College, the unforgettable days of close-knit friendships, never-ending social gatherings, and plenty of studying. For many, these days are also filled with severe budgeting. Let’s face the facts: It can be extremely hard to live stress-free in college without some solid money management skills.
Check out our 10 favorite ways to cut costs, without cutting out the fun-factor:
1) Watch Out For Textbooks
Textbooks are insanely expensive, and you end up needing new ones every single year. Don’t just blindly purchase books from your school store. Instead, shop online and look for the best deals on textbooks. Your college bookstore will normally markup the prices by a significant margin, so only go there as a last resort. If you have the opportunity, remember to sell last semester’s books back. Even if it takes a bit of effort, throwing away expensive textbooks is akin to throwing away money.
2) Eating In (Or Out Of!) The Budget
When it comes to food, you should think of the situation as wants versus needs. Maybe you want soda… but water is cheaper — most of the time it’s free — and won’t really be a huge disturbance. On the same train of thought, if you can cut down on eating out during the day, it really starts to add up. Don’t forget that even a sandwich costs way more to buy at a deli than making one with meats from the supermarket.
Similarly, Frappuccinos are tasty, but those $5 drinks can be a huge wallet-thinner. If you’re not too much of a coffee connoisseur, just make your own at home.
3) Transportation: Flashy Or Practical
Do you live in a city? Perfect, public transportation is the norm… so you don’t need to worry about paying for a car. For everyone else, transportation can turn into a huge expense. If you have the option, walking, biking, or even carpooling can be a great way to cut down on costs. On top of that, those first two options are healthy, and a good way to get some moderate exercise in on a jam-packed college schedule.
4) Learn The Basics
If you take anything from this article, make it the importance of money management. Even the basics, like putting together a budget, getting a bank account, and how to pay off credit card bills are extremely important. Similarly, if you’re trying to cut costs… it might be a good idea to stick with a checking account and a debit card instead of credit. They can be really tempting, and cause overspending if you aren’t diligently keeping track of your balances.
5) Pay Off The Right Bills
If you’re dealing with multiple bills, loans, or other debt… make sure you are paying it off in the smartest way. Verify what type of interest rate or payment plans are available, and then pay off the debt with the highest interest rate. That way, you won’t lose any additional money just due to poor planning. If your *not* dealing with debt, good job, you’re in the clear… put these other strategies to use so you never have to worry in the future.
6) Are phones worth it?
Phones are another area where costs seem to keep rising and rising. Check on your plan, what are you actually paying for? Phone, text, data, or something else entirely? Then think about what you actually need: For instance, if you almost always text your friends (and only call your parents) then it might be a good idea to switch the plan up. Sometimes, cell phone carriers will offer plans with free incoming calls and unlimited texting for a significantly reduced price.
7) Use Your Free Time For *Paid* Activities
It might be worth checking out a part time position working for your university. Even something as simple as being a Resident Advisor can save thousands upon thousands of dollars in free room and board. This will vary at every college, but these positions are often not very time-consuming. On top of that, these positions are typically super flexible with your schedule, because the college is your employer.
8) Search Out The Discounts
Does your student ID card get you discounts? Around most college campuses, restaurants and locally owned shops will have sizable discounts for college students as a way to promote the store while helping out the students. These are fantastic for saving money — 20% off here, 15% off there — it really ends up saving a ton of money. The best part of these discounts is that they happen passively, just remember which stores offer discounts and shop there… no additional work necessary.
9) Meal Plans…
Be careful with prepaid student meal plans. Sometimes they are great, and will save you tons of money when it comes to eating out or groceries… but other times they have hidden costs. Make sure your college has a good meal plan before signing up. Ask friends, alumni, or anyone else you know that goes to the school — they’re the ones that will give you a straight answer. You’re looking for a meal plan that is based on “meals” versus one that works like a debit card. That’s because “debit card” meal plans are basically just gift cards for spending your money on school-owned food shops, while plans that go by the “meal” offer a guaranteed price each time you get hungry.
10) Sell Your Old Items
This is a pretty common tactic for saving and making a bit of side money — and you should really take it to heart. If you’re upgrading to a new television, or just need to throw away your old couch, think about selling these online. It is surprisingly easy to throw items up on eBay or Craigslist and essentially have people pay you to take it off your hands. And when you think of it that way, it seems like a no-brainer!
Whether you’re new to college or on your way out, you should use these tactics to your advantage. Everyone can benefit from using money management strategies to cut back on costs, because it means more funds to put towards whatever “you” choose.