How to Save Money as a Broke College Student

Let’s face it, most college students are broke. They are looking for ways to cut corners and save money any way they can. These tips on how to save money as a broke college student will not only help during the college years, but will set students up for a lifetime of financial success.

A lot of college students these days are paying their own way, whether that be through jobs and paying cash or taking out student loans. Even if students are taking out loans to go to college, they still will want to save every penny possible so there is less to pay back at the end.

Not all students can call Momma and Daddy and have them load up the debit card or pay off their credit card bill each month. Many, including my own daughter, work during college and pay some, if not all of their own bills. For any parents reading this, it is a great time in their lives for them to have some financial responsibility. For you students, you are not alone in paying your own way. 

Some of these tips came right from my daughter. Who better to interview than a broke college student?


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How to Save Money as a Broke College Student

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Anything that you have to purchase for your dorm room or off campus housing, buy it in bulk. From pens to macaroni and cheese to water, you will find better deals if you buy in bulk. You can even match those bulk deals with coupons and save even more money.

Yes, you will have to get creative with storage ideas if you are in a dorm room and buying in bulk, but closet organizers, over the door organizers, closet shelving and containers are great options. My daughter even uses a storage ottoman in her dorm room. Not only does it provide extra storage, but she uses it as a step to get up on her bed and it is great for extra seating. 


Many college towns have specials during the week for these broke college students. The businesses and restaurants know the pain, but still want their business. So they develop special days and deals to draw the students in. If college students have a plan and know when the deals are and how much they can spend, it is a win-win for everyone.


Oh, we have all been there. Peer pressure is so high during the college years.

“Come on, just come out with us for a little while.”  

“Just one slice of pizza won’t hurt.”

“Why can’t you go to the concert with us?”

College students will get bombarded with questions like this, and especially feel the pressure if you are on a budget. You need to get comfortable with the word NO and use it often. It is okay to say no when it absolutely doesn’t fit in the budget. Adults have to make this decision almost every single day. It’s great practice!


Many students live off campus or even live on campus and don’t eat in the dining halls. The food plans are super expense on campus! My daughter lives in a dorm, but because it is such a small school, they do not really have a food plan, unless you count eating in the hospital cafe.  But they do have a full kitchen in their dorm and all the students that live there cook all of their own meals. She plans her meals out (hey, she learned that one from me and more on that a few paragraphs down) and makes sure that she is eating nutritiously.


Yes, they are easy. Some are even really cheap, under a dollar. But most are not very nutritious and high in calories and fat. If you make the conscious effort to plan your meals and put the ingredients together, your meals will be cheaper. If you are able to go home once in a while, or to a relatives house, cook a few big meals when you are home and buy to go containers and freeze them. Then you can just warm them up at school and you will have a quick and healthy meal.


Taking the time to meal prep will save you money on food every week. Cut up all of your fruit and veggies once a week. Maybe even split the cost of those veggies with a roommate or friend. My daughter’s lifesaver as far as meal prep goes is shredded chicken. I cook and shred chicken every few weeks and she always takes some back to college with her. She adds it to salads, rice, noodles, makes wraps and quesadillas, the list goes on and on.


Meal planning personally saves me a lot of money every year, and college students can save a lot as well if they take a few minutes every week or month and plan out their meals. I am not saying that you have to stick to Tuesday Taco night, but if you have a list of dinners that you like and want to prepare for the week, and you shop for the food on that list specifically, it will save you a lot of time and money.

Start with these free printables to help you plan your meals. You will see that after you get the hang of it, meal planning will save you money.


Shop around. Take a few minutes and research your purchases, both big and small. Look at prices for both on and off campus housing, buying a meal plan versus cooking all of your own meals, textbooks, and on and on. Many college town businesses give discounts to college students as long as you show your ID. I was even in A.C. Moore earlier this week and they provide a discount to all college students with ID! It really will pay off if you take your time and look around.


There are many different companies that now rent textbooks. You can rent books for a month or a whole semester. You can rent an actual physical textbook or an online textbook. There are a lot of different options and it really pays to look at different websites to compare prices.

You can rent textbooks through Amazon also. Be sure to sign up for Amazon Prime Student and check out all of the deals and promotions exclusively for college students.



I can’t say it enough, everyone needs a budget, even if you only have $50 a month to live on. If you have no idea where to start when it comes to budgeting, start with this blog post – How to set up a Budget – the first steps.  

I use YNAB (You Need A Budget) for my budget and it is very popular with college students as well. It is very easy to use and you are basically planning your money that you already have in hand, not projecting out what you will spend for the month. And guess what? College students can get one year of YNAB for free!




As you can see, there are many ways to save money every day as a broke college student. The choice is yours. This is a great time in your life to set the way you budget and spend money for the rest of your life. Start practicing these steps now and you will set yourself up for a successful future.

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