How to Save Money While Living in a College Apartment

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After all those days of dreaming, planning, hard work and hefty applications, the day is here. You’re finally packing up your things from home and preparing to plunge headfirst into an exhilarating, independent life of your own. For most students, college life promises a time of exploring new possibilities, discovering potential paths and finally feeling the sweet relief of freedom — especially if you’re opting to spend your student life in your own apartment rather than university dorms. 

Whether you’re a freshman moving straight from under your parents’ roof or an upperclassman who’d rather not repeat dorm life another year, the prospect of independent living is welcome and refreshing. But be careful — with great freedom comes great responsibility, and sometimes the cost of covering all your living essentials can become overwhelming. 

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As of 2017, the average college student spent approximately $11,800 to $17,600 on living expenses every school year. And while it’s a general rule that you should use no more than 30 percent of your income to cover your rent, studies show that college students actually spend 50 percent or more of their budgets on housing. That’s because this demographic’s incomes are often limited to savings and part-time work with lower pay. Sound familiar? 

College is already expensive. Shelling out more than necessary for living expenses is something to avoid. But don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be as costly as you think.

When you’re brainstorming how to lower your cost of living as a college student, the most obvious solution is to share an apartment with a roommate or two. Yet there are so many more ways to save money in college. 

From food, furniture and home amenities to transportation, entertainment and college supplies, you can tweak every aspect of your lifestyle to cut costs but stay comfortable. It’s easier than you think. Plus all those saved pennies will add up to a lot less stress when it comes time to pay bills.

Not sure where to start? We’ll help you with everything you need to know. Here are the best money-saving tips for college students:

  1. Forgo That Meal Plan

    Whether used to home-cooked meals growing up or not, starting every morning with an already-prepared breakfast, lining up for lunch and grabbing stress-free dinners at your leisure seems too much of a luxury to pass up. With so much going on in your daily schedule, the convenience and comfort of a meal plan is probably worth the price tag each semester, right? Wrong.

    Meal plans are an overpriced and unnecessary expense that will put a serious dent in both your budget and your health. They’re not your answer for how to save money on food in college. Instead, go grocery shopping every couple weeks and stock up on supplies to make your own meals in your apartment. You can easily get everything you need at a much lower price — plus, you can always save more by splitting the shopping with your roommates. 

  2. Make a Meal Group

    If you’re finding it difficult to make all your meals without that meal plan, share the responsibility — and the price — with your roommates or a group of friends.

    Instead of cooking every meal for yourself, form a friendly group and agree on a rotating schedule for making lunch or dinner for everyone. When you take turns cooking, you save yourself stress, time and money while also sneaking in some extra social time.

    The details of your group can be flexible, too. Whether it involves a group meal every day or once a week, everyone will be thankful for the cost and comfort of your cooking club.

  3. Take a Ride, Not a Drive

    When you’re living independently, it’s tempting to take your car with you. With your own vehicle, you have access to transportation whenever you need. What’s more, you won’t have to worry about weather conditions as much as if you were walking, and you give yourself the option of a wide travel radius on weekends or breaks. 

    While it might seem like a necessity, however, keeping a car adds up over the school year. Not only will you need to pay for gas every week, but you’ll have to manage car-insurance costs, oil changes, inspections, fees and possible breakdowns and repairs. Plus, you may even need to pay for parking in an urban setting — both an apartment’s parking-space fee, a street parking pass or anything outside your residence.

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    Take the pressure off both your mind and your wallet by opting for alternative transportation. If you’re relatively close to campus, walk or bike to class. If that’s not the best option for you, take the bus. The cost of public transportation will add up to a significantly lower yearly total than maintaining a car, we guarantee.

  4. Don’t Cash in on Credit

    Many college students find it comforting to keep a credit card for “emergency purposes.” When schedules get stressful and savings get tight, however, you’ll probably end up using that back-up plastic more often than you expected. Plenty of students default to charging everything, thinking it will be easier to pay the bills later or that their parents might help. 

    Don’t fall into this trap. Relying too heavily on credit cards can land you in a massive amount of debt fast when you likely already have student loans to pay.

    Instead of charging, budget each month. Set aside a specific amount for rent, food, books, bills and other necessary expenses. Keeping track of your money and sticking to a set spending rate will keep you organized, attentive to costs and less likely to splurge whenever temptation strikes. It will take a little discipline, sure, but it’s a great way to save money in college life — and an excellent practice for life after.

  5. Go Easy on the Drinks

    We know — a long week warrants a well-earned round of drinks to help you loosen up and let go of stress. Plus, you might look at a little partying as a college rite of passage. But be careful — those mixed drinks at your local bar will run up your tab pretty quickly. Kegs aren’t much better.

    Instead of going out and going heavy on your bank account, explore some cheaper options. Pick up a discounted six-pack or case of wine coolers at the grocery store and split the cost and the cans with your friends. Relaxing doesn’t always mean splurging, and both your body and your wallet will thank you later.

  6. Borrow or Buy Books Used

    Every semester promises a new round of classes, a new wealth of knowledge and — unfortunately — a new stack of syllabi with lists of required reading. Textbooks don’t come cheap. Though your college bookstore stocks everything you need for easy access, buying your books brand new will promise you a big bill twice a year. You can find a better deal elsewhere. 

    From your local library or used bookstore to student-specific book sites like BetterWorldBooks and Chegg, you can search numerous sources to borrow the books you need for your classes. Chances are you’ll save hundreds on costs in comparison to the brand-new books your college offers.

