Being a student is way more expensive than it should be. Your studies mean you can’t work full time, but they cost thousands of dollars a year – thanks to text books, tuition, and more! That makes it hard to manage money, let alone save money as a student.

The good news is there are some simple ways students can spend less, save more, while still having a great life. This post lists how to save money as a student in 8 different ways. We’ve also included links to useful apps and websites that can do a lot of the work for you.

how to save money as a student

8 ways to save money as a student

In no particular order, here are 8 great ways to save money as a student. We’ve also included links to apps and websites that will help you achieve your budgetary goals.

1. Make a budget

This covers all sorts of conventional wisdom: Don’t shop when you’re hungry, manage your loans, & cut out unnecessary costs. Instead of listing tips you can can figure out yourself, we just recommend starting a budget. What gets measured gets managed. If you keep track of what’s coming in and going out of your bank account, it will make you focus on the cost of your purchases, and you’ll automatically start saving money. 

Luckily, technology has made budgeting less of a chore. No longer do we spend hours over the kitchen table filling out spreadsheets. Modern budgeting apps link up to your bank account and automatically track spending. You just need to occasionally review the numbers and adjust the categories.

The best budgeting app for Australian students is PocketBook. It’s available on Android and Apple and is super simple to use, doing most of the work for you. If you want to add superannuation and investments MoneyBrilliant is another option, but it’s more complicated. If you’re a self-confessed-semi-luddite you might like apps that mimic traditional budgeting tools, like You Need A Budget.

2. Buy, Swap & Sell – including your school supplies

This includes everything from the clothes on your back, furniture in your house and school supplies. Despite the digital revolution, many students still need to buy mountains of text books, costing hundreds of dollars each! 

Instead of buying your text books new, get them used on StudentVIP (formerly TextbookExchange), Sell My Text Book, and even Ebay. You can easily save 50% – 80%, and many second-hand text books are hardly used. After you’re finished with them, sell them on the same site! You’ll often be able to sell them for the same price you bought them.

3. Don’t buy a car

A car is one of the most expensive things you can own, and not having one is a crazy good way to save money as a student. Considering the upfront cost, there’s also rego, insurance, parking, maintenance, and fuel – which adds up quickly! We’ve done the numbers, and figured out that even small cars can cost over $7,000 a year!

Using cheaper transport options can save you a lot. Active transport is the cheapest and best for you. Cycling, skateboarding, or riding a scooter is free once you have the equipment, and walking is completely free! If you have a long commute, something motorised, like an e-bike could be the ticket.

When you need to take a longer trip public transport is the next best option, especially on student fares. For the times you do need a car, use a car sharing service like GoGet which has great prices for students. You can also use ride-share services like Uber and Taxify when you need to make a one way trip.

Add these costs to your budget and you’ll find they often cost far less than owning a car. Yes, you might have a month where you spend a hundred dollars or more on transport. But once you factor in thousands of dollars saved from insurance, petrol, and depreciation, you’ll probably come out on top.

Related: 5 Reasons to use Student Car Share

4. Make meals ahead of time

Buying lunch at the uni cafe is easy and convenient. But it’s expensive, and probably not that good for you. Instead, find recipes that freeze well and make multiple servings every Sunday (or whatever day is convenient). Your university will have a kitchenette with a microwave you can use.

By shopping in bulk and making your own meals, you’ll probably save at least $20 a day on food. But you’ll also have built in portion controls, and will likely be eating healthier. Also, lots of folks say weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, so you might be able to save on a gym membership by eating better – if that’s one of your goals.

Too busy to look up recipes that will freeze well? Here are 19 from Delicious, 27 from Buzzfeed, and heaps from the BBC.

5. Know your discounts

You can save money as a student by finding discounts you’re eligible for – there are heaps! Students can save on travel, movies, food, software, and retail, if you know where to look.

If you need to buy something specific, be sure to have a google. Start by googling the product name and ‘students’. For example, ‘Adobe Photoshop students’ takes you to the students and teachers discount page. Similarly, searching ‘GoGet Students’ takes you to our discounted student rates page.

It’s also worth signing up to a site like UNiDAYS. These sites collect offers from multiple companies and make them easier to find. If you’re going to spend some money, you might as well try and spend less.

6. Don’t get a pet

This hurts, but it’s a hard truth. Pets are expensive, over a thousand dollars per year. Because time spent looking after them could be spent studying or working, that’s a cost as well. Living pet free will save you ongoing costs as well as surprise costs you might not expect.

Not having a pet also gives you more freedom. Students tend to travel, go out, and move house (or country) more often than the general public. Having a pet can seriously reduce that flexibility, as pets really need a stable environment.

We’re not here to preach though. If you think it’s worth having a pet, go ahead. Just know what you’re getting into. If you decide to live pet free, there are some subreddits that will help your cute animal cravings. We recommend /r/Aww, /r/BabyAnimals, and /r/RarePuppers.

7. Cut out unnecessary subscriptions

This should be an especially important focus when you make your budget. The only thing more expensive than a one-off purchase is a subscription! Or a bigger one-off purchase, obviously.

By doing regular checks of your subscriptions, you’ll cut out regular payments you don’t use before they cost too much. You could also consider whether there are free or cheaper alternatives. Instead of a gym membership, maybe you could commute by bike or join a sports team? Instead of renewing your phone contract, maybe you could go prepaid?

You also need to identify the subscriptions that help save you money. If $10 a month on Netflix stops you from going to the movies every week, keep using it!

8. Be creative with your activities

One of the biggest non-essential costs for students is your social life. Most social activities cost money, but there are cheaper ways to have fun.

Instead of going out to a restaurant, why not have a picnic in the botanical gardens? Rather than going to the movies with friends, why not watch a few classics on Netflix at your place? Instead of hitting the town on Friday and Saturday night, why not take a GoGet up the coast and go camping?

We’re not being no-fun-Nancy’s here – you should still have fun. But you’ll get more personal interaction by socialising in your own space, rather than at some venue that exists to take your money. You’ll also spend less time and money trying to get home – it really is a win on all counts.