College students are inundated with routine expenses. From tuition payments and course materials to monthly rent and utility bills, the costs associated with higher education can be quite significant, and not very flexible where leisure and entertainment are concerned. According to 2013 data from Marketing Charts, discretionary spending accounted for roughly 28% of college student expenditures in 2013. The remaining 72% went toward expenses for education and maintaining a residence.
Students able to create an effective budget plan and maintain a frugal lifestyle will be able to spend their money on meals, movies, concerts, nice clothing, and other non-essential purchases. Thankfully, many companies help mitigate these costs even further by providing discounts exclusively for enrolled college students. This article features a comprehensive list of restaurant chains, clothing retailers, and other companies with special offers geared toward students on a budget.
Important Note: Some of the deals and promotions listed on this page will only be available at participating business locations.
Tips for Saving on Entertainment
Before we begin, here are a few tips for all college students who would like to save money on non-essential purchases:
- Bring your student ID everywhere: As you'll see from the list below, many discounts are contingent on the customer displaying a valid student identification card.
- Plan leisurely activities carefully: Breakfast options in restaurants tend to be cheaper than dinners, while matinee performances are less expensive than evening shows. Magazine subscriptions, clothing items, and other purchases may also be cheaper during certain times of the year (such as the post-holiday months).
- Sign up on a mailing list: Many companies will enable customers to register for email notifications about discounts, promotions, and other savings opportunities.
- Visit online coupon sites: Groupon and Livingsocial are two of the most popular websites that provide deals on meals, live entertainment, and other leisurely activities. Additionally, StudentRate.com features deals and promotions reserved for enrolled college students.
- Purchase a company discount card: The Student Advantage Card allows collegiate men and women to enjoy deals at dozens of different participating chains. The International Student Identity Card can be used at thousands of business locations located in more than 100 different countries (including the United States).
College students spent roughly $42.1 billion on food in 2013, nearly double what they spent on clothing and entertainment. Although many students adhere to a strictly cost-effective diet of home-cooked meals, most young people relish the opportunity to enjoy a meal out with friends. Here are some of the nationwide restaurant chains that offer discounted dining options for college students.
- Arby's: The nationwide sandwich chain (known for its roast beef offerings) awards a 10% discount to all students who present a valid student ID. More deals are available for customers who sign up for an Arby's Insider membership.
- Buffalo Wild Wings: Especially popular with sports fans, B-Dubs offers a 10% discount to college students with a valid student ID. Some participating stores offer additional deals, such as weekly discounts on boneless chicken tenders, wings, and other menu items.
- Burger King: College students receive a 10% discount with valid student ID when they dine at Burger King. Certain food and beverage items are also offered at reduced rates on the BK Fresh Offers menu.
- Chipotle: Students who present a valid ID at Chipotle locations will receive a complimentary drink with their food purchase.
- Dairy Queen: Many DQ locations award a 10% discount to students with a valid ID. Other promos include the '$5 Lunch' and deals available through the Blizzard Fan Club.
- McDonald's: College students who visit the Golden Arches will receive a 10% discount when they present a valid ID. The chain is known for numerous promotions and discounts that tend to rotate on a monthly basis.
- Papa John's: Students who register with the Papa Rewards program and earn enough points from food and beverage orders will receive a complimentary pizza.
- Pizza Hut: Pizza Hut offers a rotating menu of discounts on various dinner options. Recent deals include a garlic parmesan pizza for $10, eight boneless chicken wings for $5, and a 'Big Dinner Box' (complete with two pizzas, breadsticks, and wings) for $19.99.
- Qdoba: College students with a valid ID will receive a complimentary beverage with meal purchases. The Qdoba Rewards program also includes a free birthday entree and the chance to earn complimentary meals by accruing points from other purchases.
- Subway: Students who visit Subway will receive a 10% discount by showing a valid student ID. The restaurant chain also features a floating 'Simple $6' menu, as well as a list of monthly discounts.
- Waffle House: Located predominantly in the U.S. South, Waffle House offers a 10% discount to all student guests with a valid ID.
Although course attendance and studying will constitute the bulk of a college student's regular schedule, many enjoy seeing movies, attending concerts, visiting museums, and engaging in other "entertaining" activities when they are away from campus. Here are a few entertainment companies and venues that award various discounts to enrolled college students.
