Finding it hard to make ends meet in college? You’re not alone. Many students are feeling the pinch of rising tuition costs and living expenses. The good news is that you don’t have to be a “starving student” in school. There are plenty of ways to save money and keep more of your hard earned cash.
Don’t buy new textbooks. It’s shocking how expensive textbooks can be. Before you hit the campus bookstore, see if you can borrow books from a fellow student or from the university library. If not, buy used textbooks at Amazon.com or rent them from Chegg or Barnes & Noble’s textbook service. Another option is to order digital textbooks through sites like iFlipd, which offer a pay-as-you-go model.
Save money on your new laptop. Check for discounts and tax-free days before you buy your next computer. Dell, Apple, and Adobe are among those offering reduced prices to college students. Many campus bookstores offer discounts on laptops to incoming students. Also, protect your investment by getting a lock for your laptop and installing the latest antivirus software.
Watch it with credit cards. It’s surprisingly easy to get a credit card when you’re a college student. Paying it off? Not always so easy. If you get a credit card, choose one with the lowest interest rate, and only charge what you can pay for. Be sure to pay off the full balance on time each month to avoid late fees. This will help you build up credit and keep you from getting into credit card debt that so many students fall victim to.
Watch application dates. Some scholarships renew each year—if you take the time to reapply. Be sure to get your applications in on time.
Limit eating out. If you bought into the meal plan at school, use it. Sure you want to splurge once in awhile, but don’t make eating out a habit. The costs add up quickly. Save even more by stocking your mini-fridge with snacks and soft drinks from the grocery store instead of the vending machine or convenience store.
Choose housing carefully. It’s usually way less expensive to live in the dorms than it is to live off campus. Make your housing budget go even further by splitting the cost with a roommate.
Stay focused on your classes. The reality is that many students don’t complete their degree in four years, and every additional semester is another big expense. Take advantage of university resources such as tutoring and academic advising to help you stay on track.
Use campus amenities. Before you spend money out on the town, check out what activities there are on campus. There’s usually a lot available for free right there—from movie nights to fitness classes.
Get a coffee maker. Chip in with your roomies to get a good coffee maker instead of forking over money every morning for a latte. It’s amazing how fast those little expenses add up!
Buy in bulk. Get a membership card for a store like Sam’s Club where you can pick up nonperishable items and toiletries in bulk to save money.
Monitor cell phone usage. Signup for a site like My Data Manager or WhistleOut.com, who’ll alert you if you exceed your monthly usage and will analyze your cell phone bills to make sure you have the best plan in place. And minimize your data usage by using Wi-Fi as much as possible.
Forgo a car. Paying for parking, gas, and insurance (not to mention unexpected car repairs) are enough to break the bank. You can always use public transit, borrow a friend’s car, or use a Zipcar if you need to travel a long distance.
Start paying off interest now. If you took out loans to help you pay for college, make in-school payments (even just $10 a month) to help you save money.
Visit a local bank. Ask about their checking and savings account designed for college students. They usually have no minimum balance and lower fees. Be sure they don’t hit you with big charges for things like using the ATM. Important: Use online banking to track your account balance and avoid overdraft fees—Otherwise, that’s a costly mistake!
Check the labels. Buy clothes that can be machine washed/dried to avoid costly dry cleaning bills.
Shop wisely. Ask for student discounts wherever you go to get lower rates on everything from meals to car insurance to travel. Hundreds of big brands like J.Crew as well as local shops and restaurants offer money off when you show your student ID.