The Broke College Student Survival Guide

Being a broke college student is no longer a joke, so much in fact that 36% of the 51% of U.S citizens living under the poverty line is made up of college students living off campus.

Students are having to sometimes go hungry or make one meal stretch a day just to make ends meet, now all situations are different but any help in a situation like this is beneficial.

Being the primary reason I made this site, and felt compelled to write this post here.

No money, no ties, just giving back what I learned through college, how I got through and how I made myself no longer dependant on a low paying, time-consuming job.

The Problem

There has to be a reason why college students are so broke, no one chooses to be broke but why is it so prevalent with college students?

It seems to fall into 3 factors:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of experience
  • Lack of resources

Now, of course, you can go into further detail and it can fall into 100’s of different reasons but they all seem to fit into these 3 categories.

TIME– What of the biggest reasons college students are broke is there lack of time. The reason behind this is since you’re so tied up in school getting a full-time job is close to impossible. (unless you want to graduate) and finding an employer that’ll be willing to work around a changing school schedule like in college is rare.

EXPERIENCE– Following off of time, lack of experience is also a big factor. Since most students are right out of high school students your job history probably isn’t that lengthy, or impressive (to an employer at least). So most high paying jobs that could counter this “broke” situation would be difficult to get.

RESOURCES– Lack of resources is also a small yet major role as to why college students that are broke usually stay broke. They either lack knowledge of have the resources to realize what opportunities are out there and just accept their situation fro what it is.

Why does this matter?

I’m going to be addressing solutions for these 3 factors with this post. Hopefully, this truly serves as a guide you can use and reference.

What The Guide Covers

We’ll be going over a variety that can make college and money that much less stressful, from saving and managing your spending, college discounts, to making extra money.

The 3 topics specifically being:

  • Budgeting and Saving Money
  • Making Extra Money In College 
  • Places That offer College Discounts

(This will be a growing list/resource and will be added to and taken away as seemed fit)

The Broke College Student Survival Guide

The Broke College Student Survival Guide

Budgeting and Saving Money

Use Your College Discounts

If you’re not taking advantage of your college discounts than you’re doing yourself a disservice. College towns all across the nation offer discounts to their students on campus.

Why? It’s good business, for one it showing support for their community and not to mention the youth, but they’re also getting a larger customer base from doing so.

Yea it might cut into their margins but they’ll make up for the quantity they put out to counter the discounts. It’s really a win-win for the business and the student (being you).

(List of stores, services, and restaurants that offer student discounts below)

Use Debit And Credit Cards With Caution

How to handle a Debit card without abusing it.

When it comes to Debit cards it can be to0 easy to swipe as you go not really being visually able to see what’s it’s doing to your account.

Yea you know you’re spending money, and you can probably do the math in your head, but not being able to visually see how much your spending makes it easier to continue.

To fix this try taking out around $100 in cash and that’ll be your spending money and reserve the essentials such as bills, groceries, books, etc. for your debit card.

Credit cards, BE CAUTIOUS.

Credit can be an amazing thing if handled correctly, with the access of money you wouldn’t usually have only a swipe away it’s easy to get sucked into overspending.

Credit card companies, unfortunately, see broke college student’s vulnerability as more of a business opportunity rather than actually helping. (besides whatever they say)

With high-interest rates and a small likely hood of paying the amount back in time, you are left with increasing monthly payments and debt.

Note: You are much better off taking a private student loan to cover your expenses rather than depend on credit (unless absolutely necessary).

Apply For Grants And Scholarships

If you’re a senior or even a junior (good for you) preparing for college you don’t have to settle for a student loan or living check to check.

Did you know that:

In 2015 alone over $2.9 billion in free college money went unclaimed by students!

That’s literally free money wasted because people weren’t doing their own due diligence to find it. It’s horrible!

Apply for as many as you can. What’s the worst that can happen? You get a few $1,000 out of it or even your school paid for?

They’re free to apply for and with so many getting unclaimed each year with the right amount of effort you shouldn’t have any problem getting one. (as of now)

Live Within Your Means

Something that should be obvious, but I have to mention it. Live the lifestyle you can afford, if you can’t afford don’t get it.

This doesn’t mean you have to dress in rags and be miserable but just play off of the $100 advice in the “Avoid Using Debit and Credit Cards” section above like I mentioned earlier.

If you really want something, be a little frugal one week, then by next paycheck you can get it, or save up until you can.

Unfortunately, the latest style or gadget really isn’t worth struggling. (no matter how hard it is to not have it)

Pay Attention To Sales

When you go grocery shopping pay attention to sales and discounts, stores have them ALL the time to push product and inventory so it wouldn’t make sense to not take advantage of them.

You know the ladies you hear about who do couponing full time, that end up buying half the store and end up paying pennies on the dollar if anything at all.