- AMC Theatres: Select AMC locations will award a discount on movie tickets for students with a valid ID who choose to see a show on Thursday evenings.
- Cinemark: Participating Cinemark theaters in 28 states award student discounts on movie showings (exact amounts will vary by location).
- Harkins Theatres: Select Harkins locations throughout the U.S. Southwest offer discounts to student moviegoers who present a valid ID.
- Regal: Select Regal Cinemas locations offer student discounts for all guests who present a valid ID, as well as military service members, veterans, children, and senior citizens.
- Spotify: This advertisement-free, online music provider reduces the monthly premium for college students by 50%.
- Museums and Performance Halls: In addition to nationwide chains, many individual entertainment venues offer discounted rates to the many college students that visit their establishments throughout the year. These include the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall performance venues in New York City, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, and the New England Aquarium. Please visit the websites of entertainment venues near you to learn more about student-friendly deals.
Clothing and Retail
For college students on a budget, there is a notable difference between essential clothing items and fashionable garments and accessories. Nonetheless, the following reputed brands offer discounted rates on certain items at participating locations for students. Additionally, students would be smart to keep an eye out for semi-annual sales and shipping promotions for online purchases.
- Ann Taylor: By signing up for the 'Style for Students' program at Ann Taylor, students who present a valid ID will receive a discount up to 20% on clothing items. This offer is not valid at Ann Taylor LOFT locations.
- Banana Republic: Students and teachers can receive a discount on clothing purchases of up to 15% at select Banana Republic locations by signing up for the 'Style with Class' promotion.
- Club Monaco: A discount of up to 20% is available for men's and women's clothing at Club Monaco (both in-stores and online) for college students who sign up for the chain's student promotion.
- J.Crew: With the 'J. Crew Teacher and College Student Discount' promotion, all customers who present a valid ID will receive a discount of up to 15% for in-store purchases.
- Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores: High school and college students receive a discount of 10% on all Jo-Ann purchases. Eligible students will also receive two coupons that may be used to buy items in-store and/or online.
- Madewell: Students who present a valid ID for in-store Madewell clothing purchases will receive a discount of 15%.
- Medelita: One of the country's largest suppliers of professional laboratory attire, Medelita offers a 15% discount on scrubs, lab coats, and other items for eligible students who complete the online form.
Subscriptions and Memberships
A number of magazines, online retailers, and other businesses offer memberships that include purchase deals, free shipping, and other perks. Some will sweeten the deal even further by discounting the member price for college students.
- Amazon: The Amazon Student program is available to students who sign up after March 20, 2014, for a membership rate of $49. The program includes six months of free two-day shipping for all eligible Amazon.com purchases (including items bought through Amazon Prime).
- The Economist: Students can receive a discounted subscription of this popular news magazine for $96 for all online and print articles, which equals roughly $1.88 per week. A standard one-year subscription without the discount comes to roughly $3.14 per week.
- The New York Times: All print and digital articles from the NYT are available at half-price for currently enrolled college students.
- Sam's Club: College students who sign up for the Essential Savings program at Sam's Club will receive a complimentary $15 gift card and access to various discounts and promotions throughout the year at participating locations.
- The Wall Street Journal: Thanks to the 'Student Journal' promotion, college students can gain access to print and digital articles from WSJ for only $1 per week.
In addition to the leisure and entertainment-oriented expenses listed above, the following companies provide automotive care, moving vehicle rentals, Internet access, and other useful services at a discounted rate for college students.
- AWeber Communications: This Internet and technology provider offers a 20% discount to all student clients with a valid college email address (i.e., one that ends with .edu or .ac).
- Budget Truck Rental: Students with a valid ID will receive a 20% discount for local moves and a 15% discount for one-way long-distance relocations when they rent a moving truck from Budget. This offer is valid seven days a week.
- Collegeboxes: This service from U-Haul allows current students to register online for free package pick-up and delivery, as well as discounts on different national and international storing and shipping options.
- FedEx: Students who present a valid ID will receive a 30% discount on documents mailed through FedEx Pak and a 20% discount on packages shipped through FedEx IP service.
- Penske Truck Rental: College students with a valid ID will receive not only a 10% discount when they rent a Penske truck for one-way moves, but an additional 10% discount for booking the vehicle online, as well. No underage surcharges will be applied for individuals between the ages of 18 and 23, and all Penske vehicles are equipped for 24/7 roadside assistance.