Are you one of those college students who thought that you’d be living large while you were away at college? If your first trip to the grocery store left you with sticker shock, you’ll surely want to read further. Learning how fast money goes while you are in college jolts many students into reality. When you see the mounds of packages of ramen noodles in the other dorm rooms, you quickly realize you are not the only student who will be living on a shoestring budget.

A quick review of your depleted budget might get you to thinking, “There must be a better way to do this!” There is! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can manage your finances while away at college in the same way you did when you lived at home. Consider this three-step process for living large on $100 per week.

  1. The first step to having a more enriching college life is getting rid of that “woe is me” attitude. Put your college thinking cap on and focus on how to stretch your money with every penny that you spend. Check out this list of tips to put your mind in thrift mode, but don’t stop there. Brainstorm your way to a penny-pinching mindset and you are sure to find other ways to make limited funds last.
  1. The second step is to allow your education to take the front seat in class during the time that you are in school. Make spending and pampering yourself less of a priority and give your studies your full attention. Remember that getting a college education is paving the way for you to enjoy a higher income once you enter the real world.
  1. The third step is to target non-fixed living expenses. Your fixed expenses are things like car insurance, healthcare, and tuition. Focus on reducing non-fixed expenses like groceries and retail items.

After you graduate, hopefully, you’ll find that high-paying dream job and you’ll never have to worry about living on a tight budget again. It may not seem important now, but the saving skills that you learn now will carry into your post-graduate life.

Perimeter Shopping

Start your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store and cruise the aisles last. The perimeter of the store is where you find the produce, dairy, meat and seafood departments. Fresh foods are cheaper than bagged or boxed food.

These 15 Tasty Dorm Room Recipes Cost Less Than $5

Buy Produce in Season

Get the lowest cost per pound of your fruits and vegetables when they are in the prime of picking season. You can get a good price on bananas, celery, and potatoes all year round. Get the freshest citrus fruits from November until March.

The Cheapest Fruits and Vegetables Month-by-Month

Stay away from credit cards

Credit card companies are notorious for pushing students to apply for credit cards, but don’t do it.  Once you go down the road of using it, it can easily get out of hand. Before you know it, you have racked up debt.  If you have already fallen into the debt trap and your credit has taken a hit, you should look into enlisting a credit repair company.   There is no time like the present to nip your credit issues in the bud.  Yes, it’s that important.

Learn the Sales Cycles

Just about everything that you can buy in the grocery store goes on sale periodically. Start a sale notebook and write down the dates that your favorite foods go on sale. Watch to see how long before they go on sale again and stock up when the price is low. Meats and other items often go on sale about once a month.

Grocery Sale Cycles: What To Buy & When To Buy It

Download the latest apps that save you money

Budgeting is key but it is not the easiest to always stick to one.  It would be a lot easier if there were ways to automatically save us money.  Technology has now achieved that for you.  There are plenty of money saving apps to download that will get you on the road to building up your savings straight away.

 10 great apps that can help you save money NOW.

Find Free Meal Opportunities


Join activities and clubs or attend other events on campus where they include a meal or hearty snack. Seek out picnics and potlucks where students are gathering for a congregate meal. Many churches often have events where they serve a meal as well.

7 Ways to Score Free Food in College

Resell your Textbooks

Sell your textbooks back to a book supplier at the end of the semester. Enter the ISBN number to get a quote for each book. Print out the prepaid shipping label. Box them up and ship them and you can expect a check within two weeks.

Borrow textbooks from the school or public library

Professors often place textbooks on reserve in the school library.  If you cannot find it there, check with your public library.   If the library doesn’t have the book, take advantage of their inter-library system and see if you can have it delivered from another library.  Some classes may just use the textbook for only a few weeks.

If you can’t borrow or scan, try renting and not buying your textbooks is a great option to explore.  They have multiple options to rent, depending on how long you need the book. For example, you can rent a textbook for an entire semester, a few months, or just while you need them for finals. If the textbook you need is too expensive, you can also find an older edition for way cheaper!

Apply to Become a Resident Advisor (RA)

Check into the perks that come along with being a Resident Advisor. It could mean getting free rent, discounted housing or free parking. Better yet, you might get a paycheck. If you get the job, you can expect even more gifts and surprises during RA Appreciation Week.

The perks to Being an RA

Plan Meals Around the Sale Flyer

Take a look at the grocery store’s weekly sale flyer or pull up the flyer online. Look for sale items that will work together to make a meal. For example, when pasta, tomato sauce, ground beef or turkey, and garlic bread go on sale, plan to make spaghetti.

Planning Meals to Match the Grocery Sales

Drink Only Tap Water

If you drink bottled water and you drink eight glasses of water per day, you will save upwards of $1400 a year by switching to tap water. If you cut out sodas, juices and any other beverages that cost money,  you’ll save even more.

Save $1400 Year by Drinking Tap Water

Brew your own coffee

We all know how expensive it is to get your daily java from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.  It really adds up.  Brewing your own coffee will help you save a nice chunk of change.  If you do find yourself at Starbucks, they offer free refills on their basic coffee and tea.  Yes I said FREE.  If you plan on having a study session there, buy a tall one and refill to your heart’s content.  You can also bring your own teabags and ask for some hot water which they give you for free.