Now I’m not saying to go to that extreme, but they’re proof that it can be beneficial.

Even at a smaller (not extreme) scale. Saving a few extra dollars here and there won’t heart, so why not?

Milk Living On Campus

If you live on campus take advantage of the amenities that are included with living there.

If your campus offers a gym/recreation center use it, the same can apply for any amenities that are on your campus, if they’re included why spend money using the same service elsewhere?

They’re already charging you an arm and a leg to be there so why not try and get your money’s worth.

Want more ways you can make your dollar stretch? Here’re 15 more ways you can stretch your dollar in college.

We’re going to change course now and shift from ways to save money to how you can make it yourself without having to kill yourself doing it.

Making Extra Money In College

Party Promotion

If you’ve always been a social person and enjoy the party scene, you might want to try your hand at promoting parties.

With social media being so prevalent today you can utilize your following or someone else’s to promote a party and charge a set fee per admission.

You’ll get the DJ’s, entertainers, or even possibly celebrity entertainers to theses events and get as many people to the event as you can.

more people = more tickets bought = higher payout for you.

It might take a little work to get started, but with the right scene and enough promotion, you should be able to turn a profit fairly quickly.

Career Counseling

If you have good communication skills try meeting with recruiters and employers to see what they’re looking for in an employee and what positions they have available.

You can gather information like positions, requirements, pay, job description, company information and present this as a service for students looking for jobs.

They pay you a fee for the information and you present it to them with the only thing left for them to do is select a job and submit a resume.

Student looking for a career -> Goes to you -> You give them info. -> You charge for your service

You could start a website offering these services, sell e-books, PDF’s, or meet with your client’s face to face, whatever you feel is the best fit.

Start Tutoring

Maybe you excel in a specific subject or maybe even all your subjects, this can be a skill worth sharing.

Just because you find a particular subject easy this doesn’t everyone else does too.

Just take a serious look at your fellow classmates and I’m sure you’ll find some struggling, who do you see needs help? This can be where you come in.

You can offer to tutor them for a per hour rate, or per session to help them understand the subject and improve their grades.

Your grades can be your credibility and you can even do a special guarantee that they can have a money back guarantee if they don’t pass a test or paper after your services if you’re confident enough.

Note: Like anything, the quality of service you offer can make or break your business. Your clients get good grades, positive word spreads. Your clients fail their tests, negative words spreads even faster.

Offer “Designated Driver”/Morning After Services

You know how it goes, no one wants to be the designated driver so someone is forced to be the one to have no fun for the night, people hate it.

If your school is in a fairly small town taxi’s or even Uber’s might not be that common. So you can capitalize on this.

  1. You can become an Uber and promote yourself online or social media, saying you’re free on the weekends.
  2. You can even take it up a notch by offering a pickup service to all those students who partied a little too hard and need a ride to their apt or dorm.
    1. You can have water or even snacks for your customers when you pick them up to make you that much more popular over any competition you might have.

You know how the story goes, no one wants to be the designated driver, so someone is forced to be it and they end up being miserable their whole night out.

Just a phone and car are really all you need.

Start a small food stand or truck

This might be the little more costly thing on this list, but still, isn’t going to break the bank, this can be anything from a full on food truck (if you have the capital) to some really good BBQ out the back of a truck.

Maybe even a food stand for all that matter, if it’s good enough people will come.

There will probably be some legalities you’ll have to get straight before hand such as inspection, licensing, and an approved location, but the opportunity is still there.

So if you’re someone who has some skill in the kitchen this might be something worth looking into.

Graphic Art Designing Services

This is something for those of you creative types, if you feel you’ve always had a knack for creating designs and aren’t technology illiterate, graphic design could be right up your ally.

Might not pay you the $1,000’s you are hoping for but it can be a nice side income, but if you’re really good and attract some high profile clients you could have something going there.

You can place your services in places like 99 Designs and Fiverr. (There are a couple key differences between the two you should consider before going forward)

99 Designs do pay more (can run up in the several $100’s for one design), but you have to compete with other creators head on.

When a client requests a service, it’s shown public to creators who offer that service, giving them free reign to send their designs in and the client will select the design he likes and then the creator gets paid.

  • Pro-  You can get paid more per job.
  • Con- Just because you put up a design doesn’t mean you are going to get paid.

Fiverr is known for having payments in increments of $5, so services are usually $5, and then add-ons are extra such as special files or revision.

The key difference here though is clients select you to make the design and once they do they’re yours. Plus you get paid before the work is done upon the client’s request.

  • Pro- When you create a design you know you are getting paid to do so. (Unless the client isn’t happy with your service)
  • Con- The payment per design for a typical client will be fairly low so to generate some true profit you’re going to have to shoot for quality and quantity.

