The first thing on any college student’s mind is how to pay for their tuition. For many of them, college is also their first experience with paying utility bills, meal plans, and even car insurance.
Therefore, knowing how to budget, manage, and save your money is more important than ever once you get to college. Here are 30 tips for doing just that.
In-State vs. Out of State
Here is a tip for students before they’ve even entered college. When you’re applying to your program, make sure you consider the monetary benefits of paying in-state tuition. Sticking around in your home state could save you thousands.
Know Your Loans
Most college students need to take out loans to pay for school at one point or another. However, most of them don’t realize that there are two main types of loans you need to know: subsidized and unsubsidized.
The big difference between them is that you apply for subsidized loans and are awarded based on your needs. These loans don’t have any interest payments while you’re in school.
Unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, are unlimited but accrue interest. Knowing the difference is crucial to making the most of your loan opportunities and eventual obligation.
Even if you know the terms of your loan, you need to know how to use the money to cover your needs. To avoid being one of those students who pay $100,000 for a bachelor’s degree, research your tuition rates and manage your job expectations accordingly.
Scholarships are widely available in college. I myself made money in college by entering essay contests which paid for my tuition. Look at your department’s website for any opportunities. Remember: the smaller the pool of applicants, the more likely it is that you’ll win.
Honors societies are a great academic opportunity, but there are financial reasons to join one as well. Many on-campus and national organizations have their own scholarship opportunities that can make you extra cash.
Buy Used Textbooks
Ever since government loans became readily available, textbook companies have jumped at the chance to hike their prices. If you can avoid it, don’t buy any new textbooks. Look for opportunities to buy them from used bookstores or even online as PDFs for a reduced rate.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to buy books at all. Many materials are available online and in the public domain if you look. This is especially helpful for English students, many of whom are required to read texts that are so old that they’re available for free.
This applies to anything else you might need, including computer equipment and office supplies. When possible, use the internet to buy things used, especially if you’ll only need them for one semester.
Sell Old Stuff
Anything you only need for one semester will become something that you can sell at the start of the next one. This is especially the case if you own expensive textbooks – selling them can be highly profitable.
Skip the Meal Plan
Some colleges pressure you into getting their meal plan (while others require it, unfortunately). Before you spring for it, ask yourself if it would be cheaper to pay per meal. Research your schedule so that you know which kind of plan is most financially viable for you.
Escape the Dorm
Most students will spend their first semester or year in the dorms, but you can avoid this unnecessary expense. Today, the dorm is the most expensive option available.
There are often many options for discount student housing near your university. Some even provide student shuttles.
Get a Job
This probably seems obvious, but getting a job that fits into your student schedule will help you offset those hefty tuition fees. Look for something on campus to cut down on transit time and save gas money.
In addition to jobs, many colleges offer paid internships. Ask your department about opportunities and look through school newsletters and websites for any listings they may have available.
Some of this advice applies to life in general. Studies have shown that keeping a budget will help you manage your spending. You’ll realize which expenses are necessary and which aren’t when you have done your research.
There are lots of apps designed to help you manage your money and keep a payment schedule. Find one that works for you to streamline your monthly payments and get ahead on your budget.
Set a Limit
In addition to budgeting, many students set a specific limit on their expenses each month. Some of us need that extra restriction to make the choices we know we should.
This seems like a small thing, but it helps with staying in budget. Pay in cash so that you keep track of how much you’re spending.
Although you will probably need at least one credit card, you should refrain from buying anything with it unless you absolutely need to. That’s one more bill you don’t need.
Even with all this budgeting, you should try to put aside a little money each month into an emergency savings fund. You’ll never know when you might need it.
Make sure you have your student ID on you all the time. Lots of places offer discounts to students.
You may not even need to take every class on your degree program. Find out if you can take a CLEP test and get credit for the class without paying for it.
If you can’t graduate on time, your tuition will start to increase with your excess credit hours. To catch up or get ahead, you can take online classes during the semester or summer break.
This may sound strange, but renting movies saved me a lot of money in college. It gets people together for cheap at-home fun rather than buying expensive movie tickets, barhopping, or going out, which often requires spending.
If you have ongoing subscriptions, consider canceling them. Do you really need to keep paying for Netflix every month?
Amazon Prime is one subscription that’s an exception to the advice above. This service discounts for students and also gets you books and materials at their prime shipping speed so you have them in time for your classes.
Be a Chef
Eating out can be one of the most unnecessary expenses for any college student. In contrast, learning the basics of cooking can save that money and help you eat healthier too.
This advice is applicable in general, but protecting your personal info is especially important in college. Make sure you’re keeping track of your social security and PIN numbers and aren’t leaving them lying around.
Talk things over with your roommate regarding shared expenses. Know how you’re going to split the utilities and what supplies you can buy together.
Sharing isn’t just good practice in grade school. In college, sharing can save you a ton. Consider buying certain food and supplies in bulk or carpooling to campus.
Of course, sometimes we all run into trouble. Don’t be afraid to call home and ask your family for financial help if things go bad. Chances are good that your parents would rather you owe them money than watch you take out another expensive loan.