Four Key Areas to Cut the Cost of College Expenses – Without Cutting into a Great College Experience
Headed for college this fall? Congratulations! It’s an exciting new phase in life – one where you’ll be learning more about the world, yourself, and the cost of living away from home. College expenses don’t stop at tuition, room and board. There are lots of other expenses that can quickly eat through your budget. The good news is that there are easy, strategic ways you can enjoy college life for less – if you do your homework. Below are four key areas where you can cut the cost of college expenses – without cutting into a great college experience.
1. Get Tactical with Textbooks
The cost of textbooks and supplemental reading materials are notoriously high. According to the College Board, the average student spent over $1,200 for books and supplies last year. There are lots of options for getting your textbooks for less, rather than just heading to the college bookstore and buying new. Check out online stores like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and eCampus.com for lower prices. You can also rent books from the college bookstore, buy an older or an international edition, buy used books from friends, or borrow books from the library. Whatever books you want to sell back, make sure you keep them in top condition to get the best selling price.
2. Balance Your Meal Costs Better
Have options for different meal plans at your college? Opt out of the all-inclusive meal option, where the average cost is about $10 per meal, and choose a more flexible, lower cost plan with limited “swipes” into the dining hall. Bulk up on simple breakfast and lunch foods that you can store in your dorm fridge and prepare easily. Don’t forget the drinks and snacks as well – whatever you can purchase ahead of time off-campus at a discount food store will save you loads of money. Take care not to blow your food bucks on expensive take-out, which can consume even more money than on-campus dining if you’re not careful.
3. Take Advantage of Student Discounts
From clothing to computer software and hardware to cell phones and more, a Student ID can get you access to a lot of significant savings for products and services you’ll need while at school. Check out nine top categories where you can reap significant student discounts on this blog post. You may be surprised at all the discounts that are out there, from essentials to entertainment. Make sure you only buy what you need, however. Sometimes the best discount is not worth the overall cost of an expendable item.
4. Have Fun for Less
A large part of a great college experience is engaging in fun activities with friends. Yet, according to the College Board, the average student can blow big bucks on entertainment and discretionary purchases – an average of nearly $2,000 per year. Rather than choose expensive off-campus options, see what’s happening that is being offered by your college: free on-campus concerts and entertainment, movie rentals from the library, sports events and activities, gym membership, and more. Campus clubs are also a great way to meet new friends and enjoy activities together, whether it’s a sport or community service project. Take time to connect and find out what your college offers for students in their free time. Remember, you don’t have to “do” anything at all – just hanging out with your friends is fun and free.
These are just a few of the areas where you can save significant money while in college. If you use your savings to begin paying off accumulating interest on your student loans, all the better. Just paying a little each month on your loans can make a huge difference by the time you graduate.
Have any other money saving ideas you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments below.
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