25 Tips to Stretch Your Dollars

Shopping cart full of ramen noodles

Don’t let student loans and credit card debt weigh you down after graduation. The less you borrow during your college years, the less you have to pay back! Here are 25 quick tips to help you stretch your money and leave college with manageable debt.

  1. Learn to cook. You can eat a lot cheaper by learning to cook and making meals at home.
  2. Buy food and supplies in bulk. Staples like oatmeal, spices, dried fruits, peanut butter, milk, orange juice, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, and cleaning supplies can be bought in bulk. Check out your local grocery stores and bulk retailers for the best buys.
  3. Use your freezer. Cook in large quantities and freeze your leftovers for another day.
  4. Avoid buying sodas and snacks out of vending machines. Instead, plan ahead, setting a budget for snack items and buying them at the grocery store. Then, remember to load up your backpack when you're heading out for a long day of classes or work.
  5. Buy generic. If you buy brand names, you'll likely pay more than buying generic, store brands or on- sale items.
  6. Order meatless meals. Vegetarian dishes generally cost less than meat-based dishes. Remember, you don't have to go to a totally meatless diet to enjoy vegetarian dishes now and again.
  7. Kick the habit. At about $6 a pack, smoking is expensive. For help about how to quit smoking, check out
  8. Limit your coffee runs. Specialty coffee drinks are pricey: at $4 a latte, you're spending $28 a week for your daily caffeine fix. If you cut back to once a week, you'll save $24 a week or $1,248 a year!
  9. Drink less. Cutting back on alcohol can save you tons of money.
  10. Add another roommate. If you're living off campus and you have extra space, consider adding another roommate to help share the costs. Read about roommates—the good and the bad.
  11. Negotiate rent increases. If you've been a good tenant, paying your rent on time, and taking care of the property, ask for a break when your landlord increases the rent. Many property owners will consider dropping an increase in exchange for knowing they have a good tenant who will be back next year.
  12. Turn down the heat. You can save on the heating bill by lowering the thermostat to 60 degrees at night and whenever you're gone during the day. In the summer, try to keep the air conditioning set at 78 degrees. A basic, inexpensive programmable thermostat can make your heating and cooling schedule a no-brainer.
  13. Walk or bike when you can. Even if you have a car on campus, walk to class or bike to the store when you can. You'll stay fit, feel more energetic, and save on gas.
  14. Use public transportation. Whenever possible, hop a bus to get where you're going. It's cheaper than buying gas and maintaining a car. And, you can usually get a discount by using your student ID.
  15. Pick a cellphone or landline, not both. You probably don't need both a landline and a cellphone. Be realistic about which one suits your needs and make sure to stay within the usage limits of your phone plan.
  16. Use the Web for comparison shopping. If you're buying something large or small, you can do quick price checks using websites such as Google Product Search or These sites provide prices for your search item at both online and local stores, and searches are fast and free.
  17. Use the library. You can save money on books, magazines, videos, and movies by checking them out from your library. And, if no one else is waiting to check out the book or DVD, you can often extend the due date by renewing it online.
  18. Shop around for clothes. Look for sales, off-season bargains, and overstock stores. Also, check out garage sales and thrift stores for gently used items.
  19. Avoid clothes that require dry cleaning. Stick with cottons and machine-washable synthetics. Check labels before buying your clothes—if it's dry clean only, think again!
  20. Use your student discount. Simple things such as going to the movies, buying a pizza, or riding the bus may cost you less if you show your student ID. You've already paid for your ID, so don't forget to use it.
  21. Consider cheaper entertainment. Lots of theaters, museums, and restaurants offer discounts on certain days or times. Go to the early movie and save two bucks. Hit the museum on the free Monday in October. Eat at the restaurant that sent the "buy one, get one free" coupon in the mail.
  22. Sponsor a game night. Instead of eating out or going to a movie, sponsor a game night with your friends. Play board games, card games, or video games.
  23. Buy less-expensive gifts. Consider homemade gifts, which can be less costly for the giver and more meaningful to the receiver.
  24. Avoid credit card pushers. Credit card companies flock to college campuses and solicit students endlessly in an effort to get new customers. Don't give in! If you think you need a credit card, do your research ahead of time and use it wisely. Pay off the balance each month.
  25. Use online discounters. Sign up to receive daily deals from websites like Groupon and Living Social to buy goods and services you already need and use.

Incorporate some of these tips into your daily spending habits and get more information about living within a budget here.

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