It’s time for college students to head back to campus—and whether you are a freshman or a senior, saving money should be a priority. As tuition prices rise, you have to make up for the cost somewhere.
While you prepare to get out there on your own, consider these ten tips for saving money while at college:
- Rent your textbooks. It’s not just about buying used anymore; you can now rent your textbooks for even less than you would pay to buy them used. The downside is that you don’t get to sell the books back. If you do buy used, consider buying through Amazon, which will buy your books back for a credit that might be worth more than you would get from your school’s bookstore. You may also want to consider buying or renting your textbooks as e-books when available.
- Get involved on campus. Most colleges have plenty of activities that are free or low cost. From movies to sporting events to ethnic food festivals, there are usually plenty of inexpensive ways to have fun.
- Live close to campus. I loved living on campus because I didn’t need to use my car very much. Live on campus, or near campus, and you can walk or bike almost anywhere, saving money on gas, maintenance, and other costs related to having a car.
- Only borrow what you need. One of my biggest mistakes was borrowing the maximum in student loans. I didn’t need it—I had a scholarship and an on-campus job. The money you spend in interest over the lifetime of the loan can be huge. Try to avoid debt if you can, and if you can’t, borrow as little as possible. Realize, too, that even if you didn’t have a scholarship coming in, many schools offer scholarships to returning students who do well. Check into your options.
- Pay bills on time. Now that you are (sort of) on your own, you need to take more responsibility. Make sure that you pay your bills on time. Late fees can add up, and dings to your credit score can cost you later as you pay more in interest.
- Learn to cook. Instead of eating out or grabbing food from vending machines, learn to cook. When possible, make your own meals. You’ll save money, and you’ll be healthier, too. Many campuses have cooking dorms with common areas so you can save on food even if you aren’t in an off-campus apartment.
- Don’t go on spring break. It’s tempting to spend spring break at some resort in Mexico. However, that can get pricey. Instead, stick close—or skip a traditional spring break altogether. If you have a job, try to squeeze in more hours at work instead.
- Keep your personal information safe. Don’t give out information about your bank account, Social Security number, or credit cards. Keep all of that private—you don’t want to lose money by being the victim of identity theft.
- Track your spending and live within your means. Create a budget, and keep track of where your money is going. Save up for bigger purchases. Living within your means will save you in interest charges and overdraft fees.
- Avoid big spenders. When you spend time with big spenders, you start to feel like you have to spend a lot of money as well. Instead of hanging out with the flashiest students, look for students who are interested in having fun without spending a lot of money. You can usually find these types of students at campus activities. Hang out with people who share your view on money and who can help you keep your spending under control.
College can be a great time to learn and to have fun. However, you also need to keep an eye on your pocketbook. Save money while in college and you’ll be ahead when you have your degree.