10 Ways to Stretch Your Dollar While in College

Looking back at my college years, I wish I had someone who took the time out to talk to me about money management. Managing your money in college isn’t easy. There are ways to stretch your dollar even in college. In fact, according to a 2016 survey by Edvisors, two-thirds of college students said they ran out of money at least once by the middle of the first semester. Being a college student comes with a number of new responsibilities, the best four years of your life can also be the most expensive.

With tuition, housing, textbooks and food, college costs a lot. But if you’re smart with your money, you can stretch your dollars further. Here are 10 tips to help your stretch your money while in college.

 Set a Budget

The first thing that I recommend you do is to create a budget. Making a simple budget each month can go a long way. Creating a budget will guide you in making smart financial decisions. Documenting your expenditures also makes you aware of when you might be spending too much money on things you don’t need and can help you cut back.. Allow percentages of your budget for textbooks, rent, laundry, school supplies, food and leisure and revise your budget each semester.

Avoid Spending Triggers

Knowing how to stop spending money has to do with identifying the emotional and psychological triggers that cause us to spend. One way to avoid spending too much so you can actually stretch your dollar is to recognize what prompts you to open your wallet in the first place. Really thinking about what you need and how much use you might have for something, can help you decide if you are spending money unnecessarily. A good way to figure out if you really need something is to leave it in the store, and see if, in an hour, you still want it just as bad.

RELATED: Best Frugality Advice + Money Saving Tips For College Students

Create a Meal Plan

If you are living on campus, consider getting a meal plan. Sticking to a meal plan can ensure that you don’t eat out too much, which helps save your money. Buying groceries can also be expensive, so making use of your meal plan can help you to stick to your budget. By making your breakfast in your dorms or cutting down on snacks, you could save hundreds or thousands a year on meal plans.

RELATED: 5+ Best Meal Planning Ideas to Save More Money

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Use your student identification whenever possible to get a discount on movie theatres, restaurants, comedy clubs, sporting events, and local attractions. To save money on the gym, you can head to your school’s gym as most colleges provide free access to students. See if your college has a medical and dental plan and take advantage of it.

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Use Shopping and Coupon Apps

Check newspapers, the backs of grocery receipts, and in-store discount offers. Ebates gives you cashback for your online shopping trips (even for school supplies). And Ibotta can put money back in your wallet when you pick up some groceries. A couple of cents here and there can really add up!

RELATED: Ebates: Save Money and Get Cashback Online

Get a Roommate

One of your biggest expenses as a college student will be what you pay for housing. When you have a roommate, your expenses for rent, utilities and more can be significantly lower. Getting a roommate is a financially savvy move to make that could potentially save you hundreds of dollars or more each month. If room is available, consider getting several roommates to further lighten the load of your housing expenses.

Buy Used Items

Check out online classified ads on Craigslist, eBay, OfferUp, or Nextdoor for used textbooks, furniture, refurbished computers and home-related merchandise. Browse thrift stores for things you need for a fraction of the price. Check your local Goodwill, for new clothing from overstocked retailers at a substantial discount.

Find a Job

Even though college can be extremely busy, if you find that you have time left over, consider getting a job. There are many employment opportunities on campus, and most are very flexible and sensitive to students’ schedules. Finding a job, even if it doesn’t pay great, will ensure that you have some extra money in your pocket, and don’t have to worry each time you want to treat yourself to an acai bowl.

RELATED: How College Students Can Balance Work and Education

Make the Most of On-Campus Freebies

Check your campus for free events, free meals, and free services that are available to students. Go off-campus for freebies and discounts as well. Most colleges have programs where your student ID will get you things like discounts on movie tickets or a percentage off your daily coffee break.

Park the Car

If you can walk, take the bus or bike, do it. You’ll save a ton of money if you can ditch the car altogether, between insurance, maintenance, and fuel. But even an overall reduction in driving can help plenty, if you consider how much you’re likely spending on gas over the course of a year. If you must keep your wheels, another option is to carpool. Coordinate trips to and from home and campus with other students. Chip in for gas, or if you insist on having a car on campus, charge other students for transporting them home and back.


Practice the above tips in school and you’ll be ready to stretch your dollar for years to come. Just remember some of the key tips; understand your spending triggers, make a monthly budget, and find creative ideas meant to keep dollars in your pocket.

What are some of the ways you stretch your dollar in college?