June 21, 2024Financial Tips to Prep for College

Going off to college is both exciting and intimidating. You’ll likely be on your own for the first time, facing new responsibilities and freedoms, meeting new people, and enjoying new experiences.  

As you’re taking steps to prepare for college and making lists of everything you need to do to get ready, don’t forget to add a few money-saving checkboxes to your list. Here are some tips to help you cut down on costs and keep up with your finances while attending college.  

Explore Available Student Discounts  

Never overlook the money-saving potential of student discounts. Many local and chain businesses offer special discounts to college students. You can check with your school’s student center to see if they have a list of participating companies, or you can browse student websites to find a discount database. 

Here are some examples of discounts that are often offered to students:  

  • Movie theaters typically offer discounted tickets when you present your college ID card.  
  • Many subscription and streaming services offer a lower-cost tier of their service catered to students, including software companies.  
  • Lots of retail stores and restaurants offer student discounts, including national chain stores and restaurants as well as locally owned ones.  
  • Concert venues, museums, amusement parks, and other entertainment venues in your area will likely offer reduced-price tickets for students.  

These savings add up! You can have fun on a budget and still get the things you need without paying full price. It’s a win-win!  

Get a Deal on Your Meal Plan 

Selecting a college meal plan can be confusing – you may even feel like you need to already have a degree to understand all the different levels and options! With plans like “unlimited” and “elite” or “silver” and “gold,” it can be difficult to determine the differences between each plan and which is best for you. Review the different features of each so you can choose the best option that matches your dining preferences.  

Plus, you can always balance out your meal plan with stocking up on a few essential groceries to keep in your dorm room and dining out on occasion. Weigh the costs of the lower-priced meal plans versus the expenses of groceries and dining out to see if it’ll help you save. That way, you won’t get stuck in a rut eating the same food all the time!  

Ways to Save on Textbooks 

Check your schedule and syllabus before the first day to see what books and supplies you’ll need for each class. Textbooks are an unavoidable cost of higher learning, but you may be able to avoid the hefty price tags.  

Some classes may offer online textbooks, allowing you to avoid having to purchase a physical book at all. They may even offer this option at a discount, so it’s worth looking into if you’re okay with using an online format.  

However, if you need or prefer to purchase physical textbooks, there are plenty of ways to help you save. You don’t have to buy all your books brand new from the campus bookstore or preferred provider. You may be able to rent some of your books or buy them used. There are also several online bookstores or other sites where you can purchase books for reduced prices, buy them used, or rent them for the semester. Be sure to explore all options and compare the costs.  

Mark Your Calendar for Deal Days  

Keep an eye out for restaurants and other businesses in your college town that offer special weekly deal days. With things like $1 wing night, $2 sushi rolls, or Taco Tuesday specials, you can enjoy a meal out with your friends without encountering a big check. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a break from the campus dining hall. You can even start a tradition with your friends and make it a weekly outing!  

Know Where to Go 

Even if the credit union doesn’t have a branch or an ATM in your campus town, there is no need to worry! You can still easily access your money when you need it.  

  • Surcharge-Free ATMs: Before you leave for school, contact the credit union to ask which ATM networks they serve. They’ll likely be able to help locate several surcharge-free ATMs in your area – helping to avoid costly fees. PEFCU members have access to over 30,000 ATMs across the country. Visit the ATM and Branch Locator at PEFCU.com to see where your nearest surcharge-free ATM is located. 
  • Get Cash Back: If ATMs on or around campus charge withdrawal fees, no worries! Use your debit card at grocery stores and request cash back. It’s a quick and easy way to get money and avoid pesky charges. 

Enroll in PEFCUMobile Banking 

Through PEFCUMobile you can access your accounts anytime, anywhere – which is crucial for busy students. If you haven’t already, download our free PEFCUMobile app and familiarize yourself with mobile banking before move-in day. In just a few taps, you can complete most banking transactions, like depositing checks, reviewing your balances, transferring money, and paying bills.   

Get in the habit of performing a “daily money minute,” where you log into your account, review recent transactions, and check your balances. 

We’re Here to Help! 

Going to college is an exhilarating time, but it’s important to remember the financial aspects of it all. Little costs can add up quickly, so staying on top of your spending is crucial. By taking advantage of these tips, you can manage your money successfully and save when possible!  

If you’re heading off to college soon, we’re here to help you prepare. Please stop by any of our branch locations or call 800-226-6673 to learn which tools and accounts will serve you best as you set out on your own. And parents, we’re here to answer all your questions and ensure your child has access to everything they need to manage their money responsibly. 


Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact PEFCU when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.  

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