Where does your money go each month? What do you spend on groceries, rent, clothing, childcare, movies, etc.? Why does it matter to know where your money goes? College is not free and financial aid is not guaranteed. You must be prepared to pay some of the costs from your own pocket.

Preparing a monthly budget allows you to:

  • Compare the amount of money you earn each month to the amount of money you spend each month.
  • Decide how many classes can you can afford to take each semester.
  • Figure out which expenses are necessary and which are not.
  • Determine expenses can you can cut out each month to save money for classes.

To help you prepare your monthly budget we’ve included a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet.

Tips for Saving Money While You’re in School


If the shock of tuition doesn’t bother you, the price of your textbooks might. Textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars per semester, depending on the classes you take. 

Buy Textbooks Online

You’re not required to buy your textbooks at the school’s bookstore. There are many online bookstores that sell new and used textbooks at a much lower cost. Below are some examples. You also can sell your textbooks on these websites when you’re finished with them.

Note: Your professor may put together a packet of readings or other information and sell it through the bookstore. These professor-made packets are NOT sold through online vendors.

Rent Your Textbooks
Most college bookstores and online stores, like Amazon, give you the option to rent textbooks for the semester. Be sure to ask your college bookstore if they would be willing to price match any textbook rental you found from another store.
Borrow Or Buy Textbooks From Other Students
If you know someone who has already taken the class, you should ask if you can borrow his or her book for the semester or if you can buy it.
Borrow Textbooks From The Library
Most of your course books are also available at your college’s library or another college’s library. You can generally borrow a book for a month at a time. The downside of borrowing a book from the library is that you cannot write in it.

Computers and Software

Use Computers And Software On Campus
Every college has a computer lab for students. It’s free and always staffed by people who can provide you with the support you need. Keep in mind that while using the computer lab is free, there may be a charge for printing. Ask at the college to find out.
Buy Computers And Software At A Discount
If going to the computer lab is not an option for you, you can purchase a computer online for less than the cost at a store. Some stores, like Best Buy, are willing to price match online prices in store.  Many of the major computer companies like Apple or Dell offer student discounts. There are also many websites that offer used desktop and laptop computers at deep discounts.

If you are purchasing a computer from your school’s computer store or from any computer store, always make sure that you ask about student discounts and that you carry your student identification card with you. You can buy computers and software online. Here are some sample websites:

Usually computers come with basic software for word processing and spreadsheets. If you need additional software, you can get it at a student rate. Sometimes you can purchase software (like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop) for half the retail price.

You can also get software for free. OpenOffice is one option. It includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, and more. On the OpenOffice home page, click on “I want to learn more about OpenOffice.org” for more information. Then click I want to download OpenOffice.org to get it. Creating a Google email account is free, and gives you access to Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides etc.

What’s Next?
Although budgeting will help you save money, it may not be enough to pay for your college tuition. Learn how to make up this difference by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA)!