Off To College? Tips On How To Conserve Your Cash

August 25, 2012  |  

My last day of high school will forever be embedded in my memory. One of the most down to earth and relatable teachers that I’d ever met went by the name of Duke Foti. On this particular day, Mr. Foti came from behind his desk and leaned on it, folded his arms across his chest, gazed at us with a half smile in like-Mr.Foti manner, and cleared his throat. “In a few months you’ll all be college freshmens. Congratulations, you’ve all just signed yourselves up for at least four years of poverty”. Of course he went on and on about why a college degree was absolutely necessary, but not before warning us about what we had just gotten ourselves into. That was Mr. Foti, straight and to the point.

I wasn’t on campus too long before I realized exactly what Mr. Foti was referring to. Ridiculously priced textbooks, sky-high tuition fees, and the laundry list of  living necessities that accumulate while living on a college campus are all culprits in making one’s college experience feel like a penny-pinching venture. As a recent college grad, having observed my own spending habits as well as those around me, I’ve realized that one of the biggest financial downfalls of college students is poor money management. Check out these helpful tips that may assist you in effectively managing your money during your time as a college student.

Rent your textbooks

Ugh, there’s nothing more annoying than having to buy a $200.oo textbook for a three month class then going to sell it back to your school bookstore at the end of the semester and they offer you $25.00 for it. Many campus bookstores now offer students the option to rent their textbooks as opposed to buying them. This can help cut textbook costs in half and sometimes even more. I’ve have my textbook bill go from $700.00 to $350.00 by simply choosing to rent the books instead of purchasing them. If your campus bookstore does not offer the option to rent, try checking out the new textbook rental service recently introduced by Amazon.com or my personal favorite Chegg.com, which has been my saving grace since I began graduate school. They swiftly deliver your rental textbooks and offer you the free online version of the textbooks you’ve ordered until you books arrive. They also make returning your books at the end of the semester extremely simple and easy. Even their extension fees are very reasonable.

Purchase used textbooks

If for some reason renting books is not an option for you, used textbooks are the next best thing. Many campus bookstores sell used textbooks, but if you’re looking for better prices check the Internet. I’ve always had great luck with site like Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Be sure to always check out the seller’s ratings before making a purchase, though.

Purchase/Rent E-books

Okay, okay I promise this whole article isn’t a textbook rant, but purchasing or renting the electronic versions of your books and downloading them to your Kindle, I-pad, or any other tablet device is also an amazing, cost effective and eco-friendly option. I’ve tried it and loved it. Plus your bookbag and your back will thank you, no one likes toting zillion pound textbooks across campus.

Take full advantage of your school’s meal plan

A situation that you never want to find yourself in is trying to study for an exam on an empty stomach. It can be one of the most distracting things ever. Having your stomach on E because you just haven’t gotten around to eating is one thing, but to have an empty stomach because you don’t have the funds to buy food isn’t cool. Most universities offer meal plans in which on campus cafeterias provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes snacks for students. The cost for these plans can be added into and paid for along with your tuition. Sometimes the plans can be a little steep in price but they are certainly worth it when you’re thinking long term. Eating on campus as opposed to always ordering takeout or hitting up fast food joints is a proactive way to keep your money from slipping away from you so quickly.

Take advantage of the perks that come with your student ID

Often times surrounding businesses near a college campus will offer students special discounts so always have your school id handy. You can often find out which businesses offer these discounts by visiting your school’s Res Life office, student activities office, or by simply asking around campus. A movie theater near my college offered students discounted movie tickets on certain nights of the week. This made for a great and inexpensive off-campus excursion with friends.

The campus shuttle bus is your friend

So I know most campus shuttle buses have the tendency to be unreliable and off-schedule, but if you’re taking (daytime) off campus trips for leisure and time isn’t an issue, the free shuttle bus beats expensive taxis every time.

Clip coupons and check out online deals

Okay, I know clipping coupons sounds like the most granny-ish thing ever, but I promise it will help you out in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Deals also make for really fun and inexpensive outings and activities.

Invest in a coffeemaker 

All night cram sessions, late nights out with the girls, and early morning exams will make coffee your best fiend. Buying coffee everyday is a sure way to make you feel as if these is a hole in your pocket and making your own coffee is  sure way to ensure that your coffee is fresh while plugging that pocket-hole at the same time.

Jazmine Denise is a freelance writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise

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