College kids all over the country are graduating this weekend, and I know that at least a few of those bright-eyed newbies are looking toward the future: Getting jobs, renting apartments/buying condos, and thinking about their student loans coming due. (Sorry if I caused a mild panic attack for anyone.)
Ah, those four (or five or six) years were worth it, though, right?
However, I bet more than one of those students is thinking, “Man, oh, man, I shouldn’t have taken out that student loan to finance my spring break (or my beer belly).”
Some of them have college money advice for you. In fact, here’s the list, fresh from the mouths of grads:
Scour the internet for textbook savings
What’s a major burden on student finances each semester? You got it – textbooks.
Alert! Sometimes it’s not cheaper to rent textbooks. In fact, you can use www.textbookrentals.com to compare prices for different bookstores. Here’s a snapshot of the overall differences:
Computer and technology savings
You need a computer for college, there’s no doubt, so you might as well get the best deal you can. Check with your school’s IT department to find out what you can save on technology—you might be surprised! Many vendors have special pricing for faculty, staff and students.
At the college I work for, Apple, Best Buy, Dell, HP Academy, Lenovo Academic Purchase Program, and CollegeBuys.org are some of the companies/programs who offer deals for students. For example, here’s a flyer that came through campus announcements the other day at my college:
Just remember, the deals are different everywhere, so check with YOUR school.
Credit cards are a no-no
Good Lord, if you have a credit card, please pay it off every month. (This tip isn’t just for college students, either.)
Did you know that if you borrow $10,000 on your credit cards and pay only the minimum payment with an interest rate of 19.98%, it will take you more than 37 years to get out of debt, and in the meantime, you will have forked over nearly $19,000 in interest charges?
Tons of college students graduate with just more than student loan debt every year. Don’t let yourself be a victim.
Use on-campus amenities and services
Think about the places on campus where you can take advantage of free stuff. Even if you’re not a fan of the dank, dark gym in the basement of the student center at your college, who cares? Use it anyway! Why pay gym fees somewhere else? In most cases, your student ID will get you in for free. Here are a few other ideas where you can cut corners:
- Some schools offer free printing and laundry (I know ours does!)
- On-campus health services
- Media equipment rental at the media center (instead of thinking you need your own)
- Free tutoring!!!
- Free on-campus transportation
You don’t need a car in college!
You really, really don’t. You’ll save money on gas, insurance, parking fees (and parking tickets), etc. When I was a freshman in college, I left my car at my parents’ house and my dad even cancelled my insurance during the year I was away at college.
At any rate, take public transportation, ask for rides from friends to Wal-Mart, etc. You’ll figure out how to get around. You’re a smart college kid.
Ask for student discounts everywhere!
Our town is super college-student friendly, which means that at most bars, restaurants, shops, etc. all you have do to is mention that you’re a student and they’ll cut you some slack. Be sure to check everywhere you go. You might be surprised. Half-apps at Applebee’s? You bet.
Check the meal plans and figure out which is cheapest
I’m a huge advocate for living in a residence hall all four years and living on the meal plan. College is stressful enough, without having to worry about cooking dinner for yourself and cleaning up after your lazy roommates.
If you do the meal plan, be sure to figure out which one is the cheapest option and which one you can actually survive off of (don’t pick only the 10-meal plan if you’re a linebacker). A lot of times, you have to ask for the cheaper meal plan in your financial aid package, so be sure to check with your college’s business office.
Think about being a resident advisor
Last but not least, think about being an RA. You may have to deal with some drama, but if you get free room and board and maybe even a percentage of tuition taken off your financial aid package, isn’t that worth it? (Check with your own school for details and for how to apply.)
Ultimately, go with your gut on how to live cheaply during your college years. College kids are notorious for figuring out the cheapest way to do a lot of things, from meals to entertainment and more.