Tuition and fees, textbooks and school supplies, meal swipes and gas money — sometimes it feels like the bills never end. When all is said and done, who has the extra cash to go out for fun? Well, here’s some “free” advice: Check out these fun and free options that are perfect picks for cash-strapped students. We’ve laid out a schedule to show you how easy it can be to have a literally free day, from morning till night. So take notes, call your friends, and get ready to live it up without bringing your bank balance down.
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Free breakfasts for college students
Get your motor running by putting some fuel in the tank. No more meal swipes left this week? Or maybe you’re just bored by school food? Fill your belly with these special offers:
Get your caffeine for free. Need your morning perk? Download the Dunkin’ Donuts app and sign up for the DD Perks rewards program. All new members get a free drink just for signing up. You also get a free drink on your birthday and for every 200 points you earn. (Maybe you’ll get two free drinks if you sign up on your birthday?!) Ask at your favorite cafe whether they’re similarly generous.
Flip for free pancakes. Join IHOP’s Pancake Revolution and get a free Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity stack of pancakes.
Investigate the pastry case. Not into pancakes … or still hungry? Join MyPanera and get a free cookie, muffin, or other pastry as a new member. (It’s also free to see whether your friends can remember the words to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or If You Give a Moose a Muffin.)
Free activities for college students
OK, you’re fueled up and ready to go. But what to do? Well, there are a few ways to take on the day. We’ve categorized them based on mood, but of course feel free to mix and match.
If you’re feeling chill:
Borrow a movie. Why pay a monthly subscription or DVD rental fee when you can get a bunch of movies for nothing at the library?
Stream a slew of shows. If you don’t feel like going all the way to the library, open your PC and stream movies for free. Students can get six months of free Amazon Prime Student, which also includes student-exclusive discounts on hundreds of items. (P.S. If you do this, you’ll also get a free six-month subscription to The Washington Post.)
Support the local arts. Check your university news or community papers for a calendar of events — from art walks to gallery shows to concerts, there are almost always free options.
Settle down with a good audiobook. If you have an Amazon Prime account (which you can get free with the link above), Audible offers a 30-day free trial that scores you two free audiobooks. If you don’t have a Prime account, you can still get one free audiobook, so tell your family about it. The thriftiest of your relatives will be so excited when you share money-saving tips with them. (#adulting)
If you’re feeling creative:
Start a podcast. Have something to say that could inform others? Download Audacity onto your computer, and start recording. Learn more about how to get started with a podcast, and get those creative juices flowing.
Get free design software. If you’re a design or engineering student, you can use your .edu email to download more than 50 free programs at Autodesk. Or get a free trial of any Creative Cloud app from Adobe.com, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and more. (After that, you can get a student-teacher discounted version at 60% off.)
Visit a museum. Immerse yourself in art to ignite that creative spark. A lot of museums offer free admission on certain days to students with their ID. Check out their websites or call to verify. For instance, students at New York University get free access to a variety of local museums, plus discounts at museum stores and cafes.
If you’re feeling outdoorsy:
Go geocaching. A free way to find free stuff — who could ask for more? Sign up for a free Geocaching account and join the national scavenger hunt! (Don’t forget to bring an unwanted but interesting item to replace what you find.)
Take a hike. The fresh air will do you good, and a lot of trails are free to traverse. Just check out AllTrails to find a good spot near you, and call ahead to see whether there’s a fee (or ask if you can get the fee waived by showing your student ID).
Tour your own city. There’s no better way to explore your town than by foot. You can pick a theme, too. Historical spots? The coolest architecture? Cafes with free live performances? You’ll impress your friends and family with all of your local knowledge. To get started, check out your town’s visitor center or city hall. You could also talk to someone at your student activities office to see what hot-spot ideas they have, or check the library for a local guidebook.
Free snacks for college students
Now, at some point you’re going to get hungry from all that free fun, so here are a few food options to tide you over.
Snack on an app. Sign up for California Pizza Kitchen’s Dough Rewards and get a free small plate. Sad disclaimer: The small plates don’t offer pizza, but they do offer crispy mac and cheese. (Not a bad trade-off, in our opinion.)
Take a taco or two. If mac and cheese isn’t your thing (we won’t judge you … much), Del Taco offers two free grilled chicken tacos when you join their fan club. If it’s your birthday, you’ll get a free shake, too.
Not near any of these? Check out the website of your favorite chains and local eateries to see if they offer rewards for new customers or college students. Dozens of restaurants offer items ranging from burgers to biscuits, if you simply sign up.