collage of money, charts, student working and graduating

44 Ways to Save Money as a Student

by Ryan Law

At the beginning of each semester I teach my students about budgeting and as part of that we have a conversation about ways to increase income and decrease expenses. I thought this idea would be a great Financial Tip for the beginning of the year as students are headed back to class.

I surveyed some of my previous students as well as my Facebook friends and we came up with these 44 ways to save money as a student:

Increasing Income

  • Work if you have the time
  • Donate plasma
  • Participate in on-campus studies that pay you in cash or gift cards
  • Sell items you aren’t using


  • Create a budget and stick to it
  • Spend less than you earn
  • Know the difference between needs and wants
  • Have an emergency fund
  • Avoid unnecessary loans
  • Find low-cost housing
  • Don’t pay late fees – set notifications on your phone for when your bills are due
  • Use a bank or credit union that has free checking and savings


  • Take cash with you when you go out with friends. Stop spending when you run out of cash
  • Attend free events on campus – you can find speakers, sporting events, concerts, movies, etc.
  • Do things at home with your friends instead of going out
  • Allow yourself a small weekly allowance for frivolous spending


  • Buy generic brands
  • Use coupons
  • Buy things you use a lot in bulk
  • Learn to cook some healthy meals
  • Eat at home
  • Invest in a crockpot and learn a few crockpot recipes
  • Pack your own lunch instead of eating out
  • Use your meal plan if you have one
  • Shop with a list
  • Buy things that are on sale
  • Compare items by price-per-ounce or other unit to get the best deal
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry
  • Sign up for free rewards cards such as the Hy-Vee Fuel Saver Card or Gerbes Card
  • Shop at a grocery store instead of convenience stores


  • Use the lowest-octane gas your car calls for
  • Keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure

Credit Cards

  • Pay more than the minimum payment each month – pay the full bill off each month if you can
  • Don’t get a credit card with an annual fee
  • Avoid late payment or over-the-limit fees


  • If you pay for any insurance on your own compare prices a few times a year
  • If you rent be sure you have renter’s insurance

Other Money Saving Tips

  • Walk, carpool or take the bus
  • Look at alternate cell phone plans
  • Switch to a lower-cost cable package or cancel cable and use online services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon
  • Use a VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) site to file your taxes for free
  • Use library copies of expensive books
  • Take classes with friends and share a book
  • Check around dumpsters at the end of the semester – you may be surprised what people throw away

Ryan H. Law, M.S., CFP®, AFC®

Personal Financial Planning Department
Office for Financial Success Director
University of Missouri Center on Economic Education Director

162 Stanley Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211

573.882.9211 (office)