Saving money while in college doesn’t have to be impossible, and, in fact, can even be fun. A lot of both current, and future college students don’t realize it, but, universities know how costly education can be – and housing costs are no exception.
Whether it’s your freshman year, or you’re preparing for graduate school, the burden of college tuition, housing, and food can be tough to handle if you aren’t using all possible resources and strategies. Have you looked into, or researched and compared the top universities in your state for the area of study you desire? Are you certain that you’re attending the most affordable, while profitable university program for you?
Surprisingly, a lot of students, regardless of what year or program they’re in, will neglect, or aren’t aware of the various student discounts available to them. That is, anything from utilities, foods, and even electronics like your college laptop. Also, a lot of college students might get sucked into, and pay the unnecessary price both to their wallet and health for smoking and drinking in excess. But, what are some other commonly avoidable, or ideal resources and strategies to save money while in college?
1. Working Where You Study
Believe it or not, a lot of universities have on-campus jobs in various fields, and even a part-time job in the gift-shop could make all the difference for balancing out your current spending, housing, food, or debt obligations. Also, if you’re lucky – and apply before the semester starts – you may even manage to get a “co-op” position working directly with a professor or scientific researcher in your field of specialty. What better than to get paid for doing what you love?
But, what other job options are there? Well, you can also look into AmeriCorps or Job Corps programs, as this often will allow you to do philanthropic work abroad, while still studying at your university online. Or, even better, studying at a university overseas – which is always exciting! Doing so allows you as a student to not only expand your footprint in the world and your field of study, but, it will also expand your mind and opinion of cultural diversity – and what professional couldn’t use that?
Would you believe that living and studying in a Latin American country like Panama for a semester, or entire school year – if possible – can cost as little as 1/4th the current costs of living where you are? Beautiful, exotic places like this across the globe can offer a great – temporary – solution for saving substantial money, while studying, learning – and even working – abroad.
2. Properly Spending or Investing in Textbooks
This is a rather common topic that comes up, and, in addition to conditioned students, often, freshman or otherwise people returning to college after many years are unaware of the various options when it comes to course materials. For starters, students will likely find both great surprise and pleasure – as well as savings – in discovering that they can rent an “e-Textbook” version (or even buy) online for the fraction of the price of a hardback. In fact, you’ll notice – especially online students – that the majority of books now are either going to be rented to you directly from the university, or, through a trusted third-party company which will expect the book back at the end of the semester.
Also, even if you take classes directly on your university campus, you still may find that using your laptop – or tablet – to rent and use your textbook from sources like Amazon, VitalSource, or Sagepub to be a fraction of the cost, and offer great savings to you.
3. Swap Out McDonald’s for Delicious At-Home Meals
While sure, it’s quite convenient, great for on-the-go, and seemingly tasty, spending $4.00-$8.00 a day on McDonald’s meals is actually more than enough of a budget to eat nicely at home regularly.
That is, this budget-worthy amount easily allowing you to enjoy your fair share of meats, snacks, fruits, and other fun (healthy) meals. A lot of people don’t realize it, but, eating out all the time, may it be fast food or restaurants and “cafés” can really run your tab up. This really takes away money from things that could have otherwise been spent quite productively.
Consider this, explore investing into a BJ’s membership or other major bulk-food and home supplies store – and reap the benefits. These types of outlets will provide all the same major foods, snacks, even meats, and more for a fraction of the price when you buy them in larger quantities. In fact, this can also include otherwise expensive home-cleaning supplies, electronics, and more. So, don’t’ feel limited to using these types of resources for food-only. Speaking of your home, this brings us to our next tip and piece of advice.
4. Making Use of Roommates and Saving You Money
While it’s true that you get the best deals by applying for and checking out apartments or house-sharing before the semester starts, it’s never too late to make the change. And, in comparison, you can easily save yourself $300.00 a month or more by doing so. After all, consider the many great things you could do with an extra few hundred dollars per month to enhance your current budget (see more below.) For example, to go out, eat better at home, stay healthy, fit, and enjoy college life without feeling the tremendous pressure of when your next meal will be or how you’re going to get it.
Often, you can find a roommate or apartment-share advertised around your campus, on bulletin boards, or by word of mouth. And, in this day and age, social networking sites like Facebook, Facebook Groups for your university, or even LinkedIn can also be great sources.
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of using a major site like Craigslist to find apartment or house-sharing, as this remains a major top favorite among college students and graduates alike for anything from buying new or used clothes, cars, electronics, apartments, houses, and even jobs!