    If there’s a publication or two you can’t find anywhere else, at least buy a used version from your university’s bookstore. You’ll still save, and you can always sell it back at the end of the semester.

  7. Brew the Simple Stuff

    Coffee may be the most important necessity to getting through college. Some days, it’s all that keeps you going when you need to crank out that paper or cram for that test. While you don’t have to cut back on coffee if you’re a caffeine-lover, living the cozy college dream of daily luxury lattes will cost you more than calories. 

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    Did you know that the college-aged coffee-lover spends an average of $11-20 on Starbucks in a single week? That can run you up as much as $300 on coffee every semester — and we don’t even want to think about what the total looks like after four.

    Instead of splurging on sips that break the bank, buy yourself an affordable coffee maker and a bag of grinds to store in your kitchen. It may not seem as exciting as a flavored latte, but you can add cream and sugar to your heart’s delight and brew yourself a cup whenever you want. The cost savings are worth it.

  8. Clip It

    No one should underestimate the power of clipping coupons. When you’re wondering how to save money in a college apartment, stock up on coupons whenever you can. Scan your receipts for special offers, cut out coupons from newspapers or mailings and look for savings stickers around your favorite stores. Most online retailers have them too. A couple dollars off per item will save you big in the long run.

  9. Filter Down

    Bottled water might seem like your best friend when you’re constantly on the go, but the extra cost adds up over time. Instead of purchasing a pack of spring water whenever you go shopping, invest in a water pitcher with a filter and fill it up from your sink. It’ll save you big because instead of paying per bottle, you’re spending much less for more of a resource you already pay for. 

  10. Eat In

    We know how college can be. When you’ve had a full day of hopping from class to class and you’re gearing to spend all night studying, nothing sounds better than ordering pizza and breadsticks, a quart of Chinese takeout — or both. Maybe it’s the middle of the night and you’d like nothing more than a comfort-food run to your favorite fast-food restaurant.

    No matter how tempting and cheap that takeout seems, make sure you don’t give in to the urge too often. A few slices of pizza a few times a week can turn into way more than you budgeted when it’s a weekly pattern. 

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    Instead of eating out often, use the food you’ve already paid for — your groceries. Purchase cost-effective, easy-to-prepare options like microwave dinners, ramen and boxed mac’n’cheese if you’re not crazy about committing to meal prep. It will save you time and money and still be even more satisfying.

  11. Cash in Those Discounts

    You might not realize it, but when you do go out, your status as a student can save you money all by itself. Popular restaurants, movie theaters, stores and other businesses offer you a special student discount plus other perks and freebies. All you have to do is show your student ID. 

    The savings may seem minimal, but they’ll add up over the year. Why throw away money at places you already love when you can save, even on the smallest things?

  12. Cut the Cable

    After all that studying, you need some downtime. Relaxing in bed or on your couch with your favorite show on or a good movie playing is just the way to decompress. But before you add cable costs to your monthly stack of bills, think about how often you actually watch live TV — and whether you really need all those channels.

    Odds are, you’re just as happy with access to the huge variety of shows and movies on streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu. All you need is WiFi and your laptop. You cut costs on both cable charges and the price of a TV.

  13. Decorate Creatively

    We know it’s tempting to head to the nearest store to pick out cute decorations for your new apartment. All those small wall art pieces, mirrors, decorative trinkets and other items add up quickly. Besides, they look well-coordinated but have no functional purpose in your living space.

    Instead of purchasing your home decor, get DIY-creative. Make your own art to spice up your space, cover your wall with photos instead of pricey printed canvases and repurpose items from home rather than buying new.

  14. Turn the Lights Down Low

    You might not have considered it back at your parents’ house or in the dorms, but leaving your lights on when you’re not using them will rack up the digits on your electricity bill. Now that you’re paying it yourself, you want to keep it as low as possible.

    Try to use lights only when you need them and turn them off when you leave any room. If you’re enjoying a quiet dip in the tub or a relaxed movie night date in the living room, get creative by lighting a couple candles to set the mood and save a few dollars. 

  15. Frequent Free Activities

    Who says enjoyable entertainment can only consist of the newest hits in theaters and the hottest spots in town? Going out for fun every now and then is healthy, but it doesn’t always have to break the bank. Instead of choosing pricey activities and trendy venues every time you’re looking for fun, take advantage of the free activities available all around you. 

    Your college will offer a variety of free events like movies, readings, picnics, game nights and more — plus, most of them offer free food. You can also look for free events around your city to save money while getting to know your community. 

  16. Rent Furniture Rather Than Buying

    When you move into an empty apartment, you want all the comforts of home to make it as cozy as possible — and furniture is one of the most important necessities. Yet paying the full retail price to purchase a new set of furniture items can be more expensive than you can manage, especially for a residence that’s not even permanent. Thanks to Interior Furniture Resources, you don’t have to.

    With Interior Furniture Resources’s rental options, you can pick and choose the perfect pieces to match your style, meet your vision and make your college apartment feel like home.

IFR offers the most modern, quality furniture items in customizable designer packages for every area of your apartment. Choose from complete packages with unique options or rent by the piece. It’s all about your needs and your budget. 

Whether you’re looking for kitchen items, bedroom and bath basics or living room furniture, IFR has everything you need and more — including additional amenities and upgrades like electronics and luxury items to make your experience even better.

Ready to save big on furnishing your college apartment? Renting from us couldn’t be easier. You’re a few clicks and 48-hours away from having your beautiful furniture delivered. Browse our extensive selection to explore your options today. 

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