With the growing interest in the internet and online business people everywhere who don’t have the creativity or the time to go and create their own designs or logo’s for their brand’s/sites, they’ll go to you.

If you want to go one step further you can even set up social accounts and generate a following with some of the images you’ve created where people can browse and request backgrounds, headers, and images they might want. (just link them to your service platform and you’re in business.)

Affiliate Marketing

Probably one of the most common or frequently talked about ways of making money online, this can be perfect for the broke college student who likes’s helping people and of course has a limited budget and time.

Affiliate Marketing is a type of online based marketing where you (the affiliate) promote other people’s product’s or services online.

You join a companies affiliate program (<- article on great one’s for beginners) where they give you a link with a tracking ID and every time a person clicks on that link and makes a purchase on the landing page (the company’s store/product) you get a % of the sale.

So it’s essentially like you’re selling online except you don’t have the headache of dealing with product development, branding, etc.

Of course, there is more that comes to practicing this business model such as forms of marketing and getting a website set up, but like anything it can be learned and it’s typically fairly cheap to get going.

Sounds like something that interests you?  Here’s a free beginners guide to Affiliate Marketing, on me.

Website Creation

This is something that is absolutely booming right now it’s ridiculous. On average there are 571 websites created EVERY MINUTE.

If you’re someone who’s a little tech savvy and is good with working with people, this might be something worth giving a look into.

You can do this on your own time when you want, usually within a set deadline and if you do quality work the payout can be fairly large.

Companies everywhere are wanting to make their presence known online and what better way to start than with a professional looking website.

There seems to be a website for anything these days, and there’s no way every one of these users knows how to create a good looking website, that’s why they turn to website creators/designers for help.

NOTE: Quality is key here. Poor work = Poor payment. Quality work = Quality pay.

Makeup/Hair Services

If you’ve been known to be good with makeup and hair, or maybe you get complimented all the time on it, you should maybe put these skills to work, they might just be worth something.

  • Weddings
  • Proms
  • Quinceaneras
  • Senior Pictures
  • etc…

All opportunities you could use to grow this kind of business!

This can be done anywhere from a studio from your apartment bathroom, as long as your work speaks for itself you shouldn’t have any problem.

You can charge per person, give group discounts, and use the power of social networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, to get your work out there.

If it’s good enough, you’ll have people lining up to get an appointment with you.

Become A Personal Trainer

Do you consider yourself physically fit? Do you have people coming up to you at the gym asking kind of exercises you do and diets you follow? Maybe you have something here worth pursuing…

People, ESPECIALLY in college are looking to get in shape, the classic six pack, toned arms, and a small waist, if you’re someone who has achieved these things, you have a skill worth sharing.

Just go to your local gym and ask if they’re hiring any trainers, or you could get your clients outside of a gym, and meet them there, whatever works best for you.

You could as far in depth as writing personal diet routines and workout plans to keeping it simple and just helping them in their lifting sessions.

NOTE: It’ll probably be best to offer a premium service such as diet/workout routines to separate yourself from the competition, plus, premium service = premium price = more $$$ for you. (always a good thing)

Offer A Tour Guide Service For New Students

You’ve seen them before the freshman arriving on campus with absolutely NO idea where they are going, if you’re a charismatic person and familiar with your school, offer Touring Services!

You could rent out a van or take them on a walk throughout the campus, show them around the town, all the best clubs, and places to eat, good apartments to stay at all that stuff!

Just remember back to when you started and all the stuff you wish you knew before you got there, and BOOM there you go, you already have the foundation laid for your business!

Pet Sitting

If you’re good with animals you can try your hand at pet sitting, you can offer a pet sitting service where you either watch a dog for an extended amount of time (they stay with you) or you do regular check ups for feeding and letting out. 

From here you would just charge accordingly.just check on or watch someone’s pet for a set amount of time.

Since most people clearly wouldn’t want their dog going hungry or completely destroying their house while they’re away they shouldn’t have any problem paying someone to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Just get the word out with flyers, social media, whatever you can and get the ball rolling.

Food Delivery Service

Now this is something a little creative for you (somewhat, lol), more of being every college students dream, get food delivered from any place!

You can offer a food delivery service just starting with yourself or multiple friends and deliver food for restaurants that don’t offer delivery service, or even grocery shopping!

You just charge a fee for the delivery and amount of effort and distance traveled for the food and the buyer pays when you deliver.

This can really be lucrative in a college town when most students are either busy or frankly just to0 lazy to go and get it themselves, they’ll be willing to pay your “convenience” fee to get it to them.

Here’s a little article on how 2 Iowa students made this a reality- Students Create Fast Food Delivery Business

Start A blog!

Starting a blog hold’s a lot of similarities with Affiliate Marketing but depending on what you’re content is about can affect the structure of it, being why I kept them separate.

