Top 10 Ways to Save Money in University/College

I was fortunate enough to graduate from University with a positive net worth. My girlfriend at the time though (now wife), had a boat load of debt. How did I manage to get through 6 years of University with money in the bank?

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

Here are 10 ways to Save Money in College/University:

  1. Live at home if you can. If not, long term leasing of off campus housing is cheaper than staying in dorms/residence.
  2. Pack your own lunch. I’m a big advocate of brown bagging your lunch as it’s a cheaper (and healthier) alternative to eating fast food.
  3. Take public transit, or if practical, get a bicycle. If class is more than walking distance away from your home, take the bus! Another solution is to get a bicycle. Weather permitting, bicycling to class is not only cost effective, it’ll help burn off the beer gut!
  4. Party on the cheap. Partying is inevitable in college, but you can save a lot of cash if you go to house parties rather than hitting the clubs/bars/pubs downtown.
  5. Get a degree that offers paid work terms. With some institutions, degrees like Business, Engineering, Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Work offer paid work term opportunities. Not only do work terms offer experience, they usually offer pretty decent money to boot. During my work terms, I saved enough money to pay for books and tuition.
  6. Get a part time job. I had a part time job throughout University, which is probably one of the biggest reasons why I could pay for food, booze and a girlfriend. :)
  7. Buy your books used. Even if they upgraded the text book to a new edition the current semester, most of the information will be the same if you purchase an older edition.
  8. Shop at thrift/second hand clothing stores. If you have the patience to sift through the racks of clothing, there is bound to be diamonds in the rough for a fraction of the cost of buying new.
  9. Use your campus for recreational activities. If you like working out or playing sports, take advantage of the campus facilities as they are most likely discounted (or free) for students.
  10. Use your student status for entertainment. Various movie theaters, restaurants and clothing stores typically have programs that offer discounts to students. Take advantage of them.

How did you save money during College/University?

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FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.
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12 years ago

When I was in school I took my time and graduated a 4 year school in 5 years. I always wish I could have went back and not messed around so much. I wish I could have buckled down more and got in and out. Instead I had to pay for another year of college and then missed a year of not having a real job.

My advice is work hard and get in and out in at the most4 years. I had friends who even graduated in 3.5 years. Just focus and get it done. You’re paying so get your moneys worth and get that degree.

12 years ago

I didn’t bother going to uni, and now I own land and property all over the world at the age of 20. Topping things off when I finished college I got with somebody and it lead to me being homeless so I had to live in a hostel for a few weeks until I was housed by the council. 1 year on and I am rich, how did I do this? I was patient and cut back on everything, listened to what people had to say and worked my arse off to get a job and changed jobs every 4 months. I now work as a web designer for an estate agent, but work from home too so I save lots of money, plus I now live with my partner, who also brings in her fair share of money, in a flat that her cousin owns.

So my tip, don’t bother with Uni.

12 years ago

My biggest tip. GET MARRIED!!! Me and my husband both have our bachelors degrees and two kids while going to school and my husband was only working part time to support us. Because we got married we were not considered under our parents household for taxes so it looked like we barely made any money. Both of us were able to qualify for the full amount of grant money that the government can give you each year plus we were able to qualify for some state grants. Plus I had 2 scholarships through my parents jobs so in the end we were payed to go to school pretty much until our last year of school when we had our second child. We left the university with both of us having bachelor degrees, 2 kids, and only 5000 in school loans and did it all in 5 years with only a part time job for extra income.

12 years ago

Hi, I’ve been following your blog for a while and I keep meaning to post on some of your very interesting topics but never get around to it in time. Anyway….

I would say that scholarships are an excellent way to save money. In my case I went to BCIT and their staff actually phoned me to ask me to sign up for scholarships because they thought I had a good chance of winning them. I won one internal one and one external which paid for my whole first year. It would have paid for more, but I bought a laptop and traveled (I slightly regret traveling but not the laptop since I was in Computers). I didn’t work during school in order to keep my GPA up (BCIT is renowned for having a very demanding course load and they actually recommend that people don’t work during their program). I did try to join activities at school though and wound up being Valedictorian.

On top of that, although I lived at home going to BCIT taught me to be frugal. To this day I still don’t own a car because I can get to most places I need to by bus. So I got an education and life lessons and came out of it with a positive net worth!

Rachel @ Master Your Card
12 years ago

I lived at home and got a grant when I was at university which was a big help. I walked from home to university so had no transport costs. I did not buy second hand books but I did sell the books when I had finished with them. I didn’t drink which saved me a fortune and hardly ever bought new clothes.

12 years ago

here are other ways..

* buy day old donuts.. better, week old donuts are free!
* charge visiting friends for food you serve them
* when going to those inexpensive house parties drinking cheap booze, you might find a fortune in between couch cushions


12 years ago

My one friend did the buy a house and rent it out. Yes you need a co-signer.

In his case in early to mid-90s in Waterloo you could rent a room for $250-$325. He had 6 rooms in his house and seemed to do ok with it.

12 years ago

I think the UK used to have free education but no longer does? Plonkee would know that. Your first degree is paid for by the taxpayer in Ireland …. if you have to repeat a year, or want to get another degree or a masters you pay market rate, but that’s still nothing approaching what I’ve seen some americans and canadians say they pay in fees. To be honest we don’t appreciate it enough until we talk to people from other places.

12 years ago

Dividend Growth Investor,

The problem with buying a house as a student is that the income just isn’t high enough to get approved for a mortgage, but even if it were possible, where could one get a 4 bedroom house with a $400/month mortgage?!

Being the landlord of student housing is not glamourous, and it’s definitely not something I could have done as a university student. Most of the problems that occur seem to arise during exams!