How to Save Money As a College Student in NYC

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living in the city that never sleeps, it’s that it’s super expensive to do, especially as a student paying tuition. Seemingly everything costs more money solely because of the bustling location, from coffee to doing laundry. Being originally from a suburban place, I’m able to see the difference in prices of similar things from a suburb to a city. So, how is it possible to save money when the starting price of everything is so expensive?

Things to make use of:

Target RedCard and Cartwheel

I personally love Target and so I’m always on the lookout for how I can score deals there. The two best ways I’ve found are the Target RedCard and Cartwheel. The RedCard is your choice of a debit card or credit card that gets you an instant 5% off every purchase, free two-day shipping (when you can’t make it to the store), exclusive coupons, special early access to deals, and more. Cartwheel, which can be found within the general Target app, offers various coupons everyday that can help you save.

Amazon Prime

As busy college students, Amazon Prime can be our saving grace for getting last-minute books for an affordable price. As students, we can even get a free 6-month trial period and then Prime discounted. This gives cheaper access to benefits like free two-day shipping on lots of items, which is amazing for when you realize you totally forgot to buy that book you need for class by the end of the week. For study breaks, it also gets you unlimited streaming of TV shows and movies, such as Suits and Lady Bird.

TJMaxx, Marshalls and Homegoods

I personally make great use of these stores because everything there is automatically sold for lower than the retail price without having to give up the brand names. All three stores have a variety of necessities, from clothes to shoes to food. These stores also contain well-known, quality brands; you just to be on the lookout for them. Fun fact: I’ve even been able to find less expensive Starbucks K-cups at Homegoods!


Shoes can be so expensive, and sometimes they can be necessary to replace. But who wants to pay full price when you don’t have to? DSW sells a variety of high-quality, popular brands for a discounted price. They often have deals like 20% going on in addition to these savings. If you’re a rewards member (it’s free to sign up!), you can rack up points that help you save even more money. One thing I really like about DSW is that you can combine coupons and points on items that are already discounted.

Thrift shops/The Goodwill/The Salvation Army

If you’re looking to save even more, these are great options. These second-hand stores often have great buys at much cheaper prices that would be found at retail stores. You can check out a list of some popular thrift shops in NYC here.

Loyalty rewards systems and email/mail subscriptions

No matter where you like to shop, make use of the store’s loyalty rewards systems, if it has one. It can also be helpful to stock up on certain types of items at one place when possible. For example, you can save more money from shopping solely at Sephora or Ulta than both because shopping at just one makes it easier to rack up savings. Additionally, subscribing to emails and mail from your favorite stores can make it hard to resist shopping when you don’t need to, but it is a great way to be informed of sales and coupons.

Holiday sales

It seems like multiple stores have sales going on for every single American holiday one could think of, in addition to “friends and family” sales. Although these sales can sometimes be a trap to encourage more spending, they can often be a real way to save, especially on items you’ve been eyeing for a while. Thus, it can be helpful to shop during a holiday for something you need and be on the lookout for future holiday deals.

Things to avoid:

It can also be helpful to avoid certain places that tend to be more expensive by nature. These include cute little coffee shops and boutiques. Their starting prices tend to be higher than at places like retail chains and often don’t have loyalty rewards systems that help you save money.

Although this goes without saying, it’s very helpful to avoid shopping for things that maybe aren’t necessary at this exact moment. For example, maybe you want to buy a new pair of sneakers because your current ones are getting a little worn out; if you wait a little longer until Black Friday sales, maybe you can get the new sneakers you want on sale.