10 Ways for College Students to Cut Costs where it Counts

(This is a guest post by Heather Johnson*)

There are three essential liquids that every college student needs to survive and prosper. These vital beverages are (in no particular order):

  1. Water — The original clear stuff quenches your thirst like nothing else and helps you sustain that fit young body.

  2. Coffee — Nothing else stimulates and sharpens a mind dulled by too little sleep or too much of everything else like a hot, strong cup of mud.

  3. Alcohol — Whether you prefer the stuff that comes in a stein, a snifter, or a shot glass, the only way to make the whole college experience worthwhile is to enjoy an adult beverage every now and again.

During the four or five or nine years that you spend as an undergrad, you could easily spend several thousand dollars on just these three indispensables. Follow these ten simple strategies and you will never go thirsty again (and you might even have enough money left over to pay your tuition).

Water: This topic will be addressed in just a couple of points because it is so damn easy to save a ton of money by making simple changes.

  1. Drink Tap Water: That’s it—done and done. Get a Nalgene or steal your friend’s empty nine-dollar bottle of volcanic spring water and then just fill it from the faucet. Tap water really doesn’t taste all that bad and is usually better for you than pricey bottled water because of the various minerals that are added by your friendly local government. Best of all, it’s virtually free. Carry your new best friend everywhere you go and you won’t be tempted to spend your change on soft drinks that not only cost money but are bad for you as well.

  2. Fake Filter: If you just can’t bring yourself to drink water that’s not filtered in some way, then buy a Brita and never bother to change the filter; you’ll never notice the difference. Keep this glorified pitcher in the fridge and every sip will be cold and delicious. Make this simple adjustment from bottled water and you won’t believe all of the extra cash suddenly stuffing your pockets.

Coffee: Drastically reducing the amount of money that you spend on your daily caffeine fix is a simple task as well. Follow these couple of rules a smaller portion of your cash will end up in the Pacific Northwest.

  1. Caffeinate Like a Towny — Track down a native and follow him to a local java house rather than following the herd of your classmates to the big chain in the student union. Find the right place and you’ll still get a great cup of joe at a significant discount.

  2. Brew Your Own — Better yet, cut out all of the middle men and their outrageous mark-ups. Invest in your own coffee machine, buy some cheap beans, and start your day with a cup of the good stuff before you even open your front door.

Alcohol: You’re likely to spend more on beer and its brethren than water and coffee combined and this list has been constructed with that reality in mind. Here are six methods to saving money without sacrificing any fun.

  1. Be Cheap — Once you’ve sacrificed a few decades to the workaday world and have earned that corner office, you’re welcome to all the Johnny Blue you can drink. Until then, drink your can of Natty Light and smile; the cost fits your budget and in the long run it does the job just fine.

  2. Pre-Game — Bars and restaurants make money on their huge mark-ups. Hit up Discount Liquors on the way home from your last class and spend an hour or two on the couch before heading out.

  3. Let Them Woo You — Local establishments will do almost anything to draw a college crowd and that is good news for you. Become a walking calendar of drink specials and hit the right spots on the right nights.

  4. Be Flexible — Speaking of specials, don’t just seek out discounts on pitchers of Bud Light. Expand your horizons and hit up the tapas joint for half price sangria, the burrito dive for two-for-one margaritas, and the sushi bar for sake bomb Sunday. Never discriminate when it comes to cheap booze.

  5. Brew Your Own — Just like #4 above, this will cut out all sorts of costs and inexpensive starter kits make it simple to start your own mini brewery under your bed. Plus, there are worse things than being known across campus as Mr. Beer.

  6. Be a Hot Girl — Sorry if this last one is not a feasible option for you, but it is the one truly fail-safe way to ensure that you will never ever have to buy your own drinks. (Other than not drinking, of course, but that is not even worth mentioning).

*About the author: Heather Johnson is a freelance business, finance and credit writer, as well as a regular contributor for BusinessCreditCards.com site for comparing small business credit cards. She welcomes questions, comments, and freelancing job inquiries at her email address heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com

*Image Credit: Photograph by mre770 [via Flickr Creative Commons]

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Anonymous said...

