While some college students are fortunate enough to have parents that are willing and able to make their college years a free ride, others have to put more thought and effort into saving what little money they have. For those who live the frugal life, there are numerous excellent ways to save money. It’s surprising to discover just how much can be saved by employing a few simple ideas. Stretch your dollar to the max with the following 10 money-saving ideas.
#1 Avoid credit cards
Credit card companies are doing their best to push their products on more people than ever these days, including college students. It’s best to avoid them altogether because they are a very effective financial trap. They are so easy to use and not so easy to pay off. Many college students will graduate with student loans to pay off, so is it smart to add to that by running up credit card debt? There are exceptions, or course, like cards that are emblazoned with a parents’ name which means you won’t take the risk of damaging your own credit, but you’ll have to deal with mom or dad when it comes to questionable expenses.
There’s no getting around the fact that books will be needed for most college courses. Buying them new will set you back more than you might expect, so it pays to explore other options. Sometimes local book stores will carry used copies of college text books, and they can also be ordered online at places like Amazon.com. If you have to buy some of them new, you can save significantly by seeking out the “international” edition which is the same product, with the possible addition of a few characters in another language on the cover.
#3 Food choices
While grabbing a bite at the local pizza place now and then can be a welcome change from cafeteria food or the usual meal routine, it’s probably not necessary to buy a latte every morning. When you are in school and on a tight budget, you really should think in terms of need as opposed to want. If you simply must have coffee every morning, maybe asking for a coffee maker makes sense when mom and dad ask what you want for Christmas or your birthday.
These days it’s not practical to head off to college without a laptop and perhaps a tablet as well. Buying brand-new online or from the local outlet is not the only way to go. You can often get a used computer by checking out the deals on eBay or Craigslist. If you are able to buy new, don’t forget that many retailers offers student discounts, so be sure to take advantage of them. Where software is concerned, there are very substantial student discounts available from some of the big software companies like Microsoft and Apple.
Even with a heavy course load and plenty of studying to be done, everyone enjoys a little time to relax and watch some television or a movie. Stay clear of expensive cable and satellite TV services and get your video entertainment online. A laptop computer or tablet is all you need to watch the latest and greatest programming through services like Netflix and Amazon, which offer monthly plans that are quite reasonable, and a lot less than cable or satellite.
In many cases, off-campus living will be the only option available. Keep in mind that college is temporary and you won’t be there forever. Unless it compromises safety, find the cheapest place you can, as long as it’s clean and livable. Obviously it will cut housing expenses dramatically if you can find a roommate or two, depending on the size of the place. Don’t get too hung up on things like decorating, since your priority should be what you need to get by rather than what you would like to have. Furniture can often be had for rock-bottom prices if you take the time to scour Craigslist or other local classified ads.
#7 Getting around
Having a car is great, there’s no doubt about that, but it is not always possible. No matter the circumstances, living on, or close to campus will be a benefit and will save you money on gas, bus passes or shoe leather. Where no car is available and the distance to campus makes walking or biking impractical, public transportation is probably the best option. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend at school with a car, that’s another great way to save some money, although your friend will probably not protest if you offer to split the fuel costs.
Any college-aged person without their own smartphone these days is probably going to be considered somewhat of an oddity, if not a full-fledged luddite! Keep cell phone costs low by getting on a family plan with your parents, and remember to use wi-fi if it is offered at no cost on campus or where you are living. You can use programs like Skype over wi-fi to stay in touch with the folks at home for free and avoid using your cell phone minutes.
If you have sufficient free time available, a part-time job is an excellent way to put some extra cash in your pocket. Even if you don’t want to leave your room, there are things you can do online to make money such as programs like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. If you don’t mink doing surveys, there are reputable survey companies out there like Focus Forward that may pay a few bucks when you complete a survey, or a lot more if you get involved in one of their consumer testing gigs or over-the-phone consumer interviews.
#10 Personal Stuff
Most people are accustomed to a certain standard where personal hygiene is concerned and college is certainly not the place you want to let that standard slip. Hitting the dollar stores and other discount outlets is a good way to keep things like soap and shampoo from blowing a hole in your budget. If it gets you clean, it’s good enough, and you don’t necessarily need the fancy name-brand shampoo or body wash you were accustomed to using when you were living with mom and dad.
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