5 Ways to Save Money For College This Semester

Aug 26, 2013 | by Franck Cushner, CFP®

We’ve all been there:  Expensive books you’ll open once, Over-draft fees, late-night runs to our favorite fast-food establishment, and spending a little too much money on any given Thursday night.  While college demands rigorous academic work, the most challenging task a college student will face is how to properly budget their money.   Whether it’s your child that’s headed back to campus for the fall, or yourself, here are 5 ways to help significantly cut the costs throughout the semester.

1.)    Text books are both essential and expensive.  Very expensive, actually.  However, most textbooks are now available online, and are drastically cheaper than buying the physical book itself.  Wait to attend a couple classes before you buy the “required,” for lack of a better word, text.  The book may not be essential to the curriculum of the class, despite being listed by the school.  If you have some friends in the class, look into splitting the cost of the book between the group.  Check into renting your textbook for the semester, or even buying a used book.  Websites like Chegg and Amazon have discounted used books.

2.)    After spending a freshman year in a small, cluttered dorm room, many students look to move off campus into a house or apartment.  Depending on the area of the college, housing costs can be quite expensive.  Generally, dorms are more expensive than living off campus.  Buying a house or condo can be a great investment.  Although you’re paying the mortgage on the house while in school, you can either rent the house out post-graduation, or flip it to sell for even more than you paid initially.  Subleasing an apartment or room in a house over the summer break can also put some money back in your pocket.  Fraternity and sorority houses may also be a cheaper option, even after the respective chapter dues.  Some of the amenities that come with living in Greek housing fairly desirable; such as having a live-in chef.

3.)    If off-campus living is the better option, you’ll need to food-shop and cook for yourself.  Eating out can become very expensive, and sometimes unhealthy.  Shopping at a wholesale store such as Costco, BJ’s, or WalMart can help save as well.  Buying in bulk, generally, is relatively cheaper.  If you shop for a week at a time, you can budget the rest of your allocated spending money for the rest of the week. 

4.)    Credit cards can be your best friend, or worst nightmare.  College students are not exempt from earning poor credit.  Put a spending limit on your card, or try using a pre-paid visa gift card so you know you can’t spend money you don’t have.  Put money on your school’s ID card, if you school has it, and eat at the places that honor the card.  These will protect you from a $40 overdraft fee on a $5 meal.

5.)    Nightlife is what makes the countless hours of weekday studying in the library worth-while.  Bars can be expensive, and buying a round for your friends won’t help your tab, either.  By leaving your credit/debit cards at home, and only bringing the amount of cash you’re willing to spend, you can save the money you “didn’t realize you’ve spent.”  ATM’s at bars set their surcharges at their own discretion.  That $20 you pulled out may cost your account $27.  The charges may seem small, but add up quicker than you think. 


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