The Broke Student’s Handbook: How to Be Thrifty

Smiling young man showing a piggy bankAccording to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 50 percent of college students join the labor force. Even so, the BLS’ Time Chart for a full-time college student shows that most of those students only work about three hours a day. With the federal minimum wage set at $7.25/hour, a student who works three hours a day, five days a week might only bring in $435 a month. This gives you a yearly gross income of $5,220. Translation: Learn to be thrifty. Here’s how.

1. Give Yourself a Head Start

Take advantage of living at home by saving whatever money you earn and receive. This can make your transition to college life easier. Learn to live prudently even before you head off to college. Ask for practical birthday and Christmas gifts like gift cards, a microwave, slow cooker, coffee maker, Mini Fridge, electric grill, toaster oven and printer. If you are purchasing some of these items yourself, visit PriceBlink, which offers the ability to compare prices in your browser. It’s different from other comparison shopping sites because it stays in the background until it finds you the best price on the product and/or coupons for the retailer you are shopping.

2. Learn How to Cook

Learn how to cook inexpensive meals. Grilled cheese, tuna burgers, chili, hamburger stew, tuna casserole, taco salad and scrambled eggs are all cost-effective meal options. You can find easy, inexpensive recipes at to help stretch your buck.

3. Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Many establishments in college towns extend discounts to students. For example, Thursday nights the AMC Theatre chain offers discounted tickets with your student ID.

Other retailers that commonly offer student discounts include:

  • Entertainment: Cinemark Theatres
  • Food: Subway, Burger King, Waffle House, Arby’s, Dairy Queen, McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Technology: Apple, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Co.
  • Phone Service: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile

4. Consider Taking Online Courses

Consider online courses at sites like CollegeOnline LLC, where you can find a variety of online college courses from reputable educators like Kaplan University, Thomas Jefferson School of Law and Bay State College Online.

Online courses offer the flexibility of working more hours to earn and save more money. They may also be less expensive than traditional universities.

5. If You Go Away for College, Leave Your Car at Home

Lynette Khalfani Cox is the author of “Zero Debt for College Grads.” She states that students who leave their cars with their parents save an average of $200 a month on gas.

6. Become a Member of Online Reward Programs

Swagbucks is a loyalty program that offers compensation in the form of Swag Bucks for your everyday online activity. These Swag Bucks are similar to the loyalty points that credit cards offer clients. Redeem these Swag Bucks for entertainment coupons and gift cards from popular retailers like Target.

7. Free Samples/Manufacturer Coupons

At, you’ll find free samples and coupons on everything from hand sanitizer to brand name cereals. Just fill out the requested information to receive your free sample or coupon.


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