Tips & Tricks for Saving Money in College

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  • College can be educational, insightful, inspirational, and exciting.

    However, all of that experience and knowledge comes at a price.

    According to Business Insider, the average student leaves college with a little more than $17,000 in loan debt — and that’s only speaking to tuition.

    No matter what way you slice it,college is expensive.

    So, what can you do about it? How can you trim those budgets, set expectations, and keep your costs to a minimum as you try to avoid hemorrhaging cash from one semester to the next?

    Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks to help you save that precious cash as you work your way through college.

    Get a Used Car

    College often follows closely on the heels of getting your license, and the thrill of going to a new school can sometimes be coupled with the question of what kind of car you want to bring with you. While it’s easy to sign off on a new vehicle with that artificially low payment for the first few years, you may want to pump the brakes for a second and consider getting a used vehicle instead.

    Used cars have many different financial benefits. They generally lose their value more slowly than new cars, don’t have extra fees or hidden expenses, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to insure.

    Look for Other Used Items

    Used cars aren’t the only way to save a buck in college. Living on campus can be expensive, especially when you know it’s going to be for two, three, or even four years.

    As you set up shop, look for used furniture and other gear, find a good local thrift store option for your wardrobe, and generally try to go the used and recycled route whenever possible.

    One particularly effective way buying used will benefit you is with your textbooks. Before you step foot in that college campus bookstore, try looking for alternatives.

    Used textbooks can be found online, and iPads and Kindles often have digital versions of a book. However, make absolutely sure that you’re getting the version of the textbook required for your classes, as even a single edition off can be detrimental to your studies.

    Get Rid of Unnecessary Stuff

    Minimalism is in these days. The need to hoard every single piece of your childhood paraphernalia is unnecessary and bothersome. Pack up the stuff that truly matters to you and then sell anything else of value. You can list things via online venues like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, have a yard sale, or look for friends and family who can take them off your hands for a small fee.

    Consider Online Courses and CLEP Tests

    The expense of an on-campus education is one of the primary factors that has driven the explosive rise in the popularity of online courses. This doesn’t mean you need to throw out the playbook and shift all of your college plans online, either. Often colleges will have a certain number of courses that they offer online in addition to their traditional brick-and-mortar offerings.

    If this isn’t an option, consider taking online courses elsewhere and then transferring the credits — make sure this will work with your college before you sign up, though!

    Also, consider taking CLEP or DSST tests to knock some of the easier courses off at minimal cost and with a fraction of the time. Again, make sure your particular college accepts credits of this nature. Even if they do, there’s often a limit to how many credits are acceptable, so do your homework first.

    Plan Your Meals

    This one’s pretty clear from the get go. Eating your meals on campus instead of dining out on a regular basis can be a huge money saver. If you have a meal plan, use it! If you don’t — or if the food offered doesn’t work for you — cook from your dorm. This will both save you cash and help develop your culinary skills.

    Make a Budget

    You don’t need to be an accountant major to know that having a budget can make a huge difference with the state of your finances. It can be tempting to toss all of your expenses into the “black hole” of your college debt and just assume you’ll deal with it down the road.

    The general awareness that keeping tabs on your expenses can bring is extremely valuable. While the necessity of going to school generally dictates that you’ll be operating in the red, it’s still worth taking the time to set up a budget and then do your best to stick to it.

    Keeping it Lean and Mean

    While it’s easy to throw in the towel and accept that debt on any level is just part of the college experience, that simply isn’t the case. Every penny spent at college can and will eventually need to be repaid. That’s why finding the best ways to manage your money and trim your budget can make such a huge difference down the road.

    other valuable tips:

    It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. However, putting limitations and a degree of moderation onto your college expenses is a wise move that will pay you back in spades in the future. So go for the used car, consider some online courses, and make sure that you’re keeping a tight budget as you navigate through your academic career and attempt to emerge in as healthy a financial state as possible. Good luck!

    Image Credit: Pixabay

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