Cutting Your Costs While in College

by Guest Contributor · 5 comments

College is one of the most expensive periods of your life. While there are obvious ways to save on costs while in college, there are many people don’t even think about. Most publications aren’t really helping either. We talk about better ways to find financial aids, but what about good old fashion frugality? We all know that state schools are cheaper than private colleges and that starting with a two-year degree at a good community college is a great way to save, but here are some other areas where you can trim the bill.

Book Bargains

Never, ever purchase a new book before you consider other options. If the class you are taking is a repeating, common class, someone took it last term. See if you can borrow the book from them. Check to see if the library keeps a few copies of the book on the shelves. You may not be able to take them out, but you can read there.

Consider online vendors before you look at full service vendors or campus stores. You can usually get incredible discounts because other students need money to buy books for their next term. If you run out of time or can’t find any other options, ask the college bookstore if they have a used book section. The savings aren’t as large, but it is still better than buying new.

Frugal Food

If your college doesn’t demand that you purchase a food plan, you have it made. Ramen soup, peanut butter, oatmeal and coupons are your friends. Avoid eating out and shop the circulars. Make your own coffee, as that $5 drink at the coffeehouse can be duplicated at home for mere pennies. Make sure you do get some fruits and veggies in that diet though. Saving money is important, but staying healthy is a must!

If you do have to get a food plan, USE IT. Take food back to your dorm room with you if you can to save on meals that aren’t covered. Get a meal plan that suits your eating style. If you eat three square meals a day at the table, a full meal plan is great, but if you are a grab and go eater, then a cash card that lets you pick what you want is better.

Entertainment on a Budget

College isn’t all about education after all. Cable television and high end TV’s aren’t likely to be in your budget. Before you shell out $50 or more a month, consider that you can catch most programs on your computer and the big game is showing at the sports bar down the road. For the price of a beer, you can watch your game with a bunch of other sports-crazed patrons. Stick to your budget, and remember that you don’t need EVERYTHING.

Movie rental services are nice and cheap and again you can use your computer. If you want a bigger party, have everyone chip in. The price of feeding and providing beer to a large crowd is more than any college student should spend. Go pot luck and BYOB. You provide the space and paper goods, and everyone else can share the burden.

Saving money where you can while college is just plain smart. Don’t start your adult life in debt, and you will be surprised how much easier life could be.

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  • premium finance says:

    I can totally relate with your blog post. I think I might be related to Ebnezeer Scrooge–I only spend on things that I really need. However, I think of ways on how I can get hold of these necessities at a cheaper cost. Take the college books for example. I would spend several hours in the library reading books I needed instead of purchasing new ones from the bookstore.

  • CD Phi says:

    One thing I am doing now as a college student is to share textbooks. Not share as in I use it one night and my friend use it another night but we transfer textbooks. I’ll take one class and give her my textbook and she can give me hers. This usually saves us big bucks. Also, lots of university libraries have textbooks that you can read while at the library…The con is that you just have to sit there and read it but can’t bring it home.

  • Stephan says:

    Some good tips here and defintely something students need to think about when they first arrive on campus. When it comes to books, i learned real quick that the school bookstore is the last place you want to buy your books, always the most expensive. And on the food point, dont overdo it with takeout and late night pizza deliveries. Not only will it hurt your pocket, but your waistline as well.

  • basicmoneytips says:

    While it has been a while since I was in college, I know it has gotten progressively more expensive. However, most college students are young and know that living on a tight budget is a way of life.

    One of the great ways to save money in college is to have roommates. Splitting the cost of rent is always a big help.

    Also, the dollar menu at fast food restaurants is a economical, but it is not good for you. It should be noted that the cafeteria is probably the best place to get a well balanced meal.

  • kt says:

    something that i use(d) when still in college was utilize all the services it had to offer. It makes no sense to have your own internet connection in your room when there are free wireless hotspots all over campus. Needless to say, this has saved me quite a wad of cash. It is even much more fun working outside than being cooped up in a dorm room all the time

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