Poor, hungry college student. Many of us have been there. It’s kind of funny how normal that seems to us, the fact that young adults are going to school and living on minimal income or savings.

In reality, that’s the way it’s going to be. College costs a lot of money, and young people usually don’t have a lot of money. Many college students struggle to live within their means. This can lead to even more debt on top of student loans or students depriving themselves of necessary items. Luckily, there are some ways to help you live within your means.


Rent is something you will have to deal with for a long time. It can be hard to always have to pay such a significant amount of your income to living expenses, but it’s necessary.

One thing to do to help yourself save some money is realizing you don’t have to have the best apartment. I attended a school where we had approved student housing complexes rather than dorms. They charge per semester and the price ranged from $900 – $1800 a semester depending on the apartment complex. I paid on the lower end by finding a pretty nice apartment that was a little older. I had friends who would pay almost double the amount I was paying because they wanted to live at the newest apartment complex.

You are going to be living in a college apartment, part of the experience, in my opinion, is the fact that your apartment isn’t the nicest. You have nowhere to go but up from there.


Groceries are a significant monthly expense. You need to buy enough to keep you fed, but can’t spend too much. There are a couple of tips when it comes to food.

  1. Quickly eat what will expire the fastest. If you buy bananas and leave them sitting around, they will go bad and you just wasted money.
  2. Meal plan. Make sure you know why you are buying the groceries you choose and how they will come together in a meal.
  3. Don’t eat out. It can be tough to resist the alluring cheap and quick meal options that the drive-thru provides, but doing so will save you money. Save eating out for special occasions.

On-campus resources

Different schools will have different resources, but there are some givens like a gym or a library (obviously). Use the resources offered to your advantage.

I would charge my phone at school to avoid raising my electric bill. I had a roommate who never bought a laptop for college, he just used the library computers. It seemed inconvenient to me, but he saved a lot of money.

Thrift stores

Thrift stores are a magical place. You can find some absolute treasures there for a small price. There is also a lot of garbage, so you have to do your due diligence in searching.

If you need dishes, clothes, or even textbooks in some college towns, you may be able to fins dome good options at your local thrift store. It is likely not going to be the gem I mentioned earlier, but you can usually find something that will serve you well for a very inexpensive price.


This is the biggest one. If you work a part-time job, you will have an income. Funny how that works. Some people feel they don’t have the time, and maybe some don’t. Most people, however, can spend the 15-20 hours a week working to add to their cash flow.

This will allow you to pay your monthly expenses and hopefully avoid dipping into your savings or needing to take out another loan. I worked every semester I was in school and made things work.


There are many ways to live within your means while at school. If you budget well, are wise with your money, and work as much as you can, you will find some financial breathing room to help get you through school.