By FPA member Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP®, CDFA
Last Updated: August 13, 2012
With college tuition rates ever on the rise, today’s students of higher learning are coming face-to-face with the prospect of looming student loan bills quite a bit earlier than their predecessors and are being forced to look for creative ways to save while pursing a collegiate degree.
Although pursuing a Bachelor’s degree can be quite a stressful endeavor, looking for ways to save money while you’re actually attending a University doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of opportunities available.
Start by looking in the classroom. Nobody said you have to buy a brand new text book for every class. Instead of going for the shiny, new book – look for gently used options. You can find these either on campus in your school bookstore, or online at websites such as www.amazon.com. If you register for Amazon Student, you get free Amazon Prime benefits for six months, which includes 2-day shipping of textbooks. Some universities even offer the option to rent your textbooks, or provide e-textbooks that can be priced at as much as a 50 percent reduction from print textbooks.
Work your student status. Amid all the grumbles about homework, all-night study sessions, and tough teachers, there should also be some enthusiastic cheers about summer vacations, the potential for no classes on Fridays, and the slew of discounts and perks available to students. There is likely no other time that you will receive as many perks, discounts, and offers than you will when you’re a student. Use your Student I.D. for discounts on everything ranging from the movies, the gym, travel, sporting events, and online subscriptions to your favorite newspapers and magazines. If you’re not sure if an organization offers a discount, ask. Flashing your Student I.D. can save you big bucks in the college years ahead.
Two heads are better than one – and more cost efficient. Housing is one of the top expenses when it comes to moving away for college, and aside from compromising on quality and location of a residence, your only other way to save funds is to get a roommate. Sharing the expenses of rent and utilities with another student or two can make for quite a cost efficient living situation and can also provide a support network for the days when those tests or presentations just don’t go the way you’d hoped.
Walk it or ride it. If you live on campus or in close vicinity thereof, consider the need to keep your car. The payments for insurance, gas, and parking permits can add up. If you’re able, walk to campus, or consider using public transportation such as the bus, subway, metro, or trolley. If you have roommates or friends in the same classes as you, look into starting a carpool where you can share the cost of a parking permit, making the financial strain a little less of a burden.
Watch what you eat (and drink). The selection of a meal plan can be one of the trickiest parts about starting college. You might be tempted to go straight to the most expensive plan, with the most options – but in fact, you should take time to think about what you really need. If the basics will suffice, along with an option to buy some of your own necessities, that could be the best option to save you money. In addition, be aware of the amount of money you spend out of pocket on dining out with friends, purchasing snacks and coffee, and even alcohol once you turn the age of 21. Your body typically only requires the need for basic nutritional elements, which can be found at a reasonable price on campus or in your local grocery store. Steer clear of overloading your budget too much with unnecessary dining-out options.
Offset your expenses. Financial aid and paying directly out of pocket are just two ways to fund your college education. Check your university’s financial aid office or search online for information on scholarships available to you, either due to your major, an organization you’re involved in, or a career path you hope to pursue. Consider looking into a paid internship opportunity or obtaining a part-time job. Many campuses have employment opportunities for students on-site. Not only will the additional funds help with your expenses, but the experience will be a great addition to your resume upon graduation.
These are just a few things to consider when looking for ways to reduce costs while in college. There are plenty of other options available to you in regards to your specific campus or university and community. Be sure to check with your Financial Aid office and your campus Student Life & Leadership organizations for specific offers and information.
FPA member Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP®, CDFA, is a Senior Financial Planner with HoyleCohen in San Diego, Calif.
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