5. Understanding the Values of Budgeting and Applying It
Budgeting is a seriously often overlooked virtue when starting or returning to college. And, for obvious reason, some students, of course, will not have to do it. That is, along with the combination of those that have either never done it, or, had anyone explain to them how.
In any case, for those looking to save money while in college budgeting can make a tremendously positive impact on how well you live, eat, and enjoy your life – from anything to entertainment, to your available time for studying each month. Likewise, it is your responsibility to sit down and study, research, and understand the best methods for developing a budget – which could be as easy as reaching out to a trusted family member or friend.
In any case, college campus advisors, financial support administrators, and career counselors alike are often available too, and would be happy to help you discover the necessary resources or tools for developing a meaningful, modern budget to save you money while in college.
Just keep in mind, like any obligation, it will be your responsibility to ensure that you adhere to the restrictions of your budget, and, in the case that you are unsatisfied with available funds for a certain activity – just go out and make that money by picking up extra work or a job. It is crucial that you avoid at all costs violating your budget. And, although you may not immediately experience the consequences of doing so, the truth is, you’re more than likely to reap them later on – putting undue stress on yourself or even causing ‘burnout’ in your studies.
Of course, given the availability of technology today, consider searching your mobile (Android or Apple) market for college-friendly budgeting apps, online websites, forums, or even YouTube videos. You might be surprised at how easy it is to find useful content!
6. The Evolution of Multi-Use Modern Computers
Aside from anyone stuck on buying or using a tablet – or their mobile device – to read course materials or complete assignments (which trust us is very difficult), computers offer a great all-around solution which can help minimize costs while maximizing savings. But, how you ask?
The truth is, thanks to the Internet (think Free Wifi), a lot of T.V. shows, videos, and other entertainment can be accessed completely online. This means, more often than not removing the need for a television (think Netflix), or even gaming console – which brings us to our next point.
In most cases, you’ll find that the average console (Xbox or PlayStation) game is available for P.C. Even better, much like textbooks, they are a fraction of the cost (or even free) to download and play. Best of all? A laptop or mobile-PC tower can easily be taken with you on the go, and, in comparison to a television, game console, and computer you are obviously going to save not only a lot of space, but, also hundreds if not thousands of dollars!
Computers are great, and, you don’t even necessarily have to buy brand-new – or at least pay the “brand-new” sticker price. This leads us to our next point about buying used versus new, in particular using the internet, and why.
7. New versus Used: Saving You Countless Dollars
The truth is, yes, if done improperly buying clothing, electronics, or other things used as opposed to new can be a risk, and generate loss. However, the reality of it is, learning to and practicing buying used items, especially on the internet, does not have to take exponentially long to do, nor cost you countless dollars in the process.
In fact, you’ll find that going on “Buy/Sell” websites like Craigslist right before, or after a major holiday (think Christmas) can be a great way of getting a brand new computer, gaming console, or other valuable electronic or piece of clothing for a substantially cheaper price. And yet, still with all the great benefits of a brand-new item, such as condition, performance, and even warranty!
So, keep in mind that while yes, buying used items does come with its share of risks dependent upon the nature of the deal, ultimately, you can find yourself truly saving a lot of money – even thousands of dollars or more.
For example, would you believe a second-hand store like Plato’s Closet sells gently-used Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, and lightly used Ralph Lauren Polos for nearly 70-80% off of the original price? And, don’t worry, they inspect each of their clothing articles, clean them, and require a certain standard before accepting them for resale. Just think, not only can you save money and buy great, nice things for yourself, but, you can also use places like these to sell old unwanted clothes to make some money back before your next purchase.
What about sites or resources like Overstock.com? Don’t know what it is? No problem, but, just keep in mind that major sites like these not only sell jewelry, clothing, and electronics, but, can also sell college textbooks and other much-needed items during the course of your studies at a substantially discounted price. Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to be a “thrifty shopper”, and, don’t worry, nobody starts as an expert in thriftier shopping. It takes time, just like your studies.
8. Program Affordability, Grants, and 4 Year Programs
A lot of people don’t realize it – especially with all the hype of brand marketing and university stigma – but, going to a community college for the first two years of your program can easily save you $20,000-$30,000 or more per year. Not only this, but, both professionals and experienced students would agree, the first year or two of your college studies is heavily subjected to a possible change of interest and study. Additionally, it can also be a time period in which dictates whether or not we like it, and if college is for you.
With that being said, the last thing any college student and future professional wants is to stick themselves with tens of thousands of dollars of debt or more, especially when it’s avoidable considering this approach.
