Everybody knows that going to college is expensive. Tuition alone is astronomical, even at most public state schools. After tuition, there’s housing, food, books and class supplies. Finding money for even just the basics is a nightmare. And if you don’t want to spend all of your time sitting in your dorm room and only eating from the dining hall, well, you better hope you have a generous trust fund, right?
What if we told you that there were a lot of things that you could do to make college and your college lifestyle more affordable? Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to save money at (and around) school. Here are just some of them.
Take Care of Tuition
Student loans are a given for most of us. It’s better to accept that fate now so that you have time to find the best student loans available. Here’s a tip: start with federal loans (you get these by filling out a FAFSA). Federal loans do not require co-signers or background checks (1) and they have lower interest rates than most private loans, especially for someone who doesn’t yet have a credit history (or, worse, might have bad credit). Not only that, but many lenders will refinance student loans, which could potentially mean paying less.
That FAFSA can also qualify you for cheaper tuition via grants and work-study programs.
Can you live at home? It’s not as “cool” as living on campus or in an apartment with friends but housing costs are crazy and if you can live at home for free, why not do it? Just make sure that you and your parents have a talk about rules, boundaries and the changes that are going to happen now that you’re no longer in high school.
If living at home is not an option, go for on-campus housing if it is available. On campus housing usually includes a meal plan and you don’t have to worry about utility bills…or buying your own toilet paper.
If you are living in the dorms, there are still ways to reduce your spending (and stretch out the life of that meal plan’s flex dollars). Here are a few of them:
Get a mini fridge. Refrigerators are godsends. You can keep leftover pizza in them, squirrel away drinks and other perishables from the dining hall and keep the (much cheaper) grocery store purchased perishables fresh. Seriously. They’re a couple hundred bucks outright, but you’ll save so much more than that over the course of your years at school.
Learn how to use a french press. Yeah, yeah. You’re sick of hearing that the best way to save is to give up your morning latte. But here’s the thing: those lattes run you at least $20 a week, right? That $20 could buy you and your roommate dinner away from the dining hall once a week. Plus, a french press doesn’t break any of the rules that a coffee pot might break. You only need hot water. And the coffee you make in a french press will taste a lot better than what they serve in the dining hall.
Minimize your self care costs. If you put it in pretty bottles, nobody has to know that you’re using vaseline lotion instead of the $40/oz stuff from Sephora. There are lots of ways to minimize the cost of your skincare and personal hygiene (2).
Thrift and vintage shop. Before you scream about “cooties” or how thrift shopping is lame, you should know that Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal clothing, started her whole empire by selling thrifted and vintage shop finds on eBay (3). If you take the time to really look around, you’ll find enviably great stuff secondhand.
Share, share, share alike. Share books and supplies with your classmates. Everybody saves money that way. Why do you and your suitemates have separate Netflix accounts? You can each pool in and just create separate profiles. Do you and your roommate wear the same size clothes? Pool your wardrobes.
There are tons of ways to save money at school that won’t make you feel you can’t ever have any fun (4). The trick is to look at what you’re already doing and simply find a way to do it for less, not to try to force yourself to give it up completely.
- Student Loans for Bad Credit. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.simpletuition.com/student-loans/for-bad-credit/
- Raye, A. (2015, March 10). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://brokeandchic.com/the-broke-girls-guide-to-banishing-dry-skin/
- Nagy, E. (2014, March 25). The Secrets Of A Nasty Gal. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.fastcompany.com/3027023/the-secrets-of-a-nasty-gal
- Hoyt, E. (2014, June 16). 30 Money Saving Tips for Students. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/the-30-money-saving-tips-for-students
*This article was contributed.