Frugal or Broke? How To Do College

Jar of money for college

Before college, I thought being a “poor college student” was a cliche and something I witnessed dramatically in TV shows and movies. (How much Ramen could one person really eat?) Upon coming to college, I very quickly understood the suckiness of paying for things that scholarships don’t cover; textbooks, as well as other personal expenses like food and toiletries. In high school, most of us were used to having our parents supply those things for us. What do you mean, mom and dad? I have to be a real adult who’s financially responsible for myself now? No thanks. However, after one year of college under my belt, I’ve discovered some useful websites and other resources that contribute to saving money and encourage all my friends to try.

I have to be a real adult who’s financially responsible for myself now?

College textbooks are so. crazy. expensive.

My first semester I spent nearly four hundred dollars on books, some of which were just small paperbacks. I was uber annoyed. I didn’t want this to be my reality for 8 semesters. The website that saved my life going into sophomore year is called It allows you to enter the ISBN number for a textbook you need, then spits out a bunch of websites where you can buy the book and compare the pricing, to make sure you are literally getting the cheapest possible version of your book.

You don’t need brand­spanking-­new textbooks shiny and pressed from your school’s bookstore every semester. Buying used ones are just as good, and buying them off cheap websites online, is a great way to save some extra cash.

Milk your student ID and student email address for all it’s worth.

Shopping? Yes, please. For instance, two of my favorite clothing stores, Banana Republic and J. Crew, offer a 15% in-store student discount if you show a valid student ID. Quick Google search will show you several other retail stores that offer similar discounts.

Your student ID can also get you discounted admission at movie theaters, museums, and some forms of public transportation. They’re small, and range from $2.00­-$3.00 depending on the theater or museum, but money in the pocket people! Every dollar counts. Basically, your student ID is your best friend and you should always carry it with you.  Take it off campus with you if you’re shopping or indulging in any form of entertainment, you never know when it’ll come in handy.

Spotify, Amazon Prime (dangerous), NYTimes all discounted with a student email.

Email? Who knew? Your student email address can get you some sweet discounts too. For instance, Spotify Premium is usually $10 a month, but using a student email address, it’s only $5. The New York Times offers discounted or even free (depending on the university) subscriptions with a student email address. The New York Times’ discount is always more than 50% off the regular rate, no matter what university your email comes from.

You can get up to sixth months free of Amazon Prime with a student email, which gets you awesome free shipping and speedy delivery rates. Metiza girl Heidi learned this too! Again, a Google search will bring you a treasure chest of student email goodness, these are just my personal favorites. I love music, the news, and ordering literally anything I want online with free shipping, what can I say?

My freshman year of college was tons of fun. I learned a lot often the hard way. I’m really looking forward to my next 3 years. While it’s hard to beat the reality of being a dramatic, cliched “poor college student,” there are definitely some advantages to being a student, use them while you can!

Also published on Medium.