Student Life

34 Ways to Have Fun on a College-Student Budget

As college students, we save EVERY penny. There are few unique ways to have fun in college while not breaking the bank.

Student Contributor, Mary Bellm

September 21, 2021

34 Ways to Have Fun on a College-Student Budget
Don’t forget to use your student ID for discounts around town!
I’m always looking for fun things to do with my friends, and if they’re free, even better! Let’s take a look at 34 creative ways to have fun on a college budget!

Spend a Little, Get a Lot!

If you’re looking to spend a little money to have fun, the below section is just for you. College is all about the discounts, so don’t forget about using your Student ID! Always be sure to check if there’s a student discount offered where you’re going!
  1. This one is for roommates - have a spare change jar, and an idea jar. When you fill the change jar, grab an idea from the idea jar and see how much you can do with the change you’ve saved! It’s an easy way to have fun with your roommate and be thrifty at the same time!
  2. For all of the avid watchers out there, if you subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, have a movie of TV show marathon!
    With Amazon Prime, Hulu, Paramount+, and Appletv+ all offering some sort of student discount, there’s so many ways to watch something that it’s almost too hard to pick!
  3. If you receive coupons for food places, take advantage of those coupons! Some places might let you use a student ID on top of that—you’d be spending a bit of money on food while also saving a little! Have some appetizers with friends or decide to treat yourself or others with some dessert.
  4. Bookish? Read a book with your friends, then rent, check out, or stream the movie! If you don’t own the book, you can find a copy cheap on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local library, or online. When you’ve finished reading the book, pass it around to your friend group. Want an idea? It’s fun to see how Harry Potter or Percy Jackson change from page to screen!
  5. One-act plays, choral shows, or band concerts performed by your fellow college friends, are all some fun things to go to. Some of these events are free, and others you must pay a little to get a ticket to, but again, that student discount will come in handy for a cheaper ticket.
  6. Anybody up for a movie night? The only paid thing here would be snacks and popcorn, if you decide to rent a movie from the library or use an existing streaming service! You could go full out to the movies and buy a ticket, but you have to admit, the ability to pause a movie sometimes wins. You could also rent one to watch from Amazon or other streaming services for a small fee.
  7. Anybody go to garage sales anymore? College-town garage sales usually have college merch in some form. Or, if you’re just there to look, garage sales are a fun way to spend a weekend. Some cities or towns have a set weekend for garage sales—investigate and have fun!
  8. If you’re a shopaholic on a budget, thrifting is always the way to go. Local thrift shops, Goodwill, or the clearance section at some bigger box stores are places to get that amazing new outfit or have some fun with fashion.
  9. Go to college in a small town? If your town hosts a farmers' market, go to one! There are usually crafts, baked goods, live music, and more. And, if you’re a good haggler, you can negotiate product prices if you think they are too high.
  10. BOGO anyone? Sometimes restaurants or coupons get you a buy one get one, either for later or for a friend. This is an easy way to get more bang for your buck.
  11. We all know a college student stereotype is that we always have Ramen. But is that such a bad thing? Grab a few extra ingredients, and have a Ramen noodle cook off in your dorm kitchen with your friends, or your hallmates. It’s a cheap staple, you can have a group tasting contest, and some frugal fun.
  12. Have you heard of the Dollar Store date? This one is pretty easy to adapt, whether you’re in a relationship or just with friends. Everyone gets a theme (easy to Google one if you can’t think of one!), you set a dollar limit, and you meet up after 15-20 minutes and compare what you found. If you want to go ahead and buy it, you can, but put it back if you are just looking for some fun.
  13. Plan an outdoor adventure! This could be walking or biking around, hiking, visiting a local park, or meeting up in a similar scenic location. Bonus: if you want to include food, have everyone bring a snack and have a picnic.
  14. Plan a weekend staycation with your roommate(s) or friends! Play theme music, ask everyone to bring snacks and a game. Listen to music, read, whatever’s your jam! Try pulling up some tropical screensavers, putting on a new Spotify playlist, having pineapple fruit cups, and buying some sunglasses for a tropical-themed staycation.
  15. Try the classic college past time, bowling! See if your student discounts apply, too. A pair of shoes and a couple of games usually doesn't cost a lot.
  16. Fight! Fight! Fight!...with water balloons, that is! It’s not hard to find a bunch of cheap balloons as we near the end of summer!
  17. Look for local trivia nights hosted by student organizations or local businesses! This is a great way to have some fun, and it’s usually not a lot of money to participate. Also, you might score some free snacks!
  18. Arcades are always fun, and all those quarters mean a lot of fun for a couple dollars.
  19. Aquariums may or may not be cheap, depending on where you are, but a student discount might be offered, or they might have less pricey scheduled events!
  20. If you are a foodie, try looking for local food festivals! Samples are always involved, and it’s an easy way to explore new foods, or rediscover some foods you forgot about.
  21. Save a Little, Get a Lot!

    Want to be frugal, but still have fun? Here are 14, free ideas for you and your college friends!
  22. Keep an eye on your college’s student-events calendar. There are bound to be a lot of free activities, including canvas painting, outdoor movies, and games! Some events may require you to you sign up to reserve your spot, others you can just show up.
  23. If you, your roommate, parents, or friends are already subscribed to a streaming service, then it’s either cheap or free or you to use! Have fun watching some new shows. You could also look into free streaming TV, such as PlutoTv or Tubi.
  24. Maybe you’re missing concerts, and don’t have much spending money? Hunt down local, live music shows at restaurants on the weekend, find a YouTube concert video, or go to a student band concert.
  25. If your campus allows in-person sporting events, attend as many as you feel comfortable with. Attending them at your school, is fun and usually free. You’ll also get to see your friends and cheer on the team.
  26. Want a free movie night? Yes please! If you have a campus library, they often rent movies—zero cost to students.
  27. Organize a game night! Break out the games you brought from home, or a few dorms offer board games to borrow. This is a fun and free way to spend a few hours, outside of technology.
  28. Window shopping or browsing is a fun way to get out and about without having to spend anything! You can do this virtually on Amazon, physically in a store like Walmart or Marshalls, or hit up a garage sale to browse some time away!
  29. It’s still farmers’ market season, and there are a lot more than just vegetables to buy there! Vendors often offer free samples, there are new and interesting people to talk to and pets. If you’re looking to talk to people for some interaction without spending a lot, head over to your local farmers market and talk to the vendors about their products.
  30. Decluttering may sound boring but hear me out...College students acquire SO much stuff. Whether it’s items from free activities where you picked up all those plastic cups, you brought too much from home when you came back to school, or you just…acquire more things! If you don’t use something and you don’t want it anymore, see if anyone in your hall or dorm is willing to pay you for it. Earn some extra cash, gain some space, and deal with less stuff to take back home with you next time you go.
  31. Free tours or local events are always interesting! Hit one of these up with a group of friends and see what happens.
  32. Plan a free outdoor adventure! This could be walking or biking around, hiking, going to a local park, or meeting up in a new scenic location.
  33. Calling all gamers! Have fun on your XBox, Playstation, Wii, or Switch. Set up a game tournament your friends brought a gaming system to school.
  34. Try a virtual tour! Museums and Google Earth can be a great way to escape without going anywhere.
  35. Maybe you are THE resident fitness buff? Visit your student recreation center for a workout. Most of the time you already pay for access to your campus gym via your student fees! Or, plan a group workout session with your friends.
While all of these ideas are fresh in your mind, get started planning a few activities! Get your college friends together, pick one (or a few) to do, and have some fun!

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