My College:

Tips for Thriving on a Budget in College


Share this:

Students have a lot of new responsibilities in college, including learning how to manage a personal spending money budget. The cost of higher education is a challenge for most families which usually means keeping a tight rein on discretionary spending. At the same time, we want our college kids to have a chance to build strong friendships and find ways to relax and blow off steam. In other words, to have fun!

Paying for books and food usually comes first. How about the other stuff? There are many ways for students to take advantage of their new environment and resources. Here are some ideas to share.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

One of the best parts about being a college student is the plethora of discounts available exclusively for college students. There are a variety of different websites and apps that can help students take advantage of everything their community has to offer. These are popular resources students use to find multiple discounts — all in one place!


Registering an account under a university email will automatically apply different discounts at check out for many different companies including Apple, Samsung, Zipcar, Audible, and many more!

Pocket Points

This is an app that will encourage your student to stay off of their phone in class and while driving. They simply open the app and stay off their phones to earn points that they can then spend on deals from local and online businesses!


This is Google Chrome extension everybody can add onto their browser that will automatically search the web to find the best coupon. Your student can also use their software to track how prices for items have been increasing or decreasing to figure out the best time to buy.


This nifty site gives you Cash Back on online purchases! Your student simply needs to sign up, provide a mailing address and install the Google Chrome extension. The pop-up window will appear on any website that offers cash back and will even appear on top of Google search results that participate! They mail a check once a month as long as the account has met the minimum cash back amount.

Just Google it!

Take full advantage of how readily available information can be by encouraging your student to simply Google different sites that offer a college discount.

Snag Those College Coupon Books

Most businesses in college communities have a variety of coupons available to the universities. Coupon books are usually readily available around campus and are full of discounted experiences and dining options!

These coupon books are fantastic because your student and their friends will have easy access to them, making it simple to coordinate an activity together. With a plethora of coupon options, they can easily decide what will be the best deal and fit for all to enjoy.

These books are also a good way for students to find new activities around them to do together as well as help them figure out what will fit into everybody’s budget.

Find the Free Things!

Many joke that this is the best way to garner attention from college students and for good reason. Living on a budget is hard and what could be better than something that’s free?

Most universities are full of free opportunities for your student. A quick scan of their university website will yield a schedule of free activities from movie nights to special events. From the beginning of the semester to finals, university clubs and departments are sure to be putting on different events that students can attend such as karaoke nights, club events and self-care sessions. Colleges are also home to many educational seminars and talks from influential individuals that can help your student fuel a passion or discover a new one!

Your student and their friends can also take the opportunity to make a game out of “finding the free things” on campus as clubs and local businesses are eager to market themselves by handing out free food, coupons, pens, and a variety of other prizes or products.

Take Advantage of University Resources

Why pay for something you don’t have to pay for? There is a good chance that your student’s school offers free Microsoft, Adobe Creative Suite, or online learning subscriptions such as LinkedIn Learning to help aid in schoolwork and personal ambitions. These are all fantastic ways for your student to explore different interests and learn a new skill that they might not have been able to fit into their course load. Many university libraries also provide access to different databases to help students manage their coursework. These databases become very expensive once you lose university access so now is a great chance to take advantage.

Don't forget to utilize the campus amenities! Check out the fitness center and look for any free classes or trial memberships they might be offering. Make sure your student is familiar with the different health resources available to them so they're aware of what kind of healthcare the campus offers. They might be able to get free counseling services through the school as well!

They can also look into different scholarship options! Many scholarships also provide an additional stipend as spending money for food or textbooks. It may help to spend some extra time looking for scholarships especially now, but there are still many different financial aid options available!

Lastly, Encourage Them to Keep Track of Their Money

There are a variety of different applications your student can use to help them track their spending. Many students use this as an opportunity to brush up on their Microsoft Excel skills, choosing to create a spreadsheet to budget their money. But there are many applications out there that will do it for you if your student needs something ready to go!

Mint is an app that will pull information from bank accounts, savings, credit cards and more to help you get an overview of all your finances. It will also provide helpful tips on how you can make the most of your money and show you where you're spending the most.

For something a little more personable, check out this personal financial assistant named Cleo who provides text message suggestions on budgeting. Your student can ask her things like "Do I have money to order pizza tonight?" or have her send prompts when they're spending too much money on fast food. Cleo also has fun quizzes and games to help your student better understand their finances!

Though your student will always have you to turn to when they're struggling, it's important that they take steps to understand their finances and budget themselves accordingly. These are vital skills that they'll use time and time again, especially once they start making their own money! Remind them that you're always here to lend a helping hand, but make sure they understand that they're responsible for handling their money.

Share this:
CollegiateParent supports you on your own personal journey during your student's college years. We answer questions, share stories and connect you to life on campus. Reach out to us at any time!
Find Your University
  • Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox every week.

    We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy and terms for more info.

  • Connect

    Don't Miss Out!

    Get engaging stories and helpful information all year long. Join our college parent newsletter!