1. Fill Out the FAFSA Every Year
The FAFSA is the key to your financial aid. If you don't fill it out, you likely won't be getting any type of financial aid (even student loans).
2. Apply For Scholarships and Grants
Too many people think that the only time to apply for scholarships and grants is when you're in high school, before you start your first year of college. You can apply for scholarships and grants every year throughout college. Given that many scholarships go unclaimed (or have very few entries), if you dedicate some time to applying, you could find yourself getting a lot of money to pay for school.
3. Minimize Your Textbook Expense
Textbooks can be one of your biggest expenses every semester. This is a big area where there's tons of potential to save. The best two ways to save on your textbooks in college is to either buy used books, or rent your textbooks. There are lots of places to buy used textbooks.
4. Sell Back Your Textbooks When You're Done
When you're done with your used textbooks, you need to sell them and get your money back. It's one of the best ways to save in college. If you've just stuck to reselling your textbooks at your campus bookstore, you're probably missing out on a significant amount of extra money.
5. Use Your Student Discount!
Another big expense for college is technology. Many students need to get a new laptop and software. If you're getting any type of new computer or software, make sure you buy it through the education store and get your education discount. Most companies offer significant discounts to students including Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe. Hundreds of big brands like Madewell, Forever 21, and J. Crew give money off on clothing too.
6. Use Your Meal Plan to the Fullest
College meal plans either work out to be a great deal or a waste of money for most college students. If you're looking to save money, you need to take advantage of it to the fullest so that it's a great deal. This means getting everything you pay for - breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Take an apple or banana in the mornings, put it in your bag, and have it as a snack during the day so you don't spend a bunch on food at a coffee cart.
7. Keep Track of Special Offers at Restaurants and Movie Theaters
If you are going out to eat, save money when you do! A fun tactic is to take note of all the best happy hours and restaurant promos near campus, and sort by day. Instead of going to a movie on a Saturday night, is your local theater offering 50% off on a Tuesday night?
8. Use Your Campus Gym
Working out and staying fit is important, especially in college. While the freshman 15 is a thing, you can lose weight and stay in shape for free. Most campuses have great athletic and gym facilities for their students, and your fees each year cover membership as a student. Take advantage. And don't go spending more money for an outside gym membership when you get it for free on campus.
9. Start A Side Hustle
Instead of paying for fun, what if you got paid to have fun? That's the idea behind starting a side hustle in college. Starting a side hustle doesn't require much money to start, but it does take time. And if it's something you enjoy doing, then it will be entertaining to start.
10. Buy Used or Secondhand If Needed
If you do need something for your dorm, buy it used or secondhand. There are a lot of great ways to get couches, beds, and more for cheap - just look online.
11. Start investing if you can
If you have any leftover money, talk to your parents or family about opening a high-yield savings account or putting those savings into a Roth IRA. Making your money work for you will help you save even more money while in college.