A college degree doesn’t come cheap these days. The average net price (in other words, what students and their parents actually pay) for in-state students at a four-year public college is $14,120 per year, according to the College Board. At a private four-year school, the average yearly cost is $26,400.
With tuition and other expenses so high, many college students are looking for savings and freebies wherever they can find them. You can rent textbooks rather than buying them, get discounts at many stores, cut back on dining out, ride a bike rather than drive, and live with roommates (or at home) to save on rent.
Even better than something you can get for cheap is stuff you can get for free. We’ve unearthed 10 things that college students don’t have to pay for, from free shipping to no-cost career resources, so you can eventually get a good job and put the days of hunting down free deals behind you.
1. Amazon Prime
College students can sign up for a free six-month trial of Amazon Student, which comes with free two-day shipping and access to Prime Instant Video. After your trial ends, you can upgrade to a regular Amazon Prime membership for 50% off the regular price of $99 a year. Refer a friend to the service and you can get an extra $20, too.
Having trouble paying attention in class? The Pocket Points app promotes distraction-free learning by letting you earn points for not using your phone during lectures. Points can then be redeemed for free food at participating restaurants, which include Papa John’s, Chick-fil-A, and Cold Stone Creamery.
Savvy students also know they can keep their wallets fat by scoping out on-campus events where meals or snacks will be served. Students at five Utah universities, including Brigham Young and the University of Utah, can use the LunchBox app to locate on-campus events featuring free food.
Not all students seeking out free food are just looking to save money for Friday’s beer run. Food insecurity is an increasing issue on some college campuses, which has prompted schools to set up food pantries to ensure low-income students aren’t going hungry.
Use your .edu email address to score free software like Autodesk, used by designers and engineers; Microsoft Imagine, for software design and development; and You Need a Budget, a personal finance app. There’s also OnTheHub, a website that helps college students find free or discounted software, such as Microsoft Office. Or download free software like LibreOffice (for word processing), Gimp (for photo editing), or Audacity (to edit audio files).
4. Museum admission
Most museums offer student discounts, but some go one step further and offer free admission to those with a college ID. The Museum of Modern Art in New York offers free admission to students from area colleges, a savings of $14 off the already discounted student price. Many other museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, have similar programs.
5. Health center perks
This isn’t a case of getting something for free so much as taking advantage of what you’ve already paid for, since you were probably charged a student health center fee at the beginning of the semester. Head to the clinic where you may be able to get things like free flu shots, birth control, and STI tests. The University of Maryland even offers free meditation sessions to students.
6. Checking accounts
Many checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees unless you sign up for direct deposit or maintain a minimum balance. But some banks offer free checking for college students, including US Bank, Bank of America, and Chase, which can help you save an average of $5.86 a month (based on a Bankrate survey of average monthly checking account fees).
7. Professional memberships
Many professional associations offer free memberships to college students who are preparing for a career in a related field. With your membership, you can usually get access to perks like job boards, networking opportunities, mentoring programs, and professional publications. Associations that offer free student memberships include the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Planning Association, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
The typical college student spends more than $1,200 per year on books and supplies, according to the College Board. You can save by scouting out free books. Students studying literature, philosophy, or classics can use Project Gutenberg to download copyright-free ebooks, including some of the most frequently assigned titles, such as The Elements of Style, The Republic, and Frankenstein. Your school’s library may also have the books you need, though you’ll probably have to move fast to get them before your fellow students snap them up.
Sick of paying to park on campus or tired of late-night Uber trips draining your bank account? Students at some colleges and universities, including the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Louisiana State University, can ride for free on local public transit. Many colleges also offer free late-night shuttles and campus escort services to help students get home safely.
The earlier you start investing, the better, since your wealth has more time to grow. But cash-strapped college students might assume they don’t have enough money to start investing in earnest. Not so. Acorns is an app that makes investing easy and cheap (they call it “micro investing”). You connect your accounts and cards to the app, and your purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar. The money is invested in one of the Acorns portfolios. If you want to save more aggressively, you can make additional deposits. People who have less than $5,000 pay $1 a month for the service, but if you have a .edu email address, you can use it for free for four years.