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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

10 Tips for Saving Money in College

Need to save some money during college? Check out these 10 tips from an article by John Fuller on

College can be an expensive endeavor, even with scholarships and other kinds of financial aid.  It's difficult enough balancing a class schedule - the thought of balancing a check book, on the other hand, can strike fear into the hearts of even the most studious mathematicians. 
Everything from textbooks, food, transportation, supplies and entertainment will cost you money.  There's no getting around it, but there are easy ways to save.  Here are several ways to avoid the constant panic of going broke.

1) Buy Textbooks from Used Bookstores
New textbooks from university bookstores can be very expensive.  Brand new editions of chemistry books, for instance, can cost as much as $300. However, you can cut costs on reading materials and not stave.  Look around for used bookstores because the prices are heavily discounted and book conditions are usually good.  If you have enough time before classes start, check out the internet for your books.  Even with shipping charges, prices can turn out to be cheaper from online bookstores.  And don't forget - some or your friends might have taken that course in the past.  Ask around and see if you can borrow or buy from someone you know. 

2) Seek Alternative Transportation
Instead of driving to class and spending money on gas, parking passes and possible tickets, look into a local bus or subway system.  If the system is run by your university, you may even be able to ride for free with a student ID.  If a transportation system doesn't exists (or existing one isn't safe or reliable), try to work out class schedules with friends and carpool.  Or if you're close enough, walk or bike to class and get some much-needed exercise.  

3) Choose the Right Meal Plan
Campus meal plans vary depending on the university - food quality, how often you eat, how much you eat, and location can all factor in.  A meal plan can be a good idea, so do a little research and see if it's worth it.  Grab a brochure; ask meal plan veterans; anything to get a little taste.  Some universities offer off-campus meal plans too.  These usually involve deals with food chains, so make sure the plan is appealing to you.  If you decided to skip out on a meal plan, it's possible to eat enough and eat healthy on your own budget.  Cut out coupons, buy in bulk and sign up for a shopper's discount card.  Be creative and plan dinners with roommates and friends instead of going to more expensive restaurants.

4) Set Up a Student Checking Account
Banks usually cater to college students by offering free checking and savings accounts, allowing you to avoid fees on withdrawals, fund transfers or the minimum amount allowed in the account.  Make sure online banking is an option, as this makes it easier to follow your activity.  Keep track of your account because over-drafting will only cost you more in fees.  So, do what it takes to stay out of the red as much as possible.  

5) Get Organized
It might seem like a hassle, but saving receipts of everything you purchase, from small items to big-ticket items, is a great way to monitor your spending habits.  Try it out for a month.  When your thirty days are up, add up all your expenses and see where your money went.  You'd be surprised at how easy it is to cut back on unnecessary spending.  

6) Be Creative with Your Leisure Time
Everyone needs to unwind after studying and college campuses typically offer all sorts of opportunities - movie theaters, bars, cafes, art centers, parks, etc.  Ask if any of these places offer student discounts.  You can also think of alternative ways to have a good time.  If you make the right choices and use a bit of creativity, you can have fun and save money at the same time.  Plan a picnic in the park; make dinner for a date instead of going out; go for a bike ride around town; play Frisbee golf on campus.  Any of these activities cost a fraction of the typical college experience and can be more fun.  Put down the video game controllers and go outside for some free fresh air!

7) Find a Job
If you can fit it into your busy class schedule, a part-time job is a great way to bring in some extra income and give you some more flexibility with your spending.  Waiting tables or delivering food can bring in great tips, and college-town restaurant are almost always looking for new help. 

8) Get the Right Cell Phone Plan
It's difficult to get by without a cell phone today, but with a little research you can find an affordable plan that fits your needs.  If they're up for it, join a family plan with your parents.  It's usually much cheaper for everyone involved than having separate plans.  If you’re on your own, check out websites that offer comparison of different plans.  You should avoid over-use of text messaging because before you know it, you could rack up hundreds of dollars in texts when you could have communicated the same information for much less.  Send out emails or use free networking messenger sites and apps like Facebook.

9) Be Smart about Apartment Living
If you’re not living in the dorms, then try to split the rent with a few roommates.  When thinking about appliances, see if the apartment complex provides a refrigerator, washer, dryer, microwave or any other handy accessories.  If your parents or friends have any old appliances or furniture lying around, ask them if they’d be willing to part with them.  Electricity, water and heating bills can be costly, so do your best to conserve – turn off lights when you’re not in the room, take a quicker shower and use the A/C and heat sparingly.

10) Look for Scholarships
If you’re applying for college right now or thinking about transferring to another school, it doesn’t hurt to do some research on various types of financial aid provided by the school.  Aside from the obvious chunk of cash you’ll save in the long run, several scholarships offer all sorts of perks and benefits – semester stipends, group trips, special access to useful resources, etc.  If you’re already enrolled but haven’t received any aid, keep trying!  If your grades are good and you show you mean business, many scholarship programs give you the opportunity to apply each semester.