11 Ways to Enjoy Dorm Life on a Budget

Whether you’re off to college for the first time or you’re returning to continue your studies, you know you’ll be living on a strict budget. Dorm living can get expensive fast, but there are some creative ways to save and even make cash while you’re away from home. Try out the following tips to give yourself a little bit of breathing room and enjoy yourself at college.

Plan your meals

One pot meals
If you have a meal plan, make sure you get your money’s worth out of it. It’s the easiest way to eat while on campus. If you don’t have one, or feel like a change, find ways of eating well for cheap. Split a meal with your friends, or try preparing one pot meals in your dorm room, as they’re filling and super easy to prepare.

Draw up a budget

It sounds dull as dishwater, but making yourself a budget will make life easier in the long run. Work out what you’ll be spending on bills, meal plans, and books, and see what you’ll have left over every week. This way, you won’t find yourself nearing the end of the semester and running rapidly out of cash.

Sell your old textbooks

If you’re returning to college, you’ve probably got old textbooks laying around that you no longer need. Do a good deed by selling them to students in the years below you. They’ll get a much needed textbook at the fraction of the price of a new one, and you’ll make some welcomed cash. Try using Amazon or Craigslist to sell your books.

Make some cash on the side

Most courseloads leave little time to get a “proper” part-time job, but if you can find time in your schedule, it’s worth trying to get one. If you get a job somewhere you’d normally shop, you can even score a staff discount, too. If you can’t get a job, there are other ways of making cash. Try joining a survey site such as Swagbucks, which awards users gift coupons and cash for answering consumer surveys. Consider temporary employment too. Some great options for students include retailers who hire a few extra hands during the holidays, groups that work at particular, infrequent events (like concert staff), or a group on campus (such as a company that buys back textbooks) that only operates for part of the year.

Get the most out of your library

College Library
If you want to skip buying books altogether, your library may be able to help. Check out their selection, and photocopy or scan the relevant pages so you can keep them for as long as you need. Also, the library may have a DVD selection, meaning you can save cash on a Netflix subscription by borrowing those instead.

Apply for scholarships

You may feel as though you won’t qualify for scholarships, but you don’t know if you don’t try. There are often large sums of money that go unclaimed, as students don’t realize they’re there to be claimed in the first place. Try looking on sites such as Fastweb to see what’s available for you.

Buy a printer

It sounds counterproductive to buy something to save money, but a printer will pay for itself in the long run. Printing at college can get very expensive, and some professors require you to bring printed materials to class, so it’s better to have a cheaper option sitting in your dorm room.

Check out events on campus

If you’re looking for entertainment, look no further than what’s available on your doorstep. Colleges often put on free shows and talks on campus, so look around to see what’s going on and enjoy yourself for free.

Shop at the end of the school year

When some students are leaving at the end of the year, they can have a lot of items they no longer need and want to get rid of cheaply. Check out your college classified pages to find dorm essentials like mini fridges for cheap, or even free. If you go to a large school with students from all over the country (or the world), be sure to walk around the dorms at the end of the school year, because chances are that you will find some valuable items being thrown away.

Save your pennies

Literally. Find a big jar and throw in all your loose change at the end of the day. When it’s full, take it to the bank and exchange it for some folding money. You’ll be amazed at how much you saved without even realizing it.

Call home for free

Calling home when you’re feeling homesick can rack up huge phone bills, fast, especially if you are an international student. Instead, take advantage of free services such as Skype to call your parents and friends back, and tell them just how much fun you’re having.

Keeping track of your finances when you move away from home can feel daunting, but with these tips it can become a lot easier. Remember, you don’t need to spend lots of money to have fun and make the most of your college years.

Anum Yoon is a personal finance writer and blogger who started and maintains Current On Currency. As a supporter of the sustainability movement, she also frequently writes about how we can help the environment. You can follow her on Twitter to catch her updates.

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