College can be expensive, even apart from the high tuition bills. You’ll need money for food, books, activities, transportation and other essentials. Follow these steps to make college affordable without giving up any of the benefits of attending a university.
1. Limit the fast food visits
If you’re living on campus, chances are you’ve got a meal plan that allows you to eat at the dining hall. Because you’ve already paid for your meals, don’t let that money go to waste. Eating on campus instead of going to restaurants can save you lots of money in the long run. Stock up on snacks like fruit, nuts, granola bars and trail mix so that when you’re looking for a late-night snack you won’t be tempted to order out. If you live off campus or have a limited meal plan, learn how to cook. It can really pay off. Not only will it save you money, but it is also a valuable life skill that can serve you well long after graduation.
2. Avoid the shiny new textbooks
You may love the look and feel of a brand new book, but a new textbook carries a steep sticker price. Instead of splurging on new books, scour used book sales and shop online retailers to find used books available at a fraction of the cost. Still want to cut down on the high cost of books? Borrow from a friend or see if you can check the books you need out from the library.
3. Choose credit cards wisely
Overspending on credit cards is easy to do but can get you in trouble fast. Remember: If you don’t have money for the charges you rack up today, you’ll have to pay for them with tomorrow’s earnings. If you do decide to get a credit card, make sure to compare benefits and interest rates, and pay off the balance in full each month. If the balance accrues, the interest penalties can be significant. The key to using a credit card is to treat it like cash and spend only what you can afford.
4. Buy a coffee maker
If you’re a caffeine addict, a coffee maker is one purchase you should make. A daily visit to the coffee shop quickly adds up. An inexpensive coffee machine will pay for itself in no time, and if you want to make the purchase go even further, share the coffee maker with a roommate or friend and split the cost.
5. Ditch the cable subscription
Cable is expensive, and as a student you should ask yourself how much time you’re really going to spend watching TV. Chances are, the high cost of cable just isn’t worth it. Instead, opt for an online streaming subscription to watch your favorite shows.
6. Ask about student discounts
Many restaurants, retailers and vendors offer discounts to anyone with a student ID. It can’t hurt to ask if discounts are available before making a purchase. Plus, taking advantage of discounts at places like museums or theaters can be a great way to enjoy low-cost entertainment.
7. Sell your car
If you’re making car payments and don’t absolutely need a car on campus, consider selling your vehicle. Even if your car is paid off, you’ll have to pay for gas, insurance, parking and maintenance fees, all of which can really add up. Instead, utilize public transportation (or a friend with a car) to get where you need to go.
Controlling your spending in college can require some creative thinking, but it is an attainable goal. Taking as many steps as you can to save money will help you manage your budget, and you may even be able to put some savings aside. With discipline and desire, it is possible to get an education without going broke.