Ten ways to cut college costs
The price of tuition is just the beginning of the cost of higher learning. It’s what you spend on all those extras that can easily blow your budget. Use our tips to make sure you don’t spend more than you have to.
1. Buy used books
You can cut the cost of college textbooks in half by buying second-hand texts from the campus bookstore and selling them through the store on consignment once you’ve completed the course. Or go online to search for used books through a variety of Web sites. Your college may even have a campus Web site where you can buy previously owned texts directly from upper-year students. Check with your professor to see if you can use an older (and often cheaper) edition. And save by only buying books you'll need for the entire year. Use library books to meet short-term needs.
2. Get school supplies in bulk
Stock up on notebooks, paper, computer supplies, pens and other items at an off-campus discount or bulk supply store. Stores on campus tend to be more expensive.
3. Comparison shop
The cost of items you use regularly, such as laundry detergent, toothpaste, soap and basic groceries may vary greatly between stores or even within the same store. Be sure to compare prices, use coupons and stock up when items go on sale.
4. Socialize on a budget
Restaurant, pub and theater expenses can be real budget-killers. Instead:
- Take a picnic to a park.
- Bike or hike in the great outdoors.
- Attend free on-campus concerts, readings, movies or other events.
- Visit museums and art galleries that offer student discounts.
- Attend second-run cinemas and discount matinees.
5. Take the bus
Public transportation is considerably less expensive than the cost of buying a car and paying for insurance, maintenance, parking and gas. Living near campus may allow you to walk nearly everywhere, but make sure you won’t pay for that luxury with higher rent.
6. Cut phone costs
Shop around for the best discount phone plan. If you make a lot of long-distance calls, you may be better off with a flat-rate plan that includes nation-wide long distance. If you have a cell phone, avoid using it outside your local calling area so as not to incur potential extra “roaming” charges.
7. Use a debit card
A debit card can be just as handy for day-to-day expenses as a credit card. Because the money is deducted directly from your bank account, you won’t be tempted to spend more than you have. You will also avoid the potential high interest rate finance charges levied by credit cards on unpaid balances. If you do use a credit card, arrange to have the monthly balance withdrawn from your bank account automatically.
8. Save on banking
Banks offer many different options for checking and savings accounts. Some charge fees for writing checks, for instance, while others don’t. The interest you earn on your savings can also vary from one institution to another. So research the best fee and rate structure before you put your money into a financial institution. And keep track of your balance once you start writing checks. Most banks charge penalties for bounced checks. Many banks offer free student accounts too.
9. Live off-campus
Living on campus can be costly. Renting an off-campus apartment with a roommate and sharing accommodation, food and other expenses is often considerably cheaper.
10. Shop secondhand
Secondhand furniture is much less expensive than new items. Look for desks, tables, dressers, couches, chairs, lamps, reconditioned appliances and carpets at local garage sales, flea markets and charity shops. You can also search for used items online or in the classified section of your local newspaper.