Many college graduates get "buyer's remorse" when they find themselves with a large amount of post-graduation debt. However, you can avoid such a predicament by responsibly managing your money and expenses during your college years. Here are some tips that can help you "live on the cheap" and save enough money for your expenses.
SEE: How Being A Student Saves You Money
Buy or Rent Textbooks Online
Your textbooks can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per semester. To reduce that cost, you can skip your campus bookstore and instead purchase the books online. In some cases, you may even be able to rent your book for the semester. Renting books is often a better deal than buying, as you may be unable to sell your books when the course calls for a later edition. There are websites that allow you to rent and purchase books for a fraction of the cost.
Use Your School's Meal Plan
This is a tip that might be hard to swallow, but it is definitely a major way to save money in the long run. If you're a freshman, then your college might have a meal plan. You should take full advantage of the plan, as it's usually much cheaper than buying food on your own. That doesn't mean you should be afraid to treat yourself on occasion. Just try to avoid dining at expensive restaurants or overspending when you eat out; ask yourself if you really need those few extra drinks when you go for wings, or that slice of cheesecake to fill you up after dinner.
Pool with Friends to Shop
Buying items in bulk, even from wholesale club stores like Costco, only makes sense if it saves you money in the long run. Also, it's usually best if you only purchase items in bulk that are non-perishable. If you're not able to afford this on your own, you and your friends can always pool together funds and share the food. However, to really save money, you need to make sure that the items you buy aren't wasted, or used by students who did not contribute to the purchase. This will also keep the contributors happy and make them more willing to pool their money again to pay for food.
Get a Job
Working while in college is something most students would want to avoid, as it can be stressful. However, if funds are low, then it may be necessary to find work. You can work part-time, and limit working to days when you have a light course load or only a few hours of classes. Most companies in college towns understand that many of their current or potential employees are attending school, and offer flexible work schedules to accommodate students. For a healthier work-and-school balance, look for a job with your college.
The Bottom Line
Proper management of your finances, including living within your means, can help to lessen the amount of debt you'll need to repay after you graduate. If you practice making sound financial decisions and money management strategies while in college, then you could develop responsible spending habits by the time you graduate.