Thriving on a Dime: A Student Guide to Living Large Without Breaking the Bank

Are you a college student wanting to live large but don’t want to break the bank? Well, don’t worry—whether you’re a newbie navigating your first year or a seasoned scholar looking to make your dollars stretch, you’ve come to the right place.

Financial Planning

Let’s start with the basics: creating a budget that works for you. Sit down and figure out how much money you have coming in each month—and where it’s all going. This will help you understand what to change about your spending habits and get a good sense of your budget. 

Saving is extremely important because it can set you up for financial success in the future. Start by having a solid savings plan where you put away, let’s say, $50 a month. This will help you save for a future trip, a rainy day, or even help set you up after college. Make sure to get a savings account where you can put the money in automatically, and it won’t be as easily accessible to take out of the account. 

Always avoid impulsive spending, such as online shopping or random buys. This will drain your money fast. One thing to avoid is asking yourself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is no or you have a slight hesitation, then maybe it’s time to rethink your purchase. You may think that you are able to spend extra money here or there, but in reality, most college students don’t have any disposable income. 

Smart Shopping

Let’s start with grocery shopping 101: start by making a list, stick to it, and never, I repeat, never shop on an empty stomach. Trust me, it’s a recipe for disaster. You will most likely overspend on things you don’t need.

After you’re done shopping, spend a little time in the evenings or on the weekend meal-prepping. Start by looking up some budget-friendly meals that will be good to refrigerator or freeze and reheat during the week. Some things you can do are pasta salads, soups, and veggie stir-fries! These types of meals are delicious, nutritious, and easy on the wallet! 

One last thing I recommend is bulk buying and coupon clipping. Hit up your local wholesale store for mega-sized bags of rice, beans, pasta, and even meats! Also, look on the web for digital coupons and discount codes. Your bank account will thank you, I promise!

Making the Most of Your Cash

Textbooks can be one of the biggest budget breakers for every college student but don’t worry, there are ways to find cheap textbooks without overspending. Start by checking out online marketplaces like Amazon, Chegg, and eBay for gently used editions at a fraction of the cost. Also, consider renting your textbooks instead of buying them outright. It’s so much cheaper and even helps the environment! 

To save a few extra bucks on utilities, start by unplugging your electronics when they aren’t in use. You can also switch to energy-efficient light bulbs like LED bulbs, which make your home bright and cozy. You should also set your thermostat to a cozy—but not too cozy—temperature. 

When it comes to entertainment, you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good time. Look for free or low-cost events on campus, like movie nights, concerts, and trivia competitions. And don’t forget about the wonderful world of streaming services—many offer student discounts through UNiDAYS or offer free trials, so you can binge-watch to your heart’s content without blowing your budget!


With a bit of creativity, a dash of resourcefulness, and lots of determination, you can absolutely thrive on a dime throughout your college years. So good luck and have fun with it!

Author: Nakota BlackElk-Noel

Nakota is a senior at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading books, hanging out with friends, and playing video games. On campus, she’s on the executive board as the historian of the theater group Alpha Psi Omega and has produced various student films. She also hosts her own radio sh