College is expensive. Students, professors, and parents can all attest to this. The burden of college costs often falls on the student, though — sometimes regardless of who’s paying the tuition. With the price of books, supplies, fees and fun, college students face many looming costs for which to account and prepare.
Thankfully, there are many ways to better manage, make and save your money.
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Below are some of my best tips for cutting costs in college.
Sign up for a money managing site like Mint. Mint teaches you to be good with your money — a smart skill for everyone to know, regardless of age. Within Mint you can manage your budgets, view all of your accounts and visualize exactly how you’re spending your cash. Mint is a great way to get the big picture of your money and see where you can be saving a few dollars.
Spend cash, not cards. When we spend paper and coin money, we’re seeing it leaving our hands and wallets. It’s a visual, physical transaction — unlike simply swiping a debit card. Using cash money from your account allows you to feel how much you’re spending and keeps you from blindly swiping your money away. (Speaking of cards: Avoid at all costs applying for credit cards. Representatives may promise discounts or prizes, but rejected applications affect your credit score…a mistake that’s hard to come back from!)
Get a job on campus. Working on campus is extremely convenient and rewarding. As a student you are given priority over non-students and graduates, and these jobs rarely require previous experience. If you live on or near campus, you can walk to your job and even work shifts between classes. Check out your university’s student jobs website to see what is available.
Get a job off campus. While holding a job on campus is ideal, working off campus can be just as productive and give you a much-needed break from school. Working as a nanny, barista or server can bring in fast cash that can help offset fun weekend expenses. Just ensure that your off-campus position doesn’t interfere with your classwork or grades.
Avoid buying new textbooks. It’s the oldest tale in the textbook: Don’t buy from your campus bookstore! Ironically, this is where you will find the most expensive options for your required textbooks and supplies. Instead, buy used books or rent from your university. It’s also wise to buy online from sites like Amazon or Chegg. And at the end of the semester, don’t forget to sell your books back online, to the bookstore or to someone else.
Take advantage of student discounts. Thankfully, society does acknowledge how expensive college can be and often rewards students accordingly. Student savings and discounts exist for retail, technology, travel, entertainment, utilities, books, cell phone plans and restaurants. Make sure to always carry your student ID; even if a store doesn’t advertise a student discount, it’s always worth asking for.
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College is expensive, but there are plenty of measures to take to better manage, make and save your money. Even if they feel like hard work now, the actions above will create skills and habits that will help you in the future.
These tips may be about cutting costs in college, but don’t forget that college is simply a springboard into your adult life. Allow your spending skills and strategies to set you up well in the long run.