There are far too many enticing things to spend your (or your loan’s) money on.
Here are my guilt-free suggestions of where to part with your cash during your studies:
A coffee (or two) with profs you find interesting
Hopefully past first year you are able to take courses you really find inspiring and interesting. Being in university is supposed to be step towards a future academic or professional goal, so why not try to also learn from the professionals and academics who are there every day.
Professors generally are thought of as heartless exam-makers, the only thing standing between you and that perfect GPA (or uninterrupted hangover on Friday morning).
I encourage you get over this fear of your professors, or at least attempt to approach the ones who you think actually have some ability to converse with other humans. Talk to your profs after class, or email them if you are shy.
Make yourself known, even in classes of hundreds. These people truly are resources for you.
Professors can act as future educational or employment references, they can help get you involved in interesting research or employment opportunities, and most importantly, they have spent years in their field and have a wealth of knowledge around actually applying this degree you are paying for.
Speak to your profs and buy them a coffee or two to pick their brain. This investment will surely return back hundreds of times over!
A decent external hard drive and multiple USB keys (with everything backed up on a cloud/google drive)
I’m unsure if I’m dating myself with this suggestion, perhaps in the two years since I’ve graduated all you kids are hip to the external drive thing now. But for the folks whose knowledge of technology doesn’t extend far pass updating a status on facebook, an system of external drive, USB keys and back-up on a cloud is an essential thing for all major school work.
Before I got an external hard drive, I literally had nightmares every day for a month during grad school where someone stole my computer, I lost all my research and I had to start all over.
International work term/school exchange.
This is not the most frugal suggestion, I know.
But, this is one of the few times in your life that a trip to another country will be almost 100% subsidized.
I know many universities allow you to attend another international school while still paying domestic fees, have multiple travel scholarships available and very few people to provide them too.
I did not do this during university because I falsely assumed I was too busy/too involved in extra-curricular activities/afraid I’d miss out on a social life (read: local gossip). A four month semester abroad seemed like an eternity for me. For some reason I thought if I left, my friends and family would never remember who I was again.
Wasn’t I so selfless?
The people in my life who have acted on these really amazing opportunities have only had positive experiences; greater social ties, learning a different language, immersing yourself in a different culture, greater professional and educational networks, and more interesting things to tell all your friends when you get back!