A university.

Heading off to college is one of life’s biggest adventures, and moving into this next phase of life comes with many opportunities to learn — and not just in the classroom. If you’re like many first-year college students, you’re also navigating living on your own for the first time, making new friends and managing college costs.

From tuition and housing to food and textbooks, your college years can be an expensive time. Plus, you’ll want some spending money to have fun, too! Luckily, we’ve compiled 10 tips to save money in college so you can focus on studying and socializing, rather than worrying about money.

1. Stick to a budget

One of the best tips to save money in college is to create and stick to a budget. If you haven’t made a budget before, open up a spreadsheet and note your monthly income. Then, list out all of your monthly expenses and subtract them from your income; this number is how much you have leftover for fun activities or purchases. Aim to spend this amount or less each month. (You’re more than welcome to use a spreadsheet, but there are also so many budgeting apps out there that can do this math for you. Save calculating for the classroom, you know?)

Also, consider putting some of this into an emergency fund — a savings account where you keep three to six months of living expenses for unexpected costs. To make it easy, see if you can automatically transfer money into a savings account (even $5 a week can add up!). You could also set up automatic payments for bills like your credit card or smartphone so you don’t miss a payment.

2. Monitor your accounts and spending

After you’ve created a budget, regularly monitor your bank accounts, credit cards and loan accounts, as well as your spending. To make this a habit, schedule a five-minute “Money Monday” appointment with yourself. Review your accounts to make note of balances, payments and deposits. In particular, watch your credit card spending to ensure you aren’t spending more than you have.

By tracking your spending, you can see where your money goes and whether you need to adjust your budget or cut back in certain areas. For example, it can be eye-opening to see how fast small purchases like coffee can add up. Instead of going to your favorite coffee shop every day, make coffee at home or get it at the dining hall. That can help make room for other stuff in your budget.

3. Take advantage of student discounts

Some stores, restaurants, movie theaters, museums and more offer student discounts, especially if you’re attending school in a busy college town. Keep an eye out for posters and online ads that mention student discounts or specials. Nothing posted? Ask anyway — you never know!

4. Use student amenities

When you’re a student, every cent counts. This might mean replacing costly hobbies, activities, memberships and outings with any free counterparts you can find while you’re in school. For example, work out in your college gym instead of paying for an expensive fitness membership.

Check your college’s website to see what other free resources are available to you. There might be a student newsletter that reports fun activities happening on campus like free movie nights. You can also research free events happening in the area, whether it’s a concert in a park or a sporting event at a local stadium.

5. Buy used textbooks

As a student, you’re going to need textbooks. But new ones can be so expensive. Instead, look for used textbooks online, through social media swap groups or through notices posted in your student center or other common areas. When you’re finished with your books, sell them and use the proceeds to buy next years’ textbooks.

Renting textbooks or buying the e-book version can also be less expensive than buying textbooks new.

6. Look for free or used furniture and housewares

Not all first-year students live in dorms. If you’re outfitting your first student apartment, buying secondhand tables, chairs, desks or beds can save you a bundle. The same goes for kitchen items and housewares.

Online classifieds, like Craigslist or Kijiji, can be a treasure trove of used furniture. And don’t forget social media: Check out Facebook Marketplace or groups for great deals on all sorts of items to turn your student digs into a home. Another option is the Freecycle Network, a nonprofit organization with local chapters where people post free items.

7. Choose restaurant meals wisely

While eating at home or in your college’s dining hall will usually save you more money than a restaurant meal, going out to eat can be fun. If you plan ahead, you can save money by:

  • Choosing an appetizer for your main course
  • Splitting a large entree with a friend
  • Drinking water with your meal
  • Skipping dessert
  • Asking for a student discount

8. Ask for advice

You aren’t the first student trying to watch their money — your family and friends have probably been down this road, too. Get ideas of how to save money from them and other students in your classes or dorm. Don’t forget to share your best tips as well so they can learn from your experience, too.

9. Use points or cash back to reward yourself

Whether you collect loyalty points from a favorite retailer or have a student cash back credit card, remember to use up those points. After all, you earned them, so why not cash them in for something fun?

This is a good way to reward yourself for sticking to your budget and “splurging” without using cash. Use the points for a fun clothing item or accessory, something for your dorm room or apartment, or even a fun night out.

10. Clip coupons

Did you know you can clip coupons and cash back offers electronically on our app to save on all sorts of things? Whether it’s toiletries, electronics, food or school supplies, the coupons can help you make the most of your student budget.