Financial Difficulties: Tips on Saving Money

For tips on saving money in these areas, click on the links below. (Note: some of these suggestions pertain to the University Park campus, but you may find similar opportunities at other Penn State campuses and in local communities as well.)


Books and Course Materials

Illegal or unhealthy actions can not only hurt you and those around you, but also incur huge financial consequences and even prevent you from fulfilling your educational and career plans.

  • Evaluate whether or not your computing needs can be met by using on-campus computer labs. Labs are available but may not be as convenient.
  • Check on the recommendations of your college or major before you buy a computer.
  • Check Penn State's Computer Store for discounts on hardware and software.
  • Use free or low-cost software available from Penn State.
  • Ask about student discounts wherever you decide to buy your computer.
  • Remember that desktop computers are cheaper than laptops and less likely to be stolen, but laptops are more convenient and easier to take with you to classes, study groups, etc.
Lecture Notes
  • If your course has a Web or ANGEL page, use it to supplement your notes.
  • To improve your note taking skills, take advantage of the note-taking strategies provided by the Penn State Learning.
  • If you must miss a class, get the class notes from another student rather than buying the notes.


  • Decide what your phone calling and texting needs are and shop around for the least expensive phones and calling plans.
  • If you make only occasional long-distance calls on your cell phone, try using a pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plan instead of a monthly service plan.
  • Plan long-distance carefully, using cell, calling cards, 1-800 numbers, late night bargains, etc.
  • If your family has a cell phone family calling plan and you're not on it, it may be cheaper for you to use it even if it means switching your carrier.
  • Divide your shared communications bill fairly with your roommates.
  • Use the University as a free Internet Service Provider.
  • Use e-mail, instant messaging, and Skype instead of long-distance phone calls.
  • Participate in intramural sports.
  • Walk or bike to class.
  • Use free facilities on campus—basketball, tennis, handball, and racquetball courts, jogging tracks and trails, and more.
  • If you decide to join a gym, ask for the cheapest plan.
  • Remember that on-campus facilities are usually cheaper.
  • If you live in a residence hall, eat there if it's already paid for, and be careful how you spend food points at non-meals.
  • If you are off-campus, find the cheapest grocery store or buy an on-campus meal plan.
  • Buy groceries in bulk if you have storage.
  • Prepare your own meals; it's almost always less expensive than buying your meals out.
  • If you are living on campus, all the furniture you need will be provided.
  • If you need to purchase furniture, go to garage sales, yard sales, discount furniture stores, and Goodwill, and check the classified ads.
  • Use your imagination to decorate inexpensively.
  • Raid the family attic, basement, and/or garage.
Health Care
  • Deal promptly with health problems.
  • Follow the treatment plan you are given—take the medicine!
  • You need health insurance—use your family's plan, if possible.
  • Buy generic brands of over-the-counter health-care products, preferably at discount stores.
  • On move-in day, look for pre-existing problems; write them down and report them to your rental office (if you are living in an apartment) or your Resident Assistant (if you are living on campus). You will be charged for any new damage found when you move out.
  • If you are living on campus and your housing bill is not paid, you will not receive credit for the courses you are currently enrolled in and you will not be able to register for future semesters.
  • If you have roommates, you are all equally responsible for any damages that might occur.
  • If you are living off campus and your rent is not paid, you risk being evicted.
  • If you live off campus, make clear agreements with roommates about financial responsibility.
  • Pay rent on time to avoid late fees.
Risky Behavior
  • Illegal or unhealthy actions can not only hurt you and those around you, but also incur huge financial consequences and even prevent you from fulfilling your educational and career plans.
  • Use local bus lines when available for in-town travel.
  • Check buses to your home for weekends and semester breaks.
  • Check for “ride boards” in residence halls, student unions buildings, and online.
  • For local or long distance trips, car pool with others.
  • Bring a bike; explore trails for safe, interesting routes.
  • Be sure to park legally on campus. Unpaid parking tickets can lead to a hold on your academic registration.

Social Life

  • Check the events calendar for a variety of social events at all campuses. At University Park, go to LateNight–PennState events at the HUB/Robeson Center on weekends.
  • Volunteer to usher at concerts or plays.
  • Participate in free events sponsored by campus clubs and organizations.
  • Join a club or organization.
  • Ask about student discounts for movies, concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment.
  • Free movies are often shown on campus. Check the events calendar listings.
Fraternities and Sororities
  • Be very aware of membership fees and many other extra costs.
  • Assess how much time it will “cost” you to become a member of a fraternity/sorority. Can you afford to spend that much time? How might it affect your grades?