Coffee Cheat Sheet: The College Student’s Java Survival Guide

Start a Windowsill Garden


Cut Romaine lettuce down to about two inches from the base. Fill a small glass cup with water and place the lettuce root into it. In about 10 to 12 days, you’ll have more lettuce growing from the core. Other vegetables that grow well on your window sill are onion, potatoes, celery, and cabbage.

25 Foods You Can Re-Grow Yourself from Kitchen Scraps

Use Coupons

Coupons are the easiest way to save money and you can find them for just about everything from food to fashion.   Saving the extra money can mean the difference between a meal out with your friends or eating ramen noodles all month.

12 Best Coupon Sites

Eat Less Meat

Meat is one of the most expensive items on your grocery budget. Try a few vegetarian meals a week. Get your protein from cheaper food sources like beans, cheese, yogurt, and peanut butter. Simmer a hearty vegetable soup and serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich or cheese quesadilla.

See what a vegetarian keeps in their dorm room

Reduce Transportation Expenses

Walk or ride a bicycle to class when you can. Carpool with other students or take a bus. You’ll save on gas and car insurance. If you drive a car, offer to take other students on errands and use the extra cash to pay for your gas.

Find people to carpool with

Compare Housing Options

It’s fun to live on campus, but living at home is the least expensive housing option when it’s possible. Some colleges require freshmen to live on campus. Students that have greater options will do well to shop around for off campus apartments. Room with friends and share expenses.

Find a college roommate

Save Time and Money with CLEP Tests

Most colleges offer some CLEP (College Level Examination Program) courses. These courses give you credit for the knowledge that you have already learned. Students take a short time to study and then take an examination. Passing scores give students course credits. These classes are usually cheaper than classroom courses. Take the test as soon as you are ready and gain some free time too.

CLEP for Test Takers

Download Music That is Legal and Free

Buying music from iTunes gets expensive pretty fast. Check out free music sites like NoiseTrade, Spotify, and Pandora. The free programs usually have sponsor interruptions, but the savings is usually worth any minor inconvenience.

Breaking the Law Not Your Thing? Here are 10 Sites for Free, Legal Music Down

Repurpose Plastic Bags

Resealable zippered pouches come in all sizes, so they are perfect for storing all kinds of items. Unless they are unusable, wash them out and let them dry completely. Use plastic grocery bags for small garbage cans. They don’t look as nice as small trash bags, but you’ll be throwing them out anyway. Read this article to save even more by reusing plastic bags.

60+ Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags

Free Television On Your Laptop

Students and others can turn their computers into an instant home theater. There are many websites where you can watch free online television streaming, as long as you have a fast internet connection. Options include shows, sports, and movies. Beware of pop-up ads, suspicious audio players, and other suspicious links.

10 Free Websites to Watch Live TV Online on PC or Laptop

Visit your public library

Rather than spending money on Hulu or Netflix, check out your local library and borrow DVDs of movies and TV shows.

Student Discounts Are Everywhere

Ask for student discounts at retail stores, electronics stores, movie theaters, sporting events, travel, transportation, insurance, cell phones, and entertainment. You may also be able to get student discounts at restaurants, bars, at FedEx, and when getting the oil changed on your car.

60 Awesome Student Discounts

Shop at Warehouse Stores

Warehouse stores save on store employees by displaying food items and other goods on pallets and in cardboard cases. The money they save in labor gets passed along to shoppers. Look for stores like Aldi’s, Costco and Sam’s Club. Some warehouse stores offer discounts for students. Everything is not cheaper, so you’ll still need to compare prices to get the best deals.

The 18 Best Buys at Warehouse Stores

Get thrifty and go second-hand

Places like Plato’s Closet or your local Goodwill store can certainly save you lots when it comes to buying clothes. You are at one point or another going to fancy a new shirt or pair of jeans.  Try this route first, you will be pleasantly surprised about how much money you will save.  If you do not have one of these stores near you, buying used clothing online is all the rage. There are a number of websites to choose from too!

Guide to successful clothes shopping at thrift stores

Getting the Best Deal on Amazon Prime

There are several ways to save on Amazon Prime. College students can get a free six-month trial of Amazon Student. After the trial ends, students can pick up the services for 50% off. Get an extra $20 more off when you refer a friend that signs up.

14 Best Amazon Prime Hacks

Student Banking Accounts with No Fees

Look for banks that offer student checking accounts that don’t require a minimum balance. Some students find it handy to have their bank close to campus, or at least have no-fee ATM’s close by. Students that have trouble managing their money will resist the temptation to withdraw funds when their banks are not so easily accessible.

Best checking accounts for college students

Get Free or Reduced Medical Services at the Student Health Center

Most colleges and universities offer a student healthcare center where they can get basic healthcare for free or for a reasonable fee. Student healthcare centers usually also offer educational programs and some free immunizations.

How to stay healthy in college

Attend On Campus Activities

Go home to visit your family a few times during the term, but stay on campus as much as possible. Root for the college teams at the pep rallies, go to the games and take part in traditional college campus parties and other events. You’ll save money on the cost of transportation home and you’ll make the most of your college experience.

Campus activities that will enhance your college experience