Saving while in college is not an easy task, but it doesn’t have to be too difficult either. It requires developing a budget, being smart on your expenses and always keeping an eye out for a good bargain. The seven points below are just some of the simpler ways to save on your costs from a couple of bucks to hundreds of dollars. Its important to remember that both good and habits with your finances can develop during your college career. Making the choice to stay ahead of your debt while in college can go a long way to helping you stay debt free for the remainder of your life!
- Textbooks – Buy used or rent your textbooks. Used books can run anywhere from 75 percent to less than 40 percent of the cost of a new textbook. Considering that some college texts can run over $100 depending on the course, that means a huge savings for you. Renting textbooks is a fairly new service, but there are companies that now allow you to rent either a hard copy or a digital copy of the books you need for classes. Starting with textbooks is a good way to start saving while in college.
- Eating In – After tuition and housing, food is the biggest expense for many college students. Access to your university’s dining facilities is one of the greatest assets to living on campus and needs to be used. Dorm rooms are restricted when it comes to cooking (some schools don’t even allow microwaves) and the size of the refrigerator that can be kept within. In addition to saving money, there is also the matter of health. College dining halls are required to post the same nutrition data as a Burger King or other restaurant.
- Eating Out – The majority of your meals should be in the dining hall, but everyone needs to get out occasionally. When you do, pick a place that offers a student discount. Saving 10 percent on a $25 dinner ($2.50) may not sound like much until you add up three times a month ($7.50) and then multiply it by nine months ($67.50). That’s a brand new textbook (or better yet two used textbooks) you’ve just saved the money for next semester. Besides a student discount, join the customer clubs that nearly every restaurant has these days. They can be found online and offer weekly and monthly discounts.
- Transportation – If you don’t have a car and don’t need one, don’t buy one! It’s great to have the ability to go anywhere at anytime, but the focus needs to be on school, not worrying about gas prices or if you can put off an oil change for another month or 1000 miles. Students living on campus can get where they need to go using the school’s transit system or on bicycle. Students living off campus can generally make good use of their city transit system to get to class and work with few interruptions. Student bus passes generally run about $40-$60 per month. That’s not even a single tank of gas for most cars today.
- Roommates – If you do live off campus, roommates can save you a lot of money even as they drive you crazy. We don’t have any psychological advice, but there are a couple of points to consider.
- First, your rent is cut in half with a roommate. So are your basic utilities such as electric, gas and water. When it comes to costs like cleaning deposits and utility hook-ups, make certain everyone brings their half in either cash or cashier’s check.
- Next, when it comes to secondary utilities (phone and cable) be very careful. If you and your roommate both have an iPhone or other cell phone, do you really need a house phone and the monthly costs? If the answer is no, then just get a wifi hookup. Also, consider what you really need for entertainment. If neither of you watch a lot of television, then just get a basic package. However if one of you has a great love of House of Cards, then you should consider separate cable boxes and bills.
- Social Life – It’s college and it’s time to try new things. Let the school pay for it. Most campus activities offices put on live, free concerts and host mixers throughout the year. There are free movie nights sponsored by the performing arts departments. Activities offices also have a line on what is offered by the local community. Many places offer introduction freebies such as a coffee and pastry at a locally owned coffee shop as well as bigger ticket items such as a free day at local museums or tourist attractions such as theme parks.
- Testing Out – Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a course, considering taking a CLEP Test for only $80. The College Level Examination Program is administered at over 1800 campuses and are accepted by 2900 colleges across the U.S. Subjects covered range from American Government to Principles of Macroeconomics. The CLEP website also offers a study guide for many of their courses; $10 for a .pdf download or $24.99 for a book.
Abebooks – Home to millions of college textbooks
Apartment Guide – Housing Options for Students
Budget Calculator – A great idea to help keep track of expenses
CLEP Tests – Get college credit with one test and just a few hours
Coupons.com – Excellent site for grocery and toiletry (mouthwash, toothpaste) coupons
Groupon – National, regional and local savings for nearly everything
Hulu – Free TV and Movies
Restaurant.com – Reviews, Deals and Menus for thousands of eateries
Shop At Home – Great Deals on everything from Amusement Parks to Textbooks
Smart Source – Free coupons and discounts on major brands