College is an expensive venture, and the cost of tuition is just the beginning. That doesn’t mean you have to go through your years as a student without making good money decisions. Save money as a student and have less debt later on.
Make a Budget
Your student loans might be covering many of your costs, but that doesn’t mean you can get away without making a budget. Figure out everything from housing costs to meal plans to your cell phone. This way you can set aside some fun money without going overboard, and you won’t end up spending more than you mean to. It also helps you decide if you need a part-time job and how many hours you should take on.
Look for Scholarships
Scholarships are available in the oddest of places, and are more numerous than you think. Scholarships are available for all sorts of things, not just academics, and if you limit your search to what the scholarships your school advertises, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Use a scholarship search engine and see what comes up. Then, tailor your applications to each one so you’re a strong candidate.
Be Smart with Textbooks
Buying your textbooks new can cost you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars a semester. Even when you get them used at the campus bookstore, they’re still pretty expensive and don’t sell back for a very good rate. Thankfully, you can also rent your textbooks, or search for them via online retailers with better prices. Check out CampusBooks, a handy website with good discounts, a renting program, and good buyback prices.
Engage in Campus Activities
Going out on the town for dinner and clubbing is great fun, but it costs lots of money every weekend. Instead, get your entertainment by exploring all the activities your school has to offer. Clubs, sporting events, readings, community activities, and more are often available on campus for free every week. Even things that cost money, like theater performances, will be seriously discounted for students.
Whether you live in a dorm or off-campus, roommates are the best solution to cutting your living expenses. The dorms with smaller quarters and more roommates tend to cost much less than the expensive buildings with single rooms. Renting off-campus student housing with a group of friends is also a good option if you shop around for the right house.
Learn to Cook
Image via Flickr by ReneS
Eating out and using meal plans is often more expensive than simply cooking at home. You don’t have to live on a diet of ramen, either. Learn a few simple dishes with inexpensive ingredients (fresh veggies at the store are cheaper than you think), and become comfortable in the kitchen. Bonus if you split the cost of food and the cooking with your roommates.
These money-saving skills will serve you through all your years as a student, and a few of them will continue to serve you later in life, too.