25 Ways to Stretch Your Budget

Budgets serve a great purpose to keep your spending to a minimum and save you money for your future. Are you struggling to stick to your budget? Or finding it difficult not to purchase the things you want? Well, we have 25 helpful tips on how to stretch your budget as a college student that are sure to inspire and get you in the budgeting mood!


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A college student stretching their leg while leaning against a railing.

1. Find Used Textbooks

This may be the oldest budget hack for college students in the book. Let us tell you, it may take an additional 5 minutes for each class to find a used textbook, but it could end up saving you hundreds. Double-check your syllabus or with your professor to make sure the textbook is required and something you have to purchase. Sometimes buying the textbook is only a suggestion.

2. Find Coupons

You heard it here first, couponing is in! Finding coupons for your groceries may save you a few dollars here and there on each thing you buy. Grocery bills may add up quickly. This is an easy way to keep them at a minimum.

3. Check Your Prices & Don’t Be Choosy About Brands

Take a look at the prices and make sure you’re finding the best price for what you are buying. College may not be the time to be choosy about the brands you buy because non-name brand food tends to be cheaper.

4. Choose Your Grocery Store Wisely

Not all grocery stores are equal. It might be good to stay away from stores such as Whole Foods and Publix as they tend to be more expensive across the board. Instead, check out Walmart, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s for better-priced produce, pantry items, and more. Always make sure to sign up for your grocery store’s savings cards where you can load digital coupons to save even more!

5. Buy in Bulk

When possible, buying in bulk may be the way to go. Food items sold in bulk tend to be cheaper in the long run. If you find yourself eating a lot of rice, go for the bigger uncooked bag versus frozen or single-serve packages.

6. Frozen Foods

Most of the time, frozen fruit is way less than fresh is, same with vegetables. You can still make sure you’re getting servings of fruits and veggies even on a budget. Plus, they last longer if you are prone to wasting your fresh produce.

7. Stay Away from Precooked Meals

As a college student, pre-cooked or packaged meals may be tempting. They can be even more tempting if you’re not someone who loves to cook. But, cooking a full meal at home may save you money and tends to be healthier than packaged meals. Look to Pinterest and find a new recipe to get you excited about cooking. Who knows, you may find a new hobby along the way.

8. Stick to a List

Stick to a grocery list and don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Not having a list may result in over-purchasing and buying more than what you need for the next week or two. If you buy too much, you risk food going bad before you have the chance to eat it. Having a list may prevent you from going overboard on the grocery trip.

9. Meal Prep

You’re probably busy as a college student. Being busy means you have less time to cook. The answer to this problem for most people is to order takeout, but when you’re on a budget, eating out frequently may add up quickly. Meal prepping is a great way to ensure you have food ready to go to eat on busy days. This way, you’ll be less tempted to eat out.

10. Walk to Restaurants Instead of Using Food Delivery Apps

Food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Grubhub may be convenient. But convenience comes at a price: A hefty delivery fee and sometimes more expensive food costs. Lower your costs by choosing to order out from restaurants that are within walking distance or are on your campus.

11. Check Your Subscriptions

Check your subscriptions to see if there is anything you haven’t used recently or something you don’t use frequently enough to warrant the price.

12. Spotify Student & Hulu

The Spotify and Hulu student discount is a great combo deal: Music plus TV and movies for less than the cost of normal Spotify. If you’re looking to minimize your subscription costs, check this deal out.

13. Public Transportation & Walking

Ubers or Lyfts may be more convenient, but cutting down on these costs is sure to help stretch your budget. Look for free public transportation methods around your campus such as buses and trains. Find places around campus where you can walk to not only save money but also get exercise.

14. Gym Membership

Use your campus gym facilities instead of purchasing a gym membership or fitness classes. Even if it gets crowded, find times when there’s a lull to get active and save money.

15. Student Beans for Student Discounts

You’re a college student, so use it to your advantage! Many clothing, technology, and other brands offer a student discount. Check it out and sign up for Student Beans to easily find student discounts. Some brands that offer a student discount are White Fox Boutique, American Eagle, Princess Polly, Allbirds, and the list goes on!

16. Flash Your Student ID

Along the same thought of student discounts, bring your student ID with you everywhere you go and ask restaurants, cafes, and stores if they offer a student discount. Sometimes local establishments will give discounts to students.

17. Thrift Shop

It can be very tempting to want the latest clothing trend, but when on a budget, buying something for a brand-new trend may not be the most beneficial for your wallet. Grab your friends and go check out your local thrift store; you never know what you will find!

18. Borrow From Your Friends’ Closets

Have an important event or occasion to dress up for coming up? Instead of buying a dress or nice shirt that you may only wear once, talk to your friends politely and see if they will let you borrow something.

19. Use Reusable Items

Investing in a reusable item, even if it costs more upfront than its disposable counterpart, can often prove to be a wise choice, saving both time and money in the long run. Reusable Tupperware, plates, napkins, and silverware may be cheaper than constantly buying things like paper plates.

20. Buy Resale

This is a great tip, especially for when you’re moving into a new dorm or apartment. Search listings on sites such as Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp. On these sites, you may be able to find great deals on furniture and other items.

21. Be Choosy About What You Say Yes To

College is a very exciting time and you most likely will want to participate in every friend or group gathering. When on a budget it’s important to be cautious about events such as nights out, day trips, and spring break that may end up costing you more than you want to spend. Ask for details in advance so you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to participate or not.

22. Plan Your Own Parties At Home

Saying ‘no’ to events because you’re afraid you’ll end up spending too much can be difficult. Try planning something in your own dorm or apartment. Potlucks, themed movie nights, and sporting event watch parties are cheaper ways you can have fun with friends at home without the added transportation, food, and drink costs.

23. Amazon Prime Student & Prime Days

Amazon has a discounted student subscription plan for its Prime membership. Also, keep an eye out for Amazon Prime Days; you may be able to find deals and great prices on things you need.

24. Target Student Discount & Target Circle Days

Target also has a student discount offer that tends to be around the time of college move-in. Plus, they have Target Circle Days here and there throughout the year; look for those and you may snag some good deals.

25. Keep Track of Your Budget

Lastly, one of the most important things to stay on track with your spending is to keep up with your budget. Excel, Google Sheets, and yes, even we, have simple and easy budget charts that are free and will help you get started on your budgeting journey. Stay up to date by entering your spending month by month. Doing this may help you recognize where you can cut back or let you know that you’re right on track for your goals.

Staying on a budget can be difficult, especially if other people around you may not be as frugal. Surround yourself with friends who are also on a budget or are understanding of your frugality to stay determined in your spending goals. Check out this other College Raptor article on Unexpected Expenses to Budget for In College so there are no surprises along your college budgeting journey.


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