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Getting through college is a task that requires you to be innovative, attentive and focused when it comes to maintaining a balanced way of living that keeps your school work and your wallet in check.
Being able to develop tactics that can help you save a substantial amount of money while plowing through the incredible hurdles of college coursework can be hard, especially if your available work time is limited.
With the cost of tuition rising and all the different expenses that come with setting yourself up for success during your college career, the concerns surrounding financial stability are legitimate.
Finding ways to save up the money that you do make while you’re in school can also be hard thanks to the shortage of work hours and the different ways that you can easily spend money on campus.
The good news is that there are ways to cut corners when it comes to spending money and saving money throughout your college career that can help you feel more balanced and capable of being disciplined with your money matters.
Here is a look at some of the best ways to maintain your financial independence during college and ensure that you save enough through your college career to keep you self-reliant and free.
10 Money Saving Tactics for Your College Career
If this is your first year in college and you’ve got concerns about how you’ll survive the school year then this short list of money saving ideas may help you.
1. Don’t Buy New Textbooks
With the high cost of back to school shopping, trying to save money on textbooks might not even seem like an option thanks to the way that schools present their textbook purchasing programs.
You’ll most likely be prompted to purchase your textbooks directly from the school, and although this seems like the only option, that is not the case.
Many colleges only carry the most recent versions of their textbooks, which means that they are expensive and can really take a chunk out of your school money.
Many of college students know that when you apply for financial aid, you get a certain amount of money to cover tuition and will most likely have some left over to make other important purchases for your college courses.
This money is intended for your textbooks, school supplies and big items like your college laptop.
There is usually enough left over that you feel like you’ve gotten lucky, but with the cost of your college textbooks alone, you can see that sum dwindle quickly.
One of the best ways to keep your spending down during college is to purchase textbooks that are not new.
There are many ways that you can go about this, but the first is finding out exactly what college textbooks you need for your classes.
Make a thorough list of every book you need for all of your credits during your current semester, and start shopping around.
The easiest way to get textbooks will be through your college, but with a little research you’ll be able to find alternative options for your textbook shopping.
The first place to look is amongst your fellow college students.
A lot of students take their textbooks and sell them back to their colleges at the end of the semester when they’re no longer in need of the textbook.
This means that you can purchase a used textbook directly from your school, but the markup for the book will probably be closer to the original price than not.
This means that you should look on your college’s online forums and in places like the library at the bulletin board for people who are looking to sell their textbooks to other students directly.
The idea here is to cut out the middle man.
If you can find other students looking to make some money back on their textbooks, this is a great way to pay it forward to another student who is in the same financial boat as you.
Schools will buy back textbooks at a low price and then sell them for close to the original price.
Purchasing your textbook directly from another student will ensure that you have the correct book and you’ll save money while helping the student you purchase from make a significantly higher return on the price of their textbook.
Another way that you can save on textbooks is to buy them online.
Everyone knows that Amazon is the marketplace of all marketplaces on the internet, but you may not know that they also sell college textbooks.
One good trick for purchasing college textbooks online is to look at the edition that is required for your textbook this semester and purchase a previous edition.
These textbook updates from year to year are very minimal.
There is rarely a substantial difference from one edition to the next, and this means that you can easily buy the previous edition and still have the same information for your course.
Amazon will carry major college text books which you can rent, buy, or sell easily through their marketplace.
You’ll be able to save substantially by using their used books area, purchasing a previous edition of your book, and having them shipped to your door.
Another secret is that your library most likely has a single school copy of your textbooks and a copier in the same room.
A lot of college classes only make use of a portion of your book, and it’s a considerably small portion at that.
You can easily go to the library, check out the textbook and make copies of only the chapters that you’ll need for your course.
At the start of your semester you’ll get a syllabus with the chapters you’ll be covering throughout the course of your semester.
If you want to really save some money and still have the most recent information, you can check the book out, make copies, and return the book to the library.
If something comes up during your semester where you’ll need another section of the book, you can repeat this process.
The printer in your college library will come with a minimal cost, but this usually will not exceed $0.10 to $0.25 a page.
Each chapter will cost you a few dollars, but this will usually fall under $10 per chapter.
Compared to textbook prices that reach over $100, this will be substantially cheaper.
It might seem a little DIY, but this is a great method to cut the cost of an entire textbook and only purchase what you need.
2. Save Money on Your Laptop
One of the biggest and most important expenses you’ll have during your college career is your laptop.
Every student today needs a computer to properly execute their coursework and stay in contact with their professors and other students.
This is a cost that is so necessary, even considering using a school computer may not suffice.
This cost is important because you’ll have to keep logs of your coursework easily available, and students are usually not allowed to save their documents and files to a school-wide computer.
What this means is that you’ll have to have a laptop on-hand to save your ongoing homework and papers.
