It’s no secret that the cost of college rises exponentially every year. If you are gearing up to attend college this fall, you’re likely all too aware of your school’s price tag — and the financial aid, including grants, loans, and scholarships, that will pave the way to that coveted degree. ValuePenguin estimated the average cost in 2017–2018 at $20,770 for in-state public schools and $46,950 for private institutions. As lofty as those figures may be, they don’t account for the thousands of additional “hidden” expenses a college student might encounter every year. Before you set foot on campus this fall, read up on top ways to save money during college.
1. Plan Meals Strategically
A college meal plan is more cost-effective than dining out every night. Try to focus your eating choices around your college’s approved dining establishments. When you need to eat outside the meal plan, look for free events on campus offering food, or search for discounted food specials from local restaurants. A restaurant that extends student discounts is likely your best bet. Even better? Teach yourself to cook, which will stretch your food budget much further. Stock up on snacks in bulk and carry a few in your backpack to stave off those post-class cravings.
2. Limit Unnecessary Spending
Coffee can fuel your way through an all-nighter and help you ace your exams — but if you’re stopping by the local coffeehouse every day, your caffeine habit will eventually drain your budget. An at-home coffeemaker is an excellent investment that can save you hundreds of dollars. While you’re at it, try to avoid excessive spending on alcohol, which is one of the best ways to save money during college.
3. Socialize on Campus
Your college probably hosts a number of social activities, sporting events, and other free events each day. In addition, your tuition covers the cost of your college’s gym, pool, library, and access to a host of academic and career resources. Take advantage of the free amenities as much as you can. Your student discount can also nab you lower-priced admission to local stores, museums, and movie theaters.
4. Don’t Go “All Out” on Back-to-School Shopping
Avoid buying a whole year’s worth of living necessities and school supplies all at once. Instead, focus on the first few weeks, then take stock of what you still need and what you can afford to do without. Restrict your school supply shopping to online retailers or discount big-box stores, and steer clear of the higher-priced options on campus.
5. Buy Used Textbooks, or Rent Them
You can save hundreds on one of the top college expenses by either buying used textbooks or renting at one of the various textbook rental websites, such as Chegg.com or ECampus.com. If you choose to buy used, you can recoup your investment by selling the textbooks after your semester ends. Take note: Avoid the college bookstore — you can find much cheaper rates when you search for the required class materials online.
6. Scope out Secondhand Options
Whenever possible, shop secondhand for larger expenses such as beds, vacuum cleaners, toasters, and couches (that is, if you aren’t already planning to bring those items from home). You can probably score much better deals by scouring Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace than by purchasing any of these items brand new.
7. Hunt for Student-Focused Deals on Tech
Most students will require a new laptop or computer. Make sure you purchase any new technology through the company’s education section, which offers discounts especially geared toward students. If you need to install certain software, chances are an education edition is available as well. You can also hunt for used or refurbished models, which are often in like-new condition. Skip the printer and take your papers to the campus library to print for a few cents a page, which will also save you the cost of purchasing ink cartridges and paper.
8. Plan Travel Wisely
Travel can capsize even the most carefully planned college budget. Take this opportunity to cash in on any miles or rewards from your parents’ travel rewards credit card. As soon as you find out about when you need to travel, book your trip as far in advance of the desired dates as possible. When you’re headed off campus, try to walk or bike to your destination, or use public transportation. Leave your car at home to cut down on the gas, parking, and maintenance costs.
Build Your Foundation for Financial Success
Your healthy credit life starts now. Make sure your credit report stays intact as you broaden your educational, cultural, and financial horizons and learn ways to save money during college. Find out more about how the team at Ovation Credit can help you here.