that you can make money from.

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

For example, I had a bunch of Hollister and Abercrombie clothes from high school before I found out that NO ONE wears that in college. The local high schoolers however, were very much into that style. I made a decent amount of money taking my old clothes to Plato’s Closet and got some new clothes there as well for extremely cheap.

Consignment shops baby, gotta love ’em!

If you take awesome notes for classes or have old homework, quizzes and review sheets, PEOPLE PAY A LOT OF MONEY FOR THAT STUFF! There are so many sites where you can upload pictures of your class notes and content and people pay you for access to them!

Pro Tip – Host Something and Charge People

Photo by Sam Truong Dan on Unsplash

If you are able, host a small party or get together with cheap drinks and food. Make it a theme or celebration for something, and request that people Venmo you or bring you a certain amount in cash.

You will make much more than what you spent!

Be Disciplined Now and Have More Later

To conclude, this is all a game of numbers and attention to detail. Luckily the game is pretty easy.

Be disciplined, save money, and get more money through selling what you have. In a few months you can truly ball out on a budget.

As always, let me know in the comments or in an email if you need further help with this or another topic! I am here to support you and help you achieve massive success!

Conquer college, Dominate Life!

-Hudson, LikeTheRiver





  • Shirun

    I gotta say, you are spot on. Only in my third year did I start employing some of these strategies, and boy did it pay off. Finding drink deals and meal prepping at home are definitely two that helped me the most. I only wish I had realized your coffee advice earlier. Coffee is a money guzzler!!! Anyways, this really ties in to your tips for studying efficiently, because most students claim they can’t meal prep since they’re “so busy.” Little do they know…life gets busier and if you don’t use your time EFFICIENTLY, you will end up spending loads of money on things you don’t need–all for the sake of salvaging the time you wasted staring at the wall of the library.

    • Hudson

      Thank you and you’re absolutely right! College is a time to master real-life skill such as budgeting and time-management, or else the “real world” comes quick with little sympathy. I appreciate your comment and hope you enjoy the other posts on the site!

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