Although this is a major cost, there are ways to save big bucks on your college career laptop.
The great thing about this purchase is that your laptop will be yours and yours alone, and you’ll be able to use it over the course of your entire college career if you manage to maintain its safety and security.
Although Adobe does not sell laptops, they offer major discounts for students who need their software to complete assignments.
Adobe software is extremely expensive on its own, and this program can cut the cost of software like Photoshop and Illustrator by 60%.
The best part is that if you use their student discount, you’ll have access to all their software for roughly $20 a month.
Apple and Dell have their college laptop purchase programs which cut the corners off of their laptop prices.
Although you won’t save something close to 50% on your purchase, you’ll still cut the cost down substantially based on the total price of your laptop.
Another option is looking for a used laptop within your college community, or get on the ever-popular craigslist and make a purchase from someone locally who is either ready to purchase a new laptop or not using one they currently own.
The best way to make a good purchase is to know the working functionality of the computer you want to buy and take precautions to ensure that you’re purchasing an item that is not defective.
You can easily take a laptop that you’d like to purchase for diagnostics testing at a major electronics store like Best Buy.
If you’ve got a potential Apple computer to purchase, you can make an appointment with their Genius Bar online and have them test the potential purchase for functionality.
Finding a great laptop that is affordable and perfectly functional can be easy if you keep your eye out for a great sale.
3. Never Grocery Shop Hungry
One major tip for any grocery shopper is to never, ever, shop hungry.
This might seem like such a tiny detail in the grand scheme of things, but the reason why this idea is so prominent is because of the effects that hunger has on you when you are grocery shopping.
It’s much easier to spend unnecessary money while you hungrily stalk the isles, so to keep your impulse buying to a minimum, eat before you go to the grocery store.
This will help keep your grocery purchasing rationally grounded in what you need and not what you’d like to buy because you’re ready to chow down on whatever you get your hands on.
Another great tip for grocery shopping on a budget is to make an extensive grocery list that only incorporates what you need and absolutely know you will eat.
If you don’t make a grocery list before you head into the store, you’re likely to make purchases for food items that will end up going into the trash bin by the end of the week.
It might not seem like a big deal in the moment, but throwing away uneaten food that’s been sitting in your fridge all week is like throwing money into the trash.
You’ll want to do this as little as possible and make the most of your weekly grocery shopping.
Compose a proper list of the things you’ll need for the week, and only focus on those items when you’re in the store.
Bring only the cash that you’ll need with you and leave the debit or credit cards at home so you can’t stray from your list.
Developing this discipline early in your college career will help you keep any extra costs from creeping into your financial life.
4. Open a Student Checking Account
Heading off to college comes with great responsibilities, including starting your own bank account.
This may be the first time you’ve gotten a bank account, or it may be your first time venturing into the world of financial responsibility on your own.
Regardless of whether you’ve had help from your parents in the past, establishing financial independence in college is essential to your personal development and understanding the ins and outs of real-world financial balance.
A great way to start off your financial independence in college is to open your own checking account.
When you go to a bank, there are plenty of options for different accounts but most of these options are associated with fees that are charged monthly or annually to maintain your account.
These accounts usually have no fees and are viable throughout the course of your college career.
It may not seem like a big deal to have that little bit of money shaved off your monthly expenses, but at $10 to $20 dollars a month for a checking account, this can add up over the course of your four college years.
Getting a no-fee checking account is easy at any of the major banks.
You may be able to make the account online, but to ensure that everything goes smoothly, you may want to sit with a banker.
If you have no credit history or any other financial establishments under your belt, then you’re likely to have to go into the bank itself.
All you’ll need to bring with you to your future bank is your ID, your college ID, your social security card or other important identification papers, and the right questions.
When you sit down with a banker, ask them about student accounts, and they will help you enroll right then and there.
You’ll have to make a small deposit to open your checking account, so come with money in hand.
Usually $25 to $50 dollars can help you get your account open, and then from there you are free to manage your funds as you see fit.
5. Get a Student Credit Card
Having a bank account during college is important, but you may be wondering about how you can get your first credit card as a college student.
Although a credit card is optional, it doesn’t mean that you should get one straightaway.
If you’ve decided that a credit card is the right choice for you, then you should look into options that are supportive of your student status.
When you get a student credit card, the issuing banker will help you identify other resources via their student credit card program that can help you learn how to build a stable financial future.
As with any credit card, it’s best to use them only when absolutely necessary and keep the spending down to a minimum that will allow you to pay back the amount on your credit card in full.
Building good credit is important for your future, and planning ahead can set you up for great success.
Having good credit means being able to take out loans and mortgages in the future without having any hiccups.
Major banks have student credit cards available for interested students, and you should definitely compare and contrast the benefits of all of them.
