It’s hard to believe that summer is nearly half over. Before you know it, you’ll be back in that cramped dorm room or campus apartment. While most of us don’t think about more than the paper that’s due in an hour or the party Friday night, you probably do realize you don’t have a lot of extra money to spare. If you’re looking to put a little extra cash in your pocket this school year, try these few simple tips to save money while you’re a college student:
Borrow books from your local or campus library or rent books
Searching for other places to buy books other than the campus bookstore has helped students save money each semester. Buying a book for $200 or more knowing you’ll only get $20 back at the end of the semester is why most college students end up living on Ramen noodles.
Borrowing library books helped me save a lot of money in college. Most libraries have an online catalog students can search to find books. Some states even have interlibrary loan programs—meaning you can rent books from other local libraries if your library doesn’t have it. If you can get the same book for free rather than paying $200, it makes sense to visit the library on campus to find out more information.
Recently, renting text books has become more popular. Students like renting books because most of the time it’s cheaper than buying used books. Additionally, renting books eliminates the hassle and disappointment of selling books back. While renting text books has become popular with students, be careful of the fine print when renting them. A few students I know ended up paying nearly $75 in fees once they returned their books at the end of the semester due to dog ear pages.
Spending some time at the beginning of the semester researching where you can get your books can help save money later.
Leave your car at home
While having a car on campus may seem convenient, it can also rack up additional costs. Most universities charge for campus parking permits, which can tack on hundreds of additional dollars on your tuition bill. In addition, you’ll have to spend money on gas for your car.
If you live on or close to campus, evaluate whether it’s really necessary to have a car. Become familiar with the campus area. Does the university offer free public transportation for students? Can you walk or ride a bike to places around campus? Sure, that class on the other side of campus may seem far, but walking or biking to class not only saves you from parking fees it’s a healthy and environmentally-friendly way to get to class.
Choosing the right meal plan
Most students feel like they have to sign up for meal plans while at school. They think that with limited dorm room space or time, meal plans are an easy solution for eating on campus. While meal plans seem convenient, they can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your college debt. Do you really need the biggest, best meal plan your university offers or can you make a meal at home in your dorm or apartment?
Doing a quick Google search for dorm room meals yields hundreds of ideas for delicious, easy meals. From microwave meals to crock pots and rice cooker meals, making your own food in your dorm not only saves you money but is also healthier and helps you control what you eat. Furthermore, spending some time on the weekend to make food for the week saves you the time of preparing and cooking a meal when you need to cram for an exam the next day. Pop you’re premade meal in the microwave for a few minutes, and your dinner is ready to eat while you study.
Open a student checking account
Many banks offer fee-free checking accounts for college students. Waiving popular fees like low account balances or monthly service fees helps students save hundreds of dollars a year. Some universities even team up with area banks to offer ATMs and bank services right on campus making it easy to do banking and keep up with bills.
Avoid the credit card tables at Welcome Day
Many credit card companies set up camp at Welcome Day events enticing students with free pizzas just for signing up for their credit cards. The problem most students run into is that they don’t know how credit cards work. Thinking credit cards offer free money they’ll eventually have to pay back, students often add credit card debt on top of tuition debt.
Credit cards can be helpful for emergencies. However, take time to ask questions about the cards offered and learn how they work to prevent incurring credit card debt on top of student loans during college.
You can’t control rising tuition or housing costs, but awareness of other expenses and knowing where you can save money during college can help reduce your college debt.