College is really expensive nowadays and doesn’t look like it’s going to get any cheaper. I’ve compiled tips and tricks from my own experience that can help you save money no matter what school you go to. Whether your parents pay for you or you’re taking out loans, I can help you!
Consider taking classes elsewhere
This may not be a tip for everyone- it certainly wasn’t for me. But, if you need to take core curriculum classes that aren’t related to your major (like English or History), it may be beneficial to do it online or at a community college. A semester of community college is not the same experience as a semester at a university, but these can also be taken over summer to reduce your costs.
Personally, I had most of my core curriculum taken care of before college thanks to AP Tests. A similar less-known program offered by the college board for college students is called CLEP. Using a combination of the two, I was able to save money and take more classes that truly interested me.
Reduce your living costs
Having a place to live is pretty important. There are different styles of living that range from different types of dorms, apartments, condos, duplexes, houses, etc. One of my friends even lives in an RV off-campus. Let’s go over how to save money in each one.
- Dorms- Depending on which dorm you choose, you might be able to have your own room and/or bathroom. You could also share a room with 1-3 roommates. And you might share a bathroom with the entire floor. To save money in this situation, you could pick less private/desirable housing. You can also become an RA or a live-in mentor.
- Appartments- As a general rule, the more people in an apartment, the cheaper per person it becomes. IF you can get along with enough people, you might want to consider sharing an apartment with them. Apartments closer to campus are often more expensive, so if you don’t pick early morning classes, you can save money by moving further away.
- Condos, duplexes, and houses- These three are virtually the same and the apartment advice also applies. If you have enough capital, you could also try house hacking. Otherwise, just don’t go crazy furnishing these places. Treat it like you’re decorating your dorm.
Spend less on food
You still need to eat, but you don’t need to be spending $10+ on every meal. The meal plans at my school cost about $12/meal on campus for the smallest plan (if you use all the meals, which I don’t). Meal plans are great for some, but if they’re not required, they’re likely a waste of money for you and here’s why.
Some places on campus will cost less per meal if you pay with a credit card than your meal-plan. This varies by college and location, but generally the non-food court style places have food for less than $12 if you pay by card.
Additionally, restaurants around campus will have deals all the time. Like ALL THE TIME. Check their websites and ask other students if you’re not aware of any, but around me, there are nights where I can get dinner for $3-5 (before tax and tip) at some of my favorite places.
There’s nothing wrong with pizza, fast food, or ramen noodles. I don’t eat Ramen all the time, but it costs less than $1 per meal and takes almost no time at all. Hate on Taco Bell or MacDonald’s if you want, but sometimes I want a cheap meal and they’re less than $5. My order from Taco Bell is only $2. Healthier alternatives are also available like Subway. I’ve also written extensively on how to get paid to eat pizza.
There’s also the option of cooking for yourself. It’s more time intensive but will save you money and could even be fun. Just be sure to have everything you need to make the meal, otherwise, you might be sorely disappointed!
Whatever you choose to do, remember to use rewards programs, cashback credit cards, and discounted gift cards where you can. It can save you up to an extra 25% or even more!
Saving money on textbooks
It’s amazing how much knowledge textbooks have and charge for that is out there for free. It’s ridiculous that I have to pay $120 for calculus lessons that are taught by a different instructor online. It’s not like the math is any different. In any case, I’ve saved myself and others tons on textbooks and made my guide for it available for free.
Do the “fun-stuff” cheaper
As a college student, you really don’t need to buy Tito’s when you can buy Svedka, especially since you’re usually mixing it in Jungle Juice. Keystone and Nattys are really cheap beers. The $5 parties are just as fun as the $20 parties. Spend smarter.
Not all good times have to be had with alcohol too. You can go bowling or to Karaoke nights or whatever is around you. Some of those are free and some aren’t. But the real fun comes from hanging with your friends and that doesn’t cost anything.
A penny saved is a penny earned
If a penny saved is a penny earned, then a penny earned can also be a penny saved. When it comes to compounding interest on student loans, a penny earned can turn into much more saved. There are tons of ways to make money in college including working as a TA, RA, grader, etc. I’ve listed a few of the *ahem* interesting ways I make money in college.