How to save money in college without living on Ramen

Many colleges require purchasing a meal plan, but they often offer a “basic” plan as well as a more comprehensive one. If you want to save some cash, go for the basic plan and learn to cook some super basic meals. Being able to make rice, a grilled sandwich, a simple coffee, or any number of beginner recipes will save your wallet. Or, alternately, purchase the comprehensive meal plan and don’t buy any extra food outside of your plan.

Between your meal plan and your own cooking skills, you should have food covered. Therefore, avoiding restaurants when you can is a good idea. Going out to restaurants adds up quickly (if your pile of receipts from daily Starbucks runs is anything to go by).

If your college doesn’t offer or doesn’t require a meal plan, another option is to gather a small group of people and purchase a membership to a warehouse club supermarket like Sam’s Club or Costco. These supermarkets are cheaper than regular ones but only if you buy in bulk. And, of course, if you buy food in bulk, you need people to eat all of that food. Grabbing a group of people you trust solves both of those issues and allows you all to reap the rewards: cheap food, and lots of it.

Textbooks are another major expense, costing every college student, on average, nearly $1000 a year. If the textbook you need hasn’t been updated since last year’s, you can rent or buy a used one. Doing this can be much cheaper than buying a brand-new textbook directly from the textbook manufacturer. You can simply search online for used textbooks or look on Amazon.

You can also avoid cable in favor of streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on average, traditional cable costs over $65 a month. Streaming services, which are typically around $8 per month, still offer a wide range of programs and don’t require buying a large, expensive TV.

Next, drugs and alcohol are expensive– enough said.

Most importantly, be sure to budget. Keep track of how much you’ve spent and where you’ve spent it so you know exactly how much you’re spending and if you need to cut down on certain things. You’ll know if you can afford an impulse buy or not and will save yourself from running out of cash while paying for something. No phone-a-friend needed!