From tuition to textbooks, to food costs and transportation, college students today have to balance their checkbooks along with their class schedules in order to make their money stretch further. This means being smarter about finances and resisting the temptation to rack up credit card debt and finding other easy ways to save.
Here are some ways to save money during college so you can really celebrate on graduation day.
1. Consider your transportation options
At the beginning of each semester, ask classmates with similar class schedules if they'd be interested in carpooling. Also, consider your local bus system. Many universities have regularly scheduled bus services that run at various intervals to and from campuses. Finally, if you feel safe and live close enough, consider walking or riding your bike. All of these options can save you a lot of money on gas and parking passes.
2. Use your meal plan
Most college cafeterias have come a long way from trays of overcooked food and menus that cycle through the same meals each week. Today there are a variety of healthy options in every price range that should be enough to keep you from eating out seven days a week. Instead, reserve eating out for special occasions and get the most out of your on-campus prepaid meal plan. And, if you want to be adventurous, try cooking your own food. Just make sure the menu is economical. Enlist your roommates, cook for a crowd, and share the ingredient costs.
3. Don't pay a fortune for textbooks
Ask any college student about the cost of textbooks and they'll tell you how ridiculously expensive new books can be. Instead, troll the Internet for bargains. Websites including eBay and Amazon offer a variety of new, used, rental, and even eTextbooks that can save you hundreds of dollars every year.
4. Take advantage of amenities
Like a good hotel, your campus comes equipped with a variety of free or low-cost amenities. For example, on-campus fitness facilities that are typically open to all students contain cardio machines, weights, and group exercise classes with no contract fees or monthly dues. And when it comes to leisure time, be sure to take advantage of on-campus lectures, seminars, and concerts. College libraries often host film events that can offer you fun, free entertainment.
5. Seek out student-friendly work
Your college may offer work-study programs. In addition, many seasonal businesses hire students for the summer or peak holiday periods. Some companies even offer paid internships to students. And don't forget to check your school's reader board for picking up odd jobs on the weekends, which can help offset expenses and add valuable paid experience to your resume.
College is a time for education, but also a time for growth. Learning how to save while in college gives you the financial tools and confidence to graduate with less debt and be better prepared to manage your finances.