A college education is expensive. While many think the costs associated with a bachelor's degree are just fees and tuition, there is so much more. Books, housing, food and supplies all add up to a costly four years. According to College Board, 50% of all undergraduate college students attend a four-year college that has published charges of less than $9,000 per year for just tuition and fees. However, there are many ways to save money while attending college.
Save Money on Textbooks
There is no rule that says students have to pay top price for new textbooks from their campus bookstore. Buying textbooks from used bookstores is one route to spending less money. Used bookstores tend to be close to college campuses where the prices of books are significantly less. Many colleges and universities have bulletin boards where students can post items they wish to sell. These can be a great place for students to buy and sell their textbooks.
Buying textbooks online is another option. Sites like Amazon often sell textbooks at a lower price. In addition, many college campuses now offer students the opportunity to rent books rather than buy them. Students should check their campus bookstore to see if they offer the option. If not, websites such as Campus Book Rentals offer similar services.
Students living on campus are already paying for their rooms. They don't need to pay for a car as well. Not having a car saves money on gas, insurance, parking permits and it eliminates the worry of theft. Most colleges have so many amenities on campus that students rarely need to leave to purchase supplies. When leaving campus is necessary, consider using alternatives like subways, buses and trolleys, or carpool with friends. And there's always exercise - walk to the nearest store.
Food and Meal Plans
Next to tuition and shelter, food is one of the biggest necessities for college students. This area is where many students mismanage money. There are several ways to save money when it comes to food and eating. Students should be careful when choosing a meal plan. Don't just go with the most expensive plan because it has the most options for food choices. Often, a less expensive plan is all that is needed.
Other money-saving techniques: Stop buying bottled water. Drinking from the tap is free and better for the environment. Kick the expensive latte habit. Making coffee in your home or residence hall is simple and cheap. If a student must buy from a coffee shop, opt for the house blend rather than a mocha.
Alcohol (especially beer) is one expense that adds up fast. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, college students spend an average of $5.5 billion on alcohol. While it can be tough not to party in college, remember the cost of what's being spent and how much can be saved.
Take Advantage of Campus Entertainment
Students do not always need to leave campus for entertainment and a study break. Universities offer free or significantly discounted events such as movie screenings, dances and sporting events. Elect to see a movie on campus rather than spending money for transportation costs and a theater ticket. Students can also take advantage of the campus grounds and nearby parks. Use the meal plan to get lunch with friends and picnic on a grassy area.
Nearly every college student has a cell phone as their primary mode of communication. However, be sure parents and kids pick the right plan. The texting and long-distance calls can really add up. Consider upgrading the cellphone plan and spend a little more each month, as opposed to outrageously high bills later on. Also, use free social media sites like Facebook and MySpace to message friends.
Students need computers in college. Gone are the days of going to class with a notepad and pen. When shopping for a computer, be sure to ask for the student discount. Many computer companies - including Apple - offer student discounts. Dell and Hewlett Packard also offer discounted purchase prices for college kids. In addition, only purchase what is necessary. Don't go crazy with credit card debt, when using cash lenders online or borrowing from family are potential options if you're in a financial emergency. Another way to save is to avoid buying a computer with every application and software program under the sun.
Save Money by Offsetting Costs
Scholarships are a great way to look for extra money for students who may not qualify for financial aid opportunities. Students can go online to search scholarship websites, or they can visit their Financial Aid office to see what is available. Students can also look for campus employment, participate in research studies and offer tutoring services to earn extra dollars.
The Bottom Line
Attending college can be expensive, and being a student away from home for the first time can be financially challenging. However, college does not need to break the bank. Take advantage of the tips and services available to keep cash in your pocket for as long as possible.