According to the College Board, university students in America spent just under $1300 on books and supplies during the 2018-2019 school year. That’s probably a large chunk of the money you worked hard to make over the summer. Here are ConnectPrep’s recommendations on how you can cut costs and save money going into a new year at college!
- Purchase digital or paperback textbooks, or rent them: Hardcover textbooks are the most expensive. Online versions are by far the cheapest…and they never get lost or damaged! Even better, try renting a textbook. Are you really going to review chemistry 101 later in life?
- Don’t buy the latest and greatest…hand-me-downs are nice too: Chances are, information on your course’s subject matter hasn’t changed much in the past few years. Unless your professor says to buy a new version, get something a little older. Used books are great, and they often include notes or highlighted sections from previous students who were in your shoes. Take advantage of that. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your professor, they were a student trying to save money at one point as well!
- Eat-in: Take advantage of your school’s dining hall. If you’re on the meal plan, why not use it? While the food might not be 100% up to par with your favorite restaurant, it’s been paid for and ready to eat immediately. No wasting time, no hassle of driving somewhere, and all your friends will be there whether you invited them or not!
- Review meal plan policies: Do you enjoy cooking your own food? Do you have late or early eating habits? If paying for the meal plan is required, use it as often as you can. However, some schools offer multiple plans which might better suit your needs. If you only want to eat in the dining hall once a day or a few times a week, look into your school’s different options. After all, missing meals isn’t free…and missed meal times definitely add up!
- Look into housing accommodations: Depending on your school, it might be cheaper to live in an off-campus apartment. And maybe you’ll even be able to get that coveted single room you’ve been waiting for since 6th grade. This isn’t always the case, but who doesn’t like house shopping anyway?
- Apply for scholarships, among other things: Scholarships were made for a reason, so apply for them! If you don’t attempt to secure one, someone else will. Also, don’t forget about internships or on-campus jobs. They’re a great way to earn money, build your resume, and add structure to your day.
- Get a job!: You’re 18 (or pretty close to it), so start acting like it. While you’ll spend more time in classes and homework in college, your extracurriculars are much more flexible than in high school. You will choose your schedule, what clubs or teams you participate in, and how much free time you want to have. Think about applying for an on-campus job or at the local coffee shop down the road. After all, you’ll have something else to put on your resume which looks just as good as, or better than, other extracurriculars.
- Use common sense: You know you’re going to spend money each month, so plan it out. Keep up with your credit card payments, monitor your phone usage and bill, make smart and economic (bulk) purchases, and be wise. Treat yourself after a hard day or week, but know that you’ve got the rest of the year ahead of you. Plan accordingly!
- Take introductory classes at community colleges: Whether you attend a prestigious Ivy League university or your local community college, Economics 101 or Physics 107 is going to cover the same material. If possible, consider starting your college career at a community college where you can save (thousands) while learning the same information. Not only will you be paying cheaper tuition, but you’ll also have a few extra months of homemade meals and sleeping in your own bed!
- Leave your car at home: Between gas money, paying for parking, and general wear and tear, bringing a car to school is expensive and unnecessary. Also, a few of your friends will likely have cars which they might let you borrow if absolutely necessary. Alternatively, consider bringing a bike instead of using public transportation. Even a skateboard is a viable alternative, and they’re extremely portable!
Get creative with your bills.
Unplug your electronics when you’re not using them (it actually saves energy), use cold water when you can turn off the air conditioning or heat when the weather’s good, check for dripping faucets or lights left on before you leave the house and hand-wash some dishes (it won’t kill you).
Split food costs with roommates.
You guys can save a ton if you go in on groceries––especially if you buy in bulk. You could even grocery shop and cook together to get some solid roommate bonding time (hopefully, you like your roommates).
Be smart about your meal plan.
Meal plan costs can vary depending on your school––cheaper ones can be about $1,000 per semester, but some can be three times that (or more)! Some colleges might make you get a meal plan for your freshman year, so if you have to have one, make sure you actually use it. But if you don’t have to have one, meal prepping and making food from scratch are your new best friends. (Grocery shopping pro tip: If you buy generic brands, you’ll get pretty much the exact same thing as name brand for way less.)
You guys, there is no shame in using coupons––and yes, they can actually help you save money, even if it’s just a few cents at a time. You’re in college. You need every quarter you can get. How else are you supposed to buy vending machine snacks in between classes?
Take classes at community college first.
You can save a lot on tuition by getting all of your General Education requirements out of the way at a community college before heading to your school of choice because the price difference is insane. I mean, seriously––a year of tuition at a private is school is, on average, more than nine times the cost of a year of tuition at a community college!1
Ride a bike.
Nobody likes spending money on gas. With bikes, you don’t have to. Enough said.
Use public transportation.
This could be anything from the bus system to subways to rideshare services. According to the American Public Transportation Association, a household can save almost $10,000 by using public transportation and having one less car.3 Depending on how often you use public transportation, you might want to buy passes instead of individual tickets––it costs more up front, but it will help you save in the long run.
Cancel the cable.
Let’s be real—cable TV is pretty much a waste of time and money. There are plenty of cheaper options that let you pick what you want to watch on demand so you’re not flipping through the channels for hours and paying for junk you don’t watch. Hulu, Netflix, Google TV, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Sling TV are all good, but a word to the wise: You really just need one streaming service at a time. If you’re feeling super brave, you could try not watching TV at all.
If you have a gym membership, cancel it.
I’m all for getting ripped, but if you really need to save, that should be top priority. Plus, your school will probably have a student gym that’s included in the price of tuition. And there are plenty of ways to get exercise without going to the gym—like running, intramural sports, throwing a frisbee around, or walking back and forth in front of your crush’s dorm hoping they’ll notice you.
Have a part-time job or side hustle.
Don’t underestimate the effect that a few babysitting or dog-walking jobs per week can have on your savings. For a steadier income, a part-time job (no more than 15–20 hours per week) is a great idea too.
Find all the student discounts and coupons you can.
We’re talking Groupon. We’re talking Yelp. We’re talking all the restaurants, museums and movie theaters in your area that give discounts to college students. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to flash that student ID and ask if there are any deals available!