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8 Ways On How to Live Like a Poor College Student to Save Money

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Are you looking for new, actionable ways to save money?

You can recreate your college years living like a poor college student to boost your savings fast.

It might sound like a tough feat and it can be but it may be worth it if you want to ramp up your savings fast for things like a big vacation, down payment on a house or car, an upcoming expense or big purchase you are working toward.

If you’re up for the challenge and don’t mind some wild and semi-extreme lifestyle changes to meet your goal, keep reading to learn how to live like a poor college student to save money.

1. Lifestyle Changes

Think back to your college years. Why were you so poor? You were a student, attending school. Maybe you had a job or not. If you were working, you might have had a part-time schedule or low-paying job to accommodate your busy school schedule.

What was life like back then?

Think back and mirror that way of living today so you can save money. These tactics work and more people are doing this to help them with extreme savings goals like paying off all their college debt in a few years, saving for a house, or raising money to start a business.

Up for the challenge?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

2. Live with Roommates

It all starts at home. Your housing bill is probably your most expensive bill. To lower that as much as possible, you are going to want to get roommates. This means you’ll be moving in people into your space, moving yourself to room with others, or moving back home to live with family.

Remember, this is only temporary but bringing on roommates will help you save a lot so you might consider trying this out.

3. Eat Free

Food is another big expense you have in your life. It’s a necessity, you need food to live but you don’t need pricey restaurant outings, morning coffees on the go, or take out on the weekends. Cutting these things out of your life will help lower your food bill.

You can try these tips as well:

A great way to save big is to eat free. You can do this while you’re on the go. It’s perfect during the day when you’re at work, out running errands, at school, etc.

Here are some ways to score free food:

  • Go to the mall food court and get samples
  • Visit deli’s and specialty food stores and ask for samples
  • Birthday Freebies
  • Download apps

Mall Free Samples

This one is a no-brainer and you could score enough free food for a meal. Head to the mall during a busy time, like your lunch hour or on the weekends and get free samples from the food court eateries.

You could easily get samples from 5 or more restaurants in the mall food court and, who says you have to stop at one? Circle back around for round 2 and fill up on the free food!

Deli and Specialty Food Store Samples

Head to a deli or specialty food store like a chocolatier or coffee shop and ask for a sample. I recently visited an Indian bakery and they generously offered us so many samples that we skipped lunch! Give this a try to fill yourself up for free.

Birthday Freebies

It’s your birthday, score a freebie. Here’s a list of restaurants that offer free food for your birthday:

  • Denny’s
  • Applebee’s
  • Baja Fresh
  • Chili’s
  • Bostom Market
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Red Lobster
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • Starbucks
  • Sprinkles
  • Quiznos
  • Red Robin

Intrigued? Here are a whopping 101+ restaurants with free food on your birthday!

Download Apps

Here’s one you haven’t heard of. If you download the app to your local restaurant, they’ll likely reward you with a freebie. Here are some examples:

  • Whataburger-free food after your 5th visit
  • Starbucks-earn stars and get a free drink when you reach 125 stars
  • Krispy Kreme-free donut
  • Denny’s-free grand slam breakfast
  • Jamba Juice-$3 off
  • Dominos-free pizza after 6th order
  • Baja Fresh-free taco
  • Auntie Anne’s-free pretzel after 1st purchase

If you live in a big city like London or New York City, you can also take advantage of apps like Olio or Fresh Surety. The goal of most of these apps is to avoid food waste and feed the hungry.

Have you ever wondered what happened to day old bagels or what restaurants or buffets do with extra food at the end of the night?

Apps like those shared above help to “recycle” food the best way possible.

With Olio, they call it food sharing. They connect neighbors with each other and local shops so surplus food can be shared and not thrown away.

Here’s how Olio works:

For households or businesses, if you’ve got food, get Olio, snap a photo, write a short description, and provide pick-up details so one of your neighbors can take it off your hands.

For neighbors looking for food, they can use Olio to browse what’s available nearby and arrange a pickup. Easy!

4. Ditch the Car

Do you own or lease a car? This can be your largest or second largest monthly expense. Ditch the car and try one of these free or cheap travel options:

  • Public transit
  • Ride a bike
  • Walk

Public Transit

This means riding the train, subway, bus or other form of public transportation. Public transit is a necessity in many large and mid-size cities, and very convenient. You can save a ton if you make the switch.

Bike Riding

Not only will you get in your daily exercise, but you are doing good by the environment and making your wallet happy too. Even if you don’t own a bike, the investment will be in your favor, compared to the costs of managing a vehicle (fuel, maintenance, etc.).


