Being a college student means you’re somewhat broke. You or someone else is paying your tuition — thousands of dollars — so you don’t often have cash to spare for eating out all the time or buying expensive t-shirts from the campus bookstore.
Top 10 Tips to Save Money as an Off-Campus Student
Money’s tight. But as a commuter student, you’re already saving money by living off-campus in your own apartment or back home, so you’re one step ahead of everyone else.
And while there are a ton of ways to save money in college, here are the top ten.
10. Skip Redbox and Rent Movies from the Library
Money Saved: $1.50 (plus tax and late fees)
NC State offers free movie rentals for its students, regardless if you’re living on campus or off. So skip the $2 rental fee and hit up DH Hill for your next movie night. Or, if you simply have to have that in-person big-screen movie experience, head to Witherspoon Student Cinema for a $2 movie.
9. Go to Campus Events for Free Stuff
Money Saved: About $20 per shirt
The campus bookstore is very expensive, often selling NC State t-shirts for upwards of $17. But why shell out almost $2o when you can get State shirts for free?
There’s usually food or t-shirts involved in just about any campus event, whether it’s Convocation or club meetings, so be sure to get involved and take advantage of the free stuff. (And you’ll also meet some cool people.)
8. Take Full Advantage of Student Discounts
Money Saved: About 10% off your purchase
People know college students are broke. Free food, discount movie tickets, and free shipping are just a few of the perks you get as a student at many stores, including Amazon, Subway, Harris Teeter, and more. Here are the extra discounts you can get at stores closest to NC State:
- The Alley: $3 games before 3 PM
- Amedeo’s: 50% off entree every Tuesday after 4 PM
- Mission Valley Cinema: all matinee showtimes $6.50, student tickets $7.50
- Subway: free cookie
7. Go for the Generic Brands, They’re Just as Good
Money Saved: About $0.50 per item
Who has time for brand-name Frosted Flakes or Ben & Jerry’s when you’re short on cash? Shop generic! When it’s time to do your grocery shopping, save a little bit of money buying mostly Food Lion-brand cereal, pizza, soda, and bread and put that money toward clothes or some fancy piece of tech you’ve been eyeing.
Here’s a quick brand name and generic food face-off:
- Oreos ($2.99) vs. Harris Teeter Twist-Offs ($2.50)
- Rice Krispies ($3.04) vs. Market Pantry Crisp Rice Cereal ($2.09)
- DiGiorno ($6.39) vs. Harris Teeter cheese pizza ($3.00)
- 12-Can Dr. Pepper ($4.99) vs. Dr. Extreme ($4.79)
6. Choose Carmichael Over a Gym Membership
Money Saved: About $55 per month
If you’re working hard to keep off the Freshman 15 or just need an outlet to relieve your stress, skip the costly gym memberships. As an NC State student, your student ID gets you in for free to use all of the state-of-the-art equipment, weights, fitness classes, and other exercise facilities at Carmichael Gym and the Recreation Center.
5. Skip Starbucks and Make Your Coffee at Home
Money Saved: About $90 per month
Just like eating out every single day, grabbing a coffee at Port City Java or Cup-A-Joe every morning can add up real quick. If you spent an average of $5 per day, you’d spend about $100 every month just on coffee.
Let’s do a little bit of math here: Say you spent $10 on a 12-ounce bag of coffee grounds at the grocery store, and that makes on average 34 cups of coffee — so if you’re a one-a-day kind of person, you’d spend just $10 on a month’s worth of coffee, saving you just about $90.
So skip the line and make your own cup to go.
4. Print Your Essays at Home
Money Saved: About $50 per 5oo pages
If you haven’t heard that HP ink costs more than human blood, well, now you have. Ink cartridges are expensive and can run anywhere from $10 to $45, with a good quality black ink cartridge costing you around $20. And that’s not even including the printer (around $30) or the paper (around $7).
But when it comes to by-the-page printing at NC State, it’s by far less expensive to buy your own printer and paper in the long run, especially since you only have to spend that $30 once.
Let’s compare the costs to print 500 pages of essays, lab reports, and miscellaneous class assignments.
Assuming you buy your printer and need to replace the cartridge after printing about 200 pages, you would end up spending about $105 total to print 500 pages of paper at home or at your apartment. And assuming that each page you print at NC State costs 10 cents, you would spend $50 to print 500 pages of paper.
Even if you don’t need to spend the money on a printer, it’s still less expensive to print at NC State instead of using your own paper and ink.
3. Take the Bus to Class
Money Saved: About $350 (plus gas)
The cheapest way to get to campus is to take the bus. NC State partners with GoRaleigh and offers passes for students to ride Raleigh city buses for free, saving you the nearly $2 bus fare in addition to the cost of driving to campus: about $350 for a parking permit and however much money for gas every week.
To get a Go Pass, which must be renewed annually, you need to visit the Transportation office in the Administrative Services Building 1 off of Sullivan Drive on Main Campus.
2. Borrow Your Textbooks from DH Hill
Money Saved: About $1,300 over four years
Textbook prices are ridiculous, and buying books is waste of money if you never use them. Don’t even bother buying your books new; instead, check all of your books out from the library, since DH Hill offers the latest versions of your so-called “required” textbooks at the circulation desk for you to check out for two hours, enough time to do some or all of your assignments.
Granted, this means more time at the library and you won’t have a copy to take in class. But most of the time, textbooks don’t change drastically between versions, so check out last year’s copy of your Calculus textbook to bring with you.
But if you want to buy your own copy, you can read about other money-saving tips for buying textbooks here.
1. Take Classes at the Community College
Money Saved: About $3,200 per semester
It’s so much more affordable to take classes at a community college, and for the courses that can easily transfer, it’s often worth it. Let’s take a 3-hour course like Chemistry or English, for example, at the local community college in Raleigh:
That’s at least a $300 difference. If you were to take a full semester at Wake Tech ($1,068 for in-state students) as compared with NC State ($4,290.44 for in-state students), you would save more than $3,200. While not always the most practical decision, attending community college for at least one course is the best way to save money in college.
Read the Campus Guide for Commuter Students
These money-saving tips are just ten of the ways that you can have an awesome year as an off-campus State student. Read more tips about making the most of your academic year, including where to find computers and printers around Main Campus, on the up-to-date NC State student commuter guide.