Community colleges are great for a variety of reasons, and, make no mistake that yes, they do come with their share of challenges. However, may it be utilizing additional Subsidized or Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, getting your hands on third party loans, or working an extra job to supplement your income, the truth is you’ll still easily be saving yourself a tremendous amount of money while in college. And, it may come as a surprise to you if you’re a new or prospective student, but, plenty of major corporations, Fortune 500 companies, military, and government entities alike pursue community college students for recruitment purposes.
So, while campus-life might seem like an unchangeable necessity for your college studies, the truth is you can still find housing of your own, live the “adult dream”, support yourself, and achieve both academic and career success while attending community college.
9. Using On-Campus Facilities to Save Money
We know it sounds a little cliché’ or “corny” to do, but, the truth is the times of going to school events or using school facilities has become anything but “uncool.” In fact, any budget-savvy – and open-minded – college student, in general, is more than likely to find university amenities like the gym, basketball court, library, café (free Wi-Fi), and other facilities or events to be very practical for saving money – and even fun! Besides, what makes you think you’ll be the only one considering them, or taking advantage of these resources?
The truth is, not only the amenities, but, also attending college campus events can be very rewarding, and quite meaningful – such as events like the 24-hour American Cancer Society Walking Marathon. Typically, there are lots of various safe, fun, and other cool events taking place on your campus multiple times throughout the year, and, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet people and make friends with similar studies or ambitions as you.
College also has a lot of different types of “clubs”, support groups, and other organizations which can be equally exciting and rewarding. This is, especially the case for those that are, or have been involved with the military, people interested in foreign languages, computers and technology, or book clubs for bookworms alike! The whole “chess-club” cliché – while true – is anything but unpopular. And, by this stage in your life, chances are you know the knowledge, analytical value, and brain-exercising properties of playing strategy games like this regularly – or competitively.
10. Flexible Job Hunting and Scheduling
Depending on your financial needs and current situation, working one to two part-time jobs might be a very practical, and effective way to save money while in college. Doing so can supplement your income for unexpected costs, and, at the same time provide you needed funds for important things after college like saving for a car, a new laptop for school and work, or, a nice vacation to reward yourself once you complete your degree program.
A lot of students find websites like Craigslist helpful not only for general job searching and acquisition, but, also for scouting various part-time, or even contract-only positions which are great for those of us in college with hectic or otherwise unpredictable schedules.
Having one, two, or even three (very) part-time jobs can help keep you in control, and, allow you to manipulate your schedule on a minutes notice – or at least generate flexibility that you couldn’t otherwise achieve with a regular full-time, 9 to 5 job. Also, for college students, avoiding the monotony of the same job or tasks every day can be very beneficial for your mental health – just make sure you take days off and get the proper sleep. The last thing you want to do is overwork, mismanage your schedule, and burn-out. After all, burning out could cause your grades to drop, and poor performance in work which could actually cost you more money in the long-run. So, be mindful, and be practical!
11. Why a Car Will Cost You
At the end of the day, unless you have a dramatic commute to your college campus that can’t be done via public transportation, a bicycle, or carpooling with your friends a car will cost more than it will save you. From maintenance costs to car insurance (even with a student discount), the truth is, most used (and even new or leased cars) can be very costly, or, just simply above and beyond any realistic budget you’ve set for yourself.
So, if you must drive, then consider the value of going in with a loved one or family member to purchase a car. Or, if possible, sharing a family car to get to and from your college campus when necessary. In any case, don’t underestimate the true financial responsibilities of maintaining a car – specially the costs of fuel.
Ultimately, unless you have your friends chipping in for gas, 9 times out of 10 it’s more than likely a money-pit, and, you’d be better off selling it and using any money you make to expand your budget or supplement your income later on during your studies.
12.Financial Aid and Grade Performance
Completing your Financial Aid (FASFA) each year – especially if you’re an “Independent” student– can seriously benefit you financially in the form of grants and loans – both subsidized and unsubsidized (see above).
Students that take out school loans each year – including those in 4-year programs – will find the total available funds for maximum annual loans to be around $15,000 – $20,000 total or more.
And, in consideration of current tuition costs, grants, scholarships, and discounts, this means that you’ll also be able to request loan increases to supplement your housing and living costs – which is always a huge plus (and can tie back into studying from abroad to save money). After all, if you’re studying abroad and paying ¼ or 1/3 of what you would have paid for living, this allows you to both live simpler, happier, and even save money for later on. That is, amounting to the accumulation of both savings and an easier life while studying each semester, and, enjoying the cultural immersion of a foreign country and language.
Lastly, remember the value of grade performance – and specifically, how it may impact any current or prospective future grants and scholarships. Always prioritize your studies where possible, and remember, the more frugal your spending, the more likely you’ll be successful in your studies.