Heading off to college is an exciting time in a young high school graduate’s life. It is a time in which you get to spread your wings, further your education, and aspire to the career opportunities that await when you finish. It is also the time in your life when you need to start understanding finances, so you can hit the ground running once you obtain your degree. If you expect to emerge from college as debt-free as possible, there are 10 smart things you can do while you are in college to save some money.
1. Only Take the Classes You Need to Graduate
As you peruse through the course catalog at your college, chances are you will find some classes offered that would be fun to take, but will not help you advance to your degree any faster. Some students must be registered for a specific number of credits each quarter or semester to keep their financial aid intact. Before signing up for a class not required for graduation, be sure to speak with your financial aid counselor to see what your options are. Each course you take costs valuable tuition money.
2. Earn Extra Money While in School
Earning some money while in school will help ensure you hit the ground running after you get out of school. If your school workload does not support getting a part-time job in between classes, find a way to make some side money by working online. If you are passionate about writing, you can ghostwrite for blogs. You can also sell unused clothes, accessories, and other personal items on eBay, OfferUp, or Craigslist. If you have a specific craft you like to do in your spare time, sell your handmade goods on Etsy. Smartphones also offer a great way to earn some spare change while you are waiting for your next class to start or have some extra idle time.
3. Pay on Your Student Loans Now
While you are an active college student, you are not required to make any payments toward your student loan accounts. What you do need to know, however, is that they accrue interest even while you are still in school. Get ahead of the game and save yourself bundles in the long run by paying on them now. Even if you can only afford $20 a month, make the payment so that you can save on accruing interest charges. According to Debt.org, the average student will walk away from college with over $38,000 in student loan debt, and this average increases with each new school year.
4. Buy Snacks and Drinks in Bulk
The average trip to the vending machines in between classes for a quick snack or drink will cost you up to $2 per trip. While this does not seem like much money when the hunger or thirst bug bites, these trips can cost you hundreds of dollars per year that can better be used to pay for your uncontrollable college expenses. Instead of hitting the vending machine, be a smart shopper and purchase your snacks and drinks at warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. You can load your backpack each morning before heading off to your classes and make sure you have a quick snack or drink on hand when you need it. Chances are your parents have a membership, and you can take advantage of the savings.
5. Buy Your Supplies Off Campus
Whether you are in need of new notebooks, ink pens, or textbooks for your next course, you can save thousands of dollars over the course of your college career by purchasing your needed school supplies off campus. Take advantage of back-to-school sales at your favorite big-box retailer and buy all of the supplies you think you’ll need at the beginning of the school year. You can get textbooks for deeply discounted prices when you buy them used on Amazon, Half Price Books, or eBay. You do not need to buy books brand new, especially if you don’t plan on keeping them after the course is over. Be sure also to check out the campus library where you can borrow some of your textbooks in hard print or digital format.
6. Group Meals
The college campus cafeteria offers a quick way to get your meals, but you are also going to pay a lot more money than if you were to plan and prepare meals on your own. Whether you are planning social evenings with friends or study groups, make it a point to suggest doing it potluck style or hosting a cookout. Some dormitories have common cooking areas, so you can whip up a batch of chili or make a pot of spaghetti for the group. If your dorm does not have a common cooking area, you can get an electric grill or a Crock Pot and accomplish the mission.
7. Clothing Swaps
Think twice before heading to the mall the next time you need a particular outfit for a date or other special event. Raid your friend’s closets for something you can borrow to wear or arrange for a group clothing swap. Clothing swaps are a great way to get new clothes and accessories for free, and you will have a fun time putting together outfits with your college friends. Your clothing budget is better spent paying down debt.
8. Look for Free Entertainment
University towns are known for their free and low-cost activities and events. If you are looking for weekend or evening entertainment, avoid spending money at the movie theaters and other costly venues and seek out some free entertainment. You can learn about the city by taking a walking tour, hit the museums, or check out some art at a local festival. On a sunny day, find a good book and hit the nearest park.
9. Stay Healthy
Not only will living a healthy lifestyle make you feel great in the short term, but you will also save on medical costs, prescriptions, over the counter remedies, and potential time off from work in the long run. Be sure to get plenty of exercise, drink lots of water, and make healthy meal choices.
10. Avoid Excessive Drinking
While it is OK to splurge on a cocktail or beer every once in a while, binge drinking is an expensive habit that can also get you into trouble. Avoid drinking excessively, and you can save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. If you want to have an evening of drinking with friends, stay away from the bar and purchase alcohol to share at someone’s house. Bars charge a fortune for drinks, and you can buy a bottle of liquor at the store for a fraction of the price.
The time to start thinking about how to minimize the costs associated with going to college is before you even get there. Follow these smart tips to save money and reduce the financial impact of getting your degree. Graduating from college is supposed to be an exciting time when you hit the road looking for a career. Don’t spend this precious time worrying about how you are going to pay back money owed for your education.