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Articles / Paying for College / A College Money-Saving Challenge

A College Money-Saving Challenge

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Oct. 8, 2013

I saw an interesting statistic the other day. It said (quoting here), “a budget of $6,803 (which is the average a student spends) to use for the semester …” There weren’t any qualifiers with that, but I assume that it doesn’t include any school-related fees such as tuition, room and board. The statistic came from a Web site called The Rented Life. It’s part of a challenge issued by BookRenter.com. On the site, a college student, David Levitz, “has been challenged to save as much money as he can for a semester by Book Renter. He has been given a budget of $6,803 (which is the average a student spends) to use for the semester [that’s the statistic I cited above] and whatever he has left over he gets to keep.” Sounds interesting.

David sounds interested and says, “Hey! I’m David. I’m going to rent, bargain, and borrow everything for an entire semester. Follow my adventures on my YouTube, Instagram and Twitter handles and see if I can do it” A clever promotion, but that’s not the point, in my view. The point, I think, is to see just how creative ol’ Dave can be and how that may be of benefit those of you high school seniors who, a year from now, will be on campus spending your and your parents’ money. I’m still a little shaky about that $6,803 number, but we’ll see what evolves.


Now the information I got says, “David has come up with the following tips to save as much as possible …” I’m not completely convinced that Dave is behind all these tips. I’m sure that some marketing people at BookRenter have chipped in one or two that may steer readers toward their site. Maybe not. Nevertheless (gotta love one word made up of three others!), I think it would be beneficial, if not prudently frugal, to take a look at Dave’s Top 20 list (and some of my own sage comments about them). So let’s do that now.

1. You can’t afford a moving crew, so be sure to help your friends when they need it, because eventually you’ll have to move and you’ll need their help.

2. Sounds simple, but saving your loose change can definitely add up. Get a large container and fill that baby up. [True. I’ve done that.]

3. The coffee shops may look tempting at the beginning of the year, but buy a coffee maker and a travel mug and watch the savings add up. [Keep in mind the name StarBUCKS!]

4. Use a budgeting app, such as our brand partner Moven in order to track your spending and keep track of your budgets. [Why use your brain when you can use an app?]

5. You’ll need a playlist for wandering around campus, use free services like 8Tracks to create your own, personal soundtrack. [While you wander into busy cross-campus intersections.]

6. People watch. Some of the best free entertainment that can be found on campus is finding a comfortable spot and watch the weird people as the walk by. [Or try the local bus station.]

7. We all know not to grocery shop when you’re hungry, but I say go hungry and fill up on free samples! [Sam’s Club and Costco are great sample places.]

8. Consider becoming an RA while in school, they usually get room and board for free.

9. Grocery lists … not just something your mom did. Creating a grocery list helps you steer clear of expensive things that just sit in your cupboard and get stale or moldy. [That’s the green food in back of your ‘fridge.]

10. At the beginning of the year, look for classes that you can test out of. No use paying for classes you already understand. [But, on the other hand, easy A’s can goose your GPA.]

11. Get involved on campus. Joining clubs and keeping busy helps stave off boredom. And boredom is the enemy of saving money.

12. Make friends with your neighbors and work out a carpool schedule. You’ll both save on gas and have some company for the commute. [Assuming that you commute and don’t live on campus.]

13.  Need to fill up your fridge to start the year? Buy in bulk and use your freezer. [If you have a chest freezer in your room.]

14. Really needing an extra couple of bucks? Check out the local blood bank or see if you can sign up for a research project on campus. [Blood money! Also, don’t forget to rent those Twilight DVDs.]

15. Looking to save money on groceries? Go generic. Just because you’re used to seeing brand names in your parents cabinets, doesn’t mean you need them or that you’ll even notice the difference.

16.  Recycle! Save your recyclables and take them to a recycling center. Some places will give you money for bottles, etc. [This is where you’ll need a buddy’s car.]

17. Need a part time job this school year? Go for an on-campus job. They’re fun, easy and most let you can do homework when you’re not busy.

18. Quit it with the credit cards … Did you know that the average college student graduates with over $2,000 in credit card debt? [Not to mention your college loans.]

19. Would you like some inexpensive ways to get around town? Check out Spinlister to rent a bike from someone in your area. [Get a BIG lock, or you’ll be buying that bike when it’s stolen.]

20. Wanting to spruce up your dorm room? Look for great decorating items at a yard sale, Craigslist, or a thrift shop. [Check for cooties first!]


Cool. So, good luck to Dave on his challenge. If you have your own money-saving ideas, such as drying your paper towels for a second use, or separating two-ply bathroom tissue for twice as much for the price, then let us know. The money you save may be your own.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.


Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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