Walking, another great form of exercise will let you slow down to take in your surroundings. Get your blood pumping and increase your energy levels with a nice walk to work. It’s an environmentally-friendly and budget pleasing way to commute too!

If you realize you just can’t give up your car, there are still some ways you can trim your costs. Do carpool. Many employers offer carpool programs. If your job doesn’t, just start one.

The carpool program at my former employer was super convenient. I only had to drive my car one day a week!  That means 4 days a week I get to enjoy being a passenger and not stressing over the bumper to bumper 50 minute city commute to the job. Give this a try!

5. Ask for a Discount

Remember those good ol’ student discounts. You can still take advantage of similar discounts without being a student. All you have to do is ask.

Here are some common discounts offered that you aren’t taking advantage of:

  • Military discount
  • AAA discount
  • Employer discount
  • Discounts for being a club member
  • Discounts based on age (like senior citizen discount)
  • New customer discount
  • Loyalty discount

These are just a few. You can also just ask for a discount. The worst that can happen is that you’re told “no.” You’ll be surprised how often you are told “yes.”

6. Negotiate

There are plenty of opportunities to negotiate, especially if retailers and businesses are trying to earn your business. For example, if you go to the mall, you can negotiate the price of goods in most of the stores.

Seek out independently owned, small businesses and get your haggle on. A lot of people don’t know they can do this.

Have you ever needed car maintenance? Or, gotten a haircut? Or, gone to your local dentist?

These are all services that can be negotiated.

I did a price match with my tire and lube store for a set of tires for my car. In the end, I ended up getting $25 off my salon visit just because I asked. I lowered my in-office visit fee at my doctor’s office by 100% just because I asked.

Don’t miss out on opportunities like this.

7. Embrace No Spend Weekends

Have you ever tracked how much you spend on the weekend? It’s the weekend, you’re off and you want to unwind and have fun but, it can be pricey.

Your typical weekends may not feel like an expensive venture but it can add up:

  • Going to the movies with friends
  • Dinner and drinks with your partner
  • Spending the day walking around downtown
  • Going to the mall with your kids
  • An afternoon running errands

Hidden expenses lurk around ever corner. Aside from expenses above, you are spending on fuel, eating out, grabbing coffee, buying extras, making a spur of the moment grocery trip, etc.

Avoid the extra cost and try a no spend weekend.

Challenge yourself to avoid spending money for the entire weekend. Before you pull your hair out wondering what you can possibly do that won’t bore you, here’s a quick roundup of some fun, free activities you might enjoy:

  • Movie marathon at home
  • Indoor or outdoor picnic
  • Walk in the neighborhood
  • Visiting a local park
  • Going for a bike ride
  • Visit free festivals
  • Listen to live music
  • Take advantage of free community events
  • Go swimming in your community pool

There are even more creative ways to have fun for free!

8. Keep Expenses Low

Live with your expenses low so you can save more money. Here are some examples:

  • Avoid extra subscriptions
  • Don’t buy junk food
  • Turn off appliances when not in use
  • Set your thermostat a little warmer

Extra Subscriptions

These can add up fast. Think about all those extras you pay for every month like multiple streaming subscriptions, subscription boxes, monthly deliveries from Amazon, etc. Cut all those out.

Avoid junk food

Junk food doesn’t have to be eliminated from your diet but, you should stop buying prepackaged junk food because it’s expensive. You can make junk food at home for way less. If you have a craving for something salty or sweet, whip up some snacks in your kitchen. Your wallet will thank you.

Turning off appliances when not in use

This is a tried and true tactic that people have been doing forever. Did you know that appliances use up energy when they are plugged in? Even if they aren’t being used. It’s true!

So, what do you do?

Unplug appliances you aren’t using, like:

  • Lamps
  • Televisions
  • Coffee machines
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Stereos

You will save a lot of electricity which will translate to a cheaper utility bill.

Turn off the A/C

Keep your home a little warmer. Set times to turn on the A/C and try keeping the house a bit warmer in the evening while you’re sleeping. You’ll reduce your electricity bill big time.

Final Thoughts

Some of these ideas may seem extreme but taking a non-traditional approach to your way of living can help you boost your savings rapidly.

You don’t have to live this way forever but if you are looking to save big for a large future purchase, building up your emergency fund, or any other reason, consider trying a handful of these tactics to help you towards your savings goal.

Are you living non-traditionally for the purpose of saving? Share your thoughts on it down below in comments!

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