Taking out a credit card to make a major purchase early in your credit career may seem like the way to go, but this may result in impacting your credit score negatively.
Paying down a large purchase can take time, and if you miss a payment or forget that you’ve got interest that’ll pile up you may impact your credit negatively.
Stick to the golden rule of credit cards: Only purchase what you can pay back in the same month.
This will help you build your credit in a positive way, and the stability that this will allow you in the future will be priceless.
6. Make Your Own Coffee, Cook Your Own Meals
If your goal as a fledgling college student is to cut as many costs as possible, then being frugal with how you spend your disposable income will help you keep more money in your savings.
Making a point to do simple things like cooking your own meals and making your own coffee can help you control impulse spending and avoid small costs that will add up over the course of your school year.
With an average $5 Starbucks trip a day, you’ll be spending up to $35 a week or $140 a month.
Over the course of a four month semester, you’ll be spending around $560 a semester just on coffee.
That’s a lot of money just to keep you awake! Instead of doing that, purchase a coffee maker if there isn’t one in your dorm, and make your own coffee every day.
This will cost you substantially less and also give you the option of splurging just a little bit on some really good coffee beans without feeling guilty about the expense.
The same principle applies to cooking your own food.
If you’re already doing your due diligence and going to the grocery store every week, then you should be making the food you buy out of principle.
Eating out during your college career will be one of the most expensive things you can do.
With the average cost of a simple meal ranging between $10-$15 and knowing full well that you’ll have to eat more than one a day, this can also add up very quickly.
If you’ve got limited income due to your heavy course load, you won’t be able to easily afford this lifestyle without making up the costs with a side hustle.
The best way to stay away from unnecessary dining expenses is to cook your own food during the week.
Splurging occasionally for special occasions is absolutely you prerogative, but for the every day college grind, your best bet is to do the frugal thing and keep your expenses low by taking the extra hour to make your own food daily.
7. Apply to Become a Resident Advisor
This may be something that you’ve heard of or considered, but becoming a Resident Advisor in your dorm can mean major savings on your room and board in college and rewarding experiences.
There are no guarantees going into the Resident Advisor application process, but if you believe that you’re able to maintain the responsibilities involved with being an RA, you should apply.
There are some lucrative benefits to being an RA, and those benefits vary between schools.
Often what RA benefits include are a discounted or free room, and money towards your board, also known as your meal plan.
For the cost of watching over your fellow students and making sure that they are safe and maintaining the rules of your dorm, you can live for close to free if not completely free on your college campus.
You’ll save a couple thousand dollars per semester on room and board if you’re an RA.
Apply before your semester starts, and if you’re chosen, you’ll be lucky enough to save the money that you would’ve spent on room and board and use it toward other important college expenses.
8. Limit Your Alcohol Purchases
It’s no secret that college life comes with its after-hours perks.
Having a god time during college is important to the balance of the heavy work load and your sanity, so you should take the time to develop friendships with your peers and find ways to unwind.
The average college party is the perfect setting for socializing, and usually everyone involved contributes to the party favors, including alcohol.
Although the alcohol you consume is at your discretion, purchasing alcohol can become an expensive responsibility.
Try to keep your alcohol expenses as low as possible.
You can do this by purchasing alcohol from a local store instead of spending exorbitant amounts of money at a bar.
You can also split the costs with some friends and have a great time socializing without breaking the bank.
Having fun is absolutely necessary in college, but doing so wisely will help you keep more money in your pocket.
9. Use Your Student ID for Discounts
Believe it or not, just being enrolled in college can get you benefits outside of your college campus.
You can use your student ID at art supply stores, restaurants, and some of your favorite retailers near your college and in many places that are not directly associated with your college’s town.
It won’t usually be more than 10% to15% but it’s worth the savings if you can use it.
Your student ID can also be used to make major purchases such as a laptop or other school supplies depending on where you purchase these items from.
Try to keep your student ID with you when you shop in stores or online and always ask if student discounts are available when you go out.
10. Focus On School
The biggest secret to spending money wisely in college is to focus on school.
Despite all the available money spending temptations on campus, you can have a fun, happy experience in college without spending more money than necessary.
Paying attention to your grades can keep your financial aid in check and help you avoid having to pay back the tuition for a class if you don’t pass.
Keeping up with your student advisors and only taking the necessary courses can also help you cut costs in the long run.
Although you may want to take a cool elective that peaks your interests, the extra class may bite into your financial aid and make your college experience more expensive.
Testing out of classes that you already have credit for from a community college or an AP program can help you lower your tuition costs as well.
If you keep your grades up and focus during your school career, you may even become eligible for scholarships based on your fruitful work.
As long as you work hard and stick to only what you need to do during your college career, you’ll be able to save money along the way.
With these money saving ideas, you’ll be able to siphon off some of your monthly income during school and save up some money while you go through your college career.