Earlier this summer, I shared some tips and tricks to decking out your college dorm room without breaking the bank. With the school year quickly approaching, and students heading back to their college towns, I’m sharing a few basic tips for college students trying to save money. College is very expensive, an obvious fact to most. From registering for classes, to textbooks, to meal plans, to social activities — it all adds up. Follow these tips to save money everywhere possible at school this semester.
School supplies and textbooks
The older you get, the fewer school supplies you really need. When shopping for school supplies this year, take a second to consider what you will use before throwing it in the cart. For example, class notes can be taken on your laptop, so there is no need to purchase a notebook for every class. If you do find yourself needing certain supplies, check out a local discount store for cheaper finds.
Textbooks are one of the largest costs for college students. Your school bookstore should have a list of all of the required textbooks for your classes.
Before purchasing the books new from the school, see if there is an option to rent the book or buy it used or online for less money. You should also reach out to your friends or fellow classmates to see who has taken that course. They might might still have the book lying around. After the semester is over, and you know that you will not use a textbook again, sell it. While you will probably not make all of your money back, you will at least get a little something.
Limit weekend spending
Meeting new people is one of the best parts of going to college, so don’t limit your experiences just to save a couple of bucks. Instead of staying home every weekend, find ways to fit those weekend activities into your budget. Maybe it is going out only one night a weekend, cooking meals at home, eating on-campus, or just hanging out and doing free or cheap things around your college town. Cutting back on your spending wherever possible will allow you to be able to afford those more expensive college experiences later on.
You should also take advantage of the free, on-campus activities that your college will host almost every day. These are great opportunities to meet people from all around the school as well.
Ditch your car
Is a car really needed for your college experience? I would strongly consider leaving your car at home for the semester, especially if you live on campus. Gas, insurance, maintenance and parking passes: The car expenses never stop adding up. Cutting these charges from your monthly budget will free up a good chunk of change that any college student could definitely use elsewhere.
Consider the options for getting around a college town without your car. Most campuses will have everything you need within walking distance, or you could check out getting a bike. If your destination is not within walking (or biking) distance, you could take advantage of ride-share services or public transportation.
Consider on-campus dining
Taking advantage of your school’s meal plans can save you a lot of money in the long run. Signing up for a meal plan is typically charged to your tuition and can be paid for with your student loans and scholarships. Not only can on-campus dining save you money and keep you from eating out, but it is also very convenient for those who live on campus or have limited time to eat between classes. If you’re not a fan of your campuses dining options, try getting into the habit of cooking at home. These meals are not only cheaper, but usually healthier as well.
Don’t let the stress of money hinder your college experience. Be smart with your purchases and really think about where you can save money. Whether you buy used textbooks, limit your weekend activities, leave the car at home, or eat at the dining hall — every little bit saved adds up and can be used for bigger and better things.
Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit http://communityamerica.com.