Money-saving tips
Being poor sucks, but some students have come up with innovative money-saving tips to make their dollars stretch. Source: Matthew T. Rader/Unsplash

Financial stress is often a major issue among university students, but who better to learn some nifty money-saving tips from than those who are cash-strapped themselves?

Lauren Schandevel was a low-income student when she entered the University of Michigan as a freshman. She was struck by how wealthy all her classmates seemed to be, from the clothes they wore to their well-connected parents, reported NPR

Schandevel grew up in a working-class family and had gotten scholarships and several loans so she could attend the prestigious institution. In her junior year, the university’s student government put out a campus affordability guide, written with the average Michigan student in mind – those with a family income of about US$154,000 per year.

Many of the money-saving tips weren’t practical (e.g. fire your maid, sell your car) for lower-income students. This motivated Schandevel to create a Google doc titled, Being Not-Rich at UM: A Guide, in which she shared practical information for other lower or middle-income students like herself. 

The sharing settings were set to open, enabling other students to read or contribute to it (read her guide here). The document is extensive, covering a wide range of areas like employment, housing, textbooks, clothing mentors, social life and more, thanks to the input of numerous other students. 

Her guide proved so successful that students from other universities started creating their own versions for their schools. 

Paying attention to the details can save you money

University students who pore over Schandevel’s guide will find some useful money-saving tips that have worked for others. But one theme that stands out? Paying attention to the details will save you cash in the long run. 

While some of the advice rendered is only relevant to UM students, there are other nuggets of information that will serve students well, regardless of where they study:


  • Purchase winter clothing during the off-season 
  • Melt wax or beeswax with a hairdryer to waterproof fabric shoes 


  • Babysitting can provide students with a great side income, with flexible work options (depending on your client) and the potential for free food


  • If you’re studying in the US and are thinking of joining and living in a sorority or fraternity to reduce your housing expenses, think it through. It may be cheaper than living in an off-campus house, but you may find yourself spending more in other areas (e.g. random charges such as t-shirts, mandatory philanthropic donations, etc.)

Textbooks and software 

  • Trawl through Facebook pages for second-hand textbooks
  • Use online comparison websites such as and to find the lowest cost books, or use their filter options if you’re looking to rent instead 

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