How to Live on a College Student Budget

Being a college student isn’t easy. You’re still adapting to young adult life, a new environment, difficult classes, and different expectations from high school. You may have read our blog post on “How to Budget in College” or our budgeting advice compilation article, but this post is a bit more abstract than the others. This blog post will help you adjust your lifestyle to a college budget — which means a pretty small one! Also, don’t forget the other costs of college, too.

The biggest not-so-secret way to living on a college student budget is to buy what you need USED! Not only is this cost-effective, but it’s also environmentally friendly. While you may cringe at buying something that a stranger has already used, there are ways to ensure that what you’re buying isn’t in poor condition. 

Used Textbooks

This is probably the least “gross” thing to buy used. Unless the book is missing pages or partially destroyed, it’s a great way to save money in college. Buy books off students who are a year older than you — they’ve already taken the classes that you’ll be taking next semester/year! If this isn’t an option, you can buy used books on websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Half Price Books. Your college bookstore may also have used options for your textbooks too! Make sure you pay attention to the description or the category of the book’s condition before buying. Usually there’s a scale of conditions like: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Near Fine, and Like New — this from Half Price Books’ guide.

Refurbished Tech

While books may have an array of conditions, “refurbished” technology or second-hand devices go through a specific process before being labeled and sold. This means that if you buy a refurbished laptop, it will have been repaired and updated, but it will be much less expensive than a brand new laptop. This is wonderful if you don’t have enough money to buy a new device, which you will definitely need for college. You college campus may also offer discounts on older devices that they may not be using any more. 


Getting your clothes second-hand may not be your ideal preference, but if you do need quality clothes at low prices, you can look no further than thrifting! It may take a bit of time to search for your style amongst the many racks of Goodwill or Salvation Army, but you’ll most likely find a diamond in the rough. Shopping at thrift stores is also sustainable for the environment as well! If you don’t have a thrift store close by, you can shop online at ThredUp and even Patagonia’s Worn Wear line. 

College student budgets depend on living frugal lifestyles. Save some money in your wallet as well as the planet by buying what you need used! You can also find freebies here in case you want to really save money as a college student.