While Affiliate Marketing you are directly marketing and selling product’s, a blog can be over just about anything, something you find interesting or just fun.

You can, of course, throw in some links to promote product’s you mention but most successful blogs depend on the traffic they get and sell advertising space on their site.

The more traffic you get -> The more valuable your advertising space is

If you feel you have a voice worth hearing if it’s in sports, fashion, personal development, whatever it is, it might be your next big thing!

Some of the world’s most successful blogs bring in thousands and even tens of thousands a day if it’s from selling products, linking advertisements, or offering services, running a successful blog can be HIGHLY lucrative!

If you want a little more info. on how all this works, here’s a little article I wrote a while back covering the subject- How do you make money blogging?, free of charge of course.

Start A Resume Writing Service

The job hunt is a common reality during and after college, but most college students don’t’ know how to write a good resume. So if you been through the job hiring process and have shown success with your resumes try offering your services to those unfamiliar. 

Since a resume is sometimes the first time an employer hears about a prospect it is essential it is well written, professional, and structured.

You can go to job fairs, or your school’s career centers and pass out your info to students looking to apply or even set up online, whatever you can do to get the word out.

Create Your Own Custom College T-Shirts & Hats

Look around your school campus, almost every other shirt or hat is going to have some sort of school logo, saying , or symbol of some sort pertaining towards the school. You can capitalize on this!

If you feel the shirt could use a little “spicing” up or even have your own original ideas, go for it! You can start with as little as a few shirts and set them up for sale and see how they do.

If they sell out almost instantly, then you just might have something going here, just take the profits and put them into more shirts, sell those, and then just scale and repeat!

NOTE: Be sure your school doesn’t impose some sort of regulation about using their school logo or name without their permission, if so, you might want to go with your own original design to avoid any future conflicts.


Simple and as obvious as it gets, but I thought I would include it anyway. The classic babysitting gig, but if you find the opportunities are there, take them!

Profit is profit, and for what it’s worth, the kids are probably going to be asleep half the time you’re there so you’re just getting paid for staying up and watching tv, which truthfully most of us do already, so it’s not that big of a deal.

Sell Other People’s Products Online (Arbitrage)

What is retail arbitrage exactly?

It’s the selling of other company’s discounted products for a profit and has probably been one of the oldest practiced business models to date.

This is great if you’re looking to turn a quick profit in a short amount of time with little investment.

The process is fairly simple, you gauge a product’s demand (at a certain price range) -> Find the product online or in store for a lower price -> Sell online for a profit.

Commonly practiced on Amazon, added with their growth and the addition of new products to the market every day it’s a business model that doesn’t show any sign of fading away anytime soon.

This sound like something you might be interested learning more about? Check out this free training on the online arbitrage process and try it for yourself.

Offer Party Equipment Rental Services

Did you throw a massive party a while back and bought all this stuff that’s just laying around?

Maybe it’s a fogger, some strobe lights, games, whatever it is, you can make money off it! Just put it out there that if anyone is looking for some party equipment (whatever you have to offer) and if they’re interested they can rent it for (set price).

People would MUCH rather spend a fraction of the price rather than full price, so it shouldn’t be that hard to attract customers.

Start A Content Creation Service

If you’re a good writer who can follow a format, perhaps you can channel these skills into content creation.

You’ll write posts, articles, pages, excerpts, sales pages, or even advertisements for a company or customer and they pay you in return.

In some cases, you can even get a commission from how much your writing converts, the better content you create the higher paying customers you attract.

So with this kind of service be mindful of the kind of work you’re doing, your reputation will highly impact the kind of customer base you attract.

Start A Moving Service

If you and some friends are some strong able body guys, start a moving service!

Rent out a truck or trailer and help people move into their dorms or apartments. This can be especially lucrative at the beginning of the year when all the new students are coming, having to avoid all the heavy lifting themselves will be worth paying for to most.

Car Detailing

Gear heads listen up! If you detail your car or truck seemingly all the time and pay attention to every little detail from the rims on the outside to the crevices in the seat, you might want to start making something out of it.

It’s no secret that car enthusiasts love a well-polished look on their rides, and you might just be the guy or gal they were looking for.

You can charge anywhere from hourly rates to packages being how detailed you are going to get.

NOTE: If it’s just a basic cleaning and wax you can charge a flat rate but if it’s a full scrub down and polish along with detailing the interior you might want to charge a little more.

Places That offer College Discounts (Coming soon)

Wrapping Things Up…

If you’re a broke college student hopefully this can turn things around for you.

This will be a growing and evolving list and is the heart of Broke College Solutions, being broke in college is a real problem and is nothing I take lightly.

If you want more feel free to browse the site in any of these categories to see if something interests you.

Until next time,

Tyler of Broke College Solutions





P.S. We have a serious Taco Bell addiction and the affiliate links on our site lets us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

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