It’s that time of year again: Thousands of college students are returning to campus, looking for another year of education. Of course, college tuition is expensive, and there are other costs associated with attending university. No matter the costs, though, there are ways to save money. Here are 5 ways you can save money as a college student:
1. Avoid Buying New Textbooks
This is a time honored method of saving money while attending university. I might have bought one textbook new during my entire university career (and that includes my time as a Masters student). More good news: You do not have to rely on the college bookstore for your used books. My husband orders all of his books used on Amazon, for less than used books in the bookstore. You can also check textbook exchanges at your school. These are available on student boards, and some exchanges can even be found online. It is also possible to rent textbooks now, but you will not be able to sell them back at the end of the semester, recouping some of your outlay.
2. Work in Food Service
Having the right job can save you money on food. When I worked in the university cafeteria, I was allowed one free meal at the end of my shift. Since my shift was dinner, I saved money on food for the most expensive meal of my day. Sometimes, if I stopped by at the end of lunch, the cooks would give me free lunch leftovers as well. As a waitress at a local restaurant I didn’t get free meals, but I did eat for half off. With the right job, you can make money and get some of your food for free, reducing what you need to spend at the grocery store.
3. Become a Resident Adviser
One of the best ways to save money on housing is to take on the duties of a resident adviser. Many universities provide resident advisers with a free private room. I did this for two years, and enjoyed it quite a bit. My university offered a modest stipend on top of the free private dorm room, but not all colleges provide the stipend. Even so, free housing is a plus, and can save you a significant amount of money. Make sure you understand the time commitment though, and the rules governing outside jobs.
4. Take Advantage of Student Discounts
In college town, many of the businesses offer student discounts. Find out which establishments offer discounts with your student ID. This can include movie theaters, restaurants and even some clothing retailers. One of the grocery stores in my current university town offers an extra 5% on the total purchase when you sign up for a special (free) student savings card. Some computer sellers and cell phone providers have special student discount programs. In some cases, you can buy a discount card for a few dollars, and reap more savings. Determine whether or not the businesses on the card are useful to you, and whether you will save more than you spend.
5. Apply for Scholarships
While it is nice to start college with a scholarship, your chance isn’t passed if you are beyond your freshman year. Some universities offer scholarships only to juniors and seniors, or have particular opportunities for returning students. Check with your major department or honor society regarding scholarships. There are also numerous online sources of offbeat scholarships and opportunities — many of which do not rely only on academic achievement. It never hurts to apply, and you could end up saving some money on tuition costs.
College can be expensive and it’s not getting any cheaper. But remember that attending is a privilege, so be grateful that you are going to be spending a few years of time there.