“This is the worst possible year to graduate from college in history.”
I heard this exact same phrase back in 2002, then again in 2007, and yet again in 2009 as I completed my university studies in those years. Yet, I found that there was no need to be so gloomy. (See also: 8 Financial To-Dos for College Freshmen)
Yes, college costs are still on the rise. But college life is full of exciting opportunities and, more importantly, full of savings. You just have to look in the right places. Here are 25 ways to take advantage of those savings.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull student. Start off with these fun freebies.
1. Lunch and Dinner
Getting a cheap meal doesn’t mean limiting yourself to tuna sandwiches and ramen noodles for your entire school life. By joining on-campus clubs and organizations, you may be able to score free lunches and dinners several times a week. Even if you just attend one club meeting a week, you could save as much as $50 a month in food. Another way to get free meals is to volunteer for alumni association events and attend student club evening mixers.
2. Free Soda
Several fast food chains, such as Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A, offer free sodas to customers that show a valid student ID. Don’t hesitate to ask before making your purchase.
3. Washington Post
If you enjoy reading the Washington Post with your morning coffee, then get free digital access with your .edu email.
Student campuses across America host free movie nights during nights at quads or campus centers. Check the campus events calendar for movie listings and enjoy a night out with your friends. (See also: You Never Need to Pay to Watch Movies)
5. Museum Admission
Several museums offer free admission to exhibit halls to holders of a valid university ID on certain days. Some examples are the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Make sure to check the website of your local museums for specific days and times.
6. Sporting Event Tickets
Several universities, such as my alma mater, the University of Hawaii, offer free sports tickets to current students with valid student IDs. My school even offers free bus rides to the football stadium and back to the campus. Make sure to check if you qualify for free tickets and get them early because they go fast.
School Supplies and Tools
You spend enough money as it is on books and supplies — here is how to stretch those dollars.
7. Amazon Student
Free for the first six months, Amazon Student provides free two-day shipping on millions items. Also, Amazon rewards you with a $10 credit for every friend that you refer to this program. There is no cap on the amount of credits you can get, so become the big man on campus by spreading the word to your buddies about Amazon Student. After the six-month free trial, you get the chance to sign up for Amazon Prime at 50% off.
There are two ways to spend the least possible on printing. The first one is to check with your instructor if you can submit your files digitally. The second one is to take advantage of the technology fee that you are most likely already paying. Check with your student union to find out which computer labs allow you to print for free and what the daily limits on free printing are
9. Autodesk Software
Engineering, architecture, animation, and design students rejoice. There is no need to get illegal copies anymore — you can get free Autodesk software with your valid .edu email. The list of free 57 Autodesk programs includes the very popular 3ds Max, AutoCAD, Inventor Professional, Maya, Revit, and Fusion 360.
10. Microsoft Software
Microsoft is giving away its Windows operating system and other premium software, such as Visual Studio Professional suite, at no cost to university students with a valid .edu email. If you are in the field of computer programming, you can use some of that free software to submit your entry to Microsoft’s ImagineCup, a global student technology competition. The prizes start at $1,000 and, if your team makes to the finals, include a trip to Seattle and a chance for a private meeting with Bill Gates.
11. Welcome Back Events
College bookstores often host these events during the first week of the fall semester to welcome returning students and freshmen. These events are great for scoring goodies ranging from notebooks to highlighters to pens. Stock up on free school supplies that you can use throughout the semester.
From insurance to banking to tax preparation, here are some freebies that college students can get.
12. Checking Accounts
On your first week on campus, you have to find out whether your university has a credit union. University credit unions often offer free checking and savings accounts without any monthly fees to students. Some even provide free debit cards and online bill pay. By setting up your checking account at your local credit union, you can be in your way to building a strong financial foundation and be eligible for a line of credit in the near future.
13. Health Insurance
Even if you are attending school and financially independent from your parents, as long as you are younger than 26 years old, you can be kept on your parent’s health insurance policy.
Students with a valid .edu email may be eligible for a free $10 in bitcoin. The offer is from Coinbase, one of the most popular bitcoin wallets in the U.S. By signing up for a new Coinbase account with your .edu email, you get $10 worth in bitcoin and $1 for each person referred. Some of the students that have taken advantage of this offer include those from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Texas at Austin, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. With the current market value of a single bitcoin in the upper $600’s, you could see a nice return on those free coins. Just keep an eye on the tax rules when using a cryptocurrency.
15. International Travel Insurance
If you already own an International Student Identity Card issued in the U.S., then you already have basic travel insurance that covers you while abroad. This is very helpful to meet the travel insurance requirement from some universities and consulates. Some of the benefits include trip and baggage delay, repatriation of remains, and accident and sickness medical expense coverage.
If you are a U.S. nonresident and you are receiving scholarship or fellowship grants, you may be able to adjust your taxable gross income. When all or most of your grant monies are spent on tuition, books, and university fees, then you can include an Attachment to Form 1042-S to make those grant monies exempt from taxes. Additionally, some countries, such as China and India, have tax treaties with the U.S. that allow students from those countries additional tax breaks.
17. Tax Preparation
During tax season, many universities offer free tax preparation services for students. Don’t forget to check the requirements for eligibility, such as a maximum gross income.
Yes, you are reading that right. While on-campus student jobs may not offer much per hour, several offer tuition waivers. Contact your local student union or student center and ask how you can look for on-campus jobs that offer tuition waivers. Some of them may be available online, but other ones may be only available through that office. Ask around!
These items don’t fall into a specific category, but that doesn’t mean that they are less free!
Drop by your school’s health center and stock up on many as you want. Just make sure to check the expiration date on the packaging, if available. Stay safe on the cheap.
20. Counseling and Stress Management Services
If this is your first time away from home, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. Combat those student blues with help from on-site professionals at no cost. Some schools are even offering biofeedback centers to their students to help them measure and handle all levels of stress. The cost of counseling and stress management services is quite expensive outside of school, so if you need it, take advantage of these free on-campus services.
21. Social Media Freebies
Turn your social media influence into freebies. New York-based startup Sumpto has a reward system for students with a valid .edu email and Facebook account. The higher your Sumpto score, the better your rewards. If you are very active on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll start getting free stuff in no time. Some of the companies that have provided freebies include Party City, Kraft, Chobani, Red Bull, and Office Depot.
What are your favorite freebies for college students? Please share in comments!