My only expense is water (I don't drink beverages or coffee, for fear of addiction ^_^).

Unfortunately for me, my stomach can tell if it's tap water or not. So fake filter doesn't help.

But simply using filter has cut down the water expense by a lot.

Matt said...

You probably don't want to forget about pop/soda - this is one drink that can get very very expensive if you drink enough of it. This was a staple for me when I was younger until I realized that the free coffee gave me the same kick and I didn't need the soda.

Stephanie said...

You can expand that "be a hot girl" part by going to a college that's 70% male - trust me! Since turning 21, I've only had to buy one bottle of wine for myself!

www.thehungrydollar.com said...

Brewing my own coffee has saved me endless amounts of money...

Anonymous said...

With how much cosmetics can cost, being a hot girl probably isn't very cost effective...

Matt said...

Just a fair warning: Not changing the filter on your water pitcher is a great way to end up with bacterial water. Those filters eventually become a pouch of mold, mildew and other unfriendly pathogens which is why there are specific directions about the cycle of either time or water amounts can be passed before it's time for a new one.

But hey, if you like peeing out your ass, go crazy!

findcollegecards said...

This was a great post, I just wanted to say the best way to save money in college is don't spend it ;) I know I never had any in college haha

Experts on Credit said...

I normally enjoy reading your posts and I like your idea about brewing coffee from home. But I have to say, some of these money saving tips are not all that great. For example, drinking crappy alcohol to save a few bucks will show up in your debilitating hangover the next day. Also, Natural Light Vs. Johnny Walker Blue is a bit of an extreme comparison, don't you think? Granted, I'm in no position to shell out 50 bucks for a shot of blended scotch, but I'm sure there's something to accommodate my budget that doesn't taste crap in a can.

I'm going to have to agree with the other post about the unchanged water filter as well. That can breed bacteria, causing more harm than good.

Christy said...

Another way I found to save money was to get a prepaid phone. Net10 have a flat rate for minutes. Only 10 cents per minute and 5 cents for text. For college student that 5 cents a text is great, i know most services charge 10 cents, so its like half over. There are no activation fees or anything and the service charge averages to about only 7 dollars a month. I love it because I can keep up with my family around the nation and across the country! Its a cheap way for me to stay in touch.

Michael said...

I have gotten sick from drinking water without changing the filter. That stuff isn't worth it, just drink from tap and bring a waterbottle (or 3) to fill from campus fountains.

on booze - cheap beer means you buy more to get drunk. Flasking Jack daniels and buying sodas has always been cheapest in my experience. Also there are way better cheap beers than natty light (highlife, Pabst BR, and Tecate), and if you're going for natty light then you may as well just buy a forty.

Also, since when are dorms and meal plans the cheapest route? I saved about $800 when I moved into a cheap 3 br apartment (330/month) and cooked my own food. I never went out to eat much before or after I switched.

Good tips on the coffee - always find a local joint, they're usually somewhat cheaper, have funkier settings, and are a great place to get free entertainment.

One last way I've saved a ton of money, if you smoke, roll your own cigarettes. Bali Shag, Amsterdam Shag, Drum, and Sampson are all good quality (stay away from Bugler, Top and all of that nasty buisiness, itll screw with your...elimination), typically cost 5-8 bucks and you get about 3x the smokes out of it than a pack of prerolls because you use less tobacco, you smoke less because it's not as convenient, and people generally aren't going to bum as much. When they do bum you can actually have a conversation while rolling the smoke. Always buy rollies at a head shop/ tobacco shop, never at gas stations or walgreens - i've seen smaller packs for 3x the price those places. If you do smoke prerolls and don't want to convert, buy from a discount cigarette shop. Cheaper smokes because the packs are usually older, but most of the time the difference is negligable.

Michael said...

Confused this article with another saying dorms were cheapest so disregard that, but in any case its true.