Everyone needs to save money these days. Although it may seem like financial aid will pay for your entire education, student loans must be paid back. In fact it is easier to walk away from a home loan than a student loan. So what is a college student to do? Get creative when it comes to maximizing a minimal budget. Here are a few tips.
1) Learn to cook.
College meal plans are great if you absolutely cannot feed yourself. However, many students do not eat all the meals on their plans and end up wasting money. A meal plan can cost over $2000, so either eat every meal in your plan or learn to cook what you need.
2) Get a job that has dual purposes.
While it may be fun to work for the school’s athletic teams, unless you want to start a career in sports then find a position that matches your needs or work interests. If you can’t cook, then get a job at the cafeteria. You can earn a paycheck and eat! Keep your grades up so that you’re eligible to become a residential advisor. You can save several thousand dollars in room and board, and gain valuable leadership experience. There is a reason that the saying “time is money” is an overworked cliché. Make the most of every hour.
3) Rent or borrow books.
As a college student I stopped buying books after my sophomore year. I got smart and began checking them out from the library. My institution had a consortium agreement with area colleges, and the books that weren’t available from my library I borrowed from other schools. Sometimes a great public library will have the books you need for your humanities classes. Now there are companies such as Chegg.com which will allow you to rent textbooks for about half of their normal cost. If you absolutely must own your books then be sure to check half.com to see if you can buy them cheaper than at your school’s bookstore.
4) Take general education courses at your local community college during the summer.
You may have to pay for these courses yourself, but at prices such as $50 per credit for a three credit course it is worth the investment. Obtain a copy of the catalog of your local college and sit down with your academic advisor to be sure that the classes will transfer over and save yourself not only money, but free up time to explore interesting courses at your university or graduate early and go start earning cash.
5) Move off campus.
If you are at a university that is located in an inexpensive area it may actually be more economical to move off campus with friends than to continue to stay on campus. Living on campus is great for freshmen who need to learn the campus community and meet new people, but once you have established your circle why not save? Keep in mind that you may need to sign a 12-month lease, so be sure you aren’t planning to go home for the summer or have a summer sublet lined up.
6) Buy a refurbished computer.
Many schools are scaling back on the number of computer labs they have, and the hours these labs are open. Also, many classes are now solely online. Instead of buying the latest and greatest machine, consider buying a used laptop or desktop. Craigslist has many deals as tech junkies often want to sell their old computers. Just be sure that whatever you buy is compatible with your university’s systems, and that the computer isn’t damaged in some way.
You may not need all of these techniques, but utilizing one or two could seriously cut your college costs, and allow you to have more income when you begin working instead of handing your whole paycheck over to your loan company!
This post has been cross-posted on higheredlifecoach.com