College is an irreplaceable experience whether you move across the country or commute from home. As a college student, you have independence from your parents, you no longer sit in class for seven hours a day and there are hundreds of clubs and activities to join! College is full of love, heartbreak, laughs, tears and lifelong friends. However, the experience comes with a price tag. Literally.
College is expensive regardless of where you attend. Community colleges and state universities both bill high tuition, charge just as much money (if not more) to live on campus and slip in fees to take certain classes or use campus facilities. Cost of higher education shouldn’t prevent students from pursuing a degree that’ll pay off in the long run, and luckily, there are plenty of ways for students to offset the cost of their education.
Scholarships are everywhere. Corporations, local businesses and colleges give them out all the time; all you have to do is apply! Whether it’s for $100 or $1,000, scholarships are free money that don’t require much work. To get started, use a scholarship database like this one, narrow down the list to the ones you demographically qualify for, read the rules and submit your application! A good rule of thumb is that you can never apply for too many scholarships.
Be Aware of Deadlines
This one applies to all college students. Whether you’re applying for a scholarship for the first time or applying to renew, it’s important to know when things are due. Very little is worse than losing out on a scholarship or FAFSA grant worth thousands because you lost track of time during a Netflix binge.
Prioritize and Budget
Do you really need another pair of shoes? That new video game? A lot of college kids spend money on things they don’t need. Starbucks every day might be nice in the moment, but it adds up at the end of each month. Creating a budget, whether on paper or online, allows you to divide your monthly budget into different categories and visualize what you’re over- or underspending on. Confused on how to start? Mint.com is a great site with an accompanying mobile app. Just be sure to save and to take unexpected costs into consideration!
Get a Job
This is the most obvious solution, but it’s not the easiest. College is time consuming. Even though you spend less time in class, you’re assigned more readings, given more assignments and your tests are worth a lot more of your grade. Balancing a part-time job and coursework can be hard, but it’s manageable. When looking for a job, keep your schedule in mind. Know what times you are and are not available and find a job that will work with them. Your best bet is to work on campus. Colleges have a plethora of job opportunities that come with a lot of other perks. Desk attendants can work on homework between phone calls, residence hall staff often get free room and board and campus dining often gives free or reduced-price meals to their employees.
Use a Credit Card
This might seem like a crazy idea, but it’s all about responsibility. If you don’t budget, keep track of your purchases or pay your entire balance each month, that’s where you run into trouble. When used correctly, credit cards allow students to gain credit that will in turn help them finance even bigger purchases down the road. Also, most cards offer cash back rewards on purchases that you make and pay off. This isn’t an excuse to spend what you don’t have in order to accrue points, but it does offer cardholders an opportunity to earn back a little bit of money on purchases they’re already making. Still unconvinced? Check out our article on managing your credit cards in college.
There’s nothing wrong with couponing or taking advantage of BOGO promotions. On top of commercial promotions, there are apps for everything. Pocket Points allows students to earn points that can be used to unlock deals at restaurants and stores near campus and online, Gas Buddy shows the cheapest gas prices in the area, UNiDAYS gives college students big discounts to big name clothing retailers and there are many more! Regardless of the method, each dollar saved is a dollar that can be spent on something else.
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