You’re a broke college student with $1.57 to your name, and you’re thinking it’s time to reassess your life choices, at least where your money’s concerned. We’ve all been there, and the good news is there are easy ways to get back on track. Try these tips, and you’ll get back to the double digits (triple even?) in no time.
1. Buy and sell used textbooks. Next to rent and, of course, tuition, textbooks were the absolute bane of my existence in college, as I’m sure is true for most college students. It’s hard to get excited about learning when your textbooks cost an arm and a leg. Don’t spend $130 on a flimsy textbook you won’t read the half of. Know the tricks to trim the costs.
- Check Amazon, Craigslist, Half.com and your local used textbook stores. You’ll typically score used textbooks at 15% to 30% cheaper than campus bookstore prices. Then, resell them after you’ve used them.
- Utilize a buddy system. Some classes don’t rely heavily on textbook material, so share a textbook with a friend and split the cost.
- In the case above, you could also get away with borrowing the textbook from a library periodically throughout the term. The key is to know your syllabus and your professor’s teaching style, and to practice good note-taking skills. Sometimes, everything you’re expected to know is in a PowerPoint presentation there in front of you.
- If your professor doesn’t specify, compare older editions to the newest one. Often, the older, cheaper editions are almost exactly the same.
2. Take public transit. We all know filling our tanks isn’t cheap. Neither is parking, as it turns out. I paid almost $500 for a one-year parking permit at my campus. It’s not worth it, especially when every other morning is an “unlucky” morning that you get beat to the last parking space. Most campuses provide a free bus service for students. Better yet, ride your bike. You’ll save money and the earth, too.
3. Get a student credit card. If you’re going to open a credit account, get a credit card that’s tailored to college spending. There are a number of student credit cards that offer low rates and reward typical student expenses.
4. Utilize your campus facilities. They’re meant, after all, to do just that – facilitate. You’d be amazed at all of the cool, free stuff to do you’ve had right under your nose all along – art and music facilities, a fully equipped gym. Not only are there free recreational activities, there are free services, too. At my campus, for example, I got a fixed amount of free prints each term, which covered my printing costs all four years. That’s a lot of money spared on a printer, ink and paper. Make good use of your campus facilities; you’re paying a lot of money just to be there to pass up the perks.
5. Have family-style dinners. Eating frequently at restaurants might be convenient, but it isn’t cheap. Go out for a bite with friends once or twice a week, but don’t make a habit of buying meals on the go. Instead, invite your friends over, buy in bulk and cook family-style. You can split the grocery bill and have fun times together over home-cooked meals. If you don’t know how to cook, it’s not hard to learn. Who knows; you just might give Emeril a run for his money. Plus, it’s healthier than frequenting the Del Taco drive-thru.
6. Have your coffee fix at home. Guys, let’s be real. Buying coffee from Starbucks every morning isn’t a smart move if you’re strapped for cash. I know all too well the day isn’t started without a cup of Joe, but it’s way more practical to have your Folger’s at home. Go for the XL Costco containers, and you’ll probably get something ridiculous, like 30 cups to every “grande” from Starbucks. Speaking of Costco, get a club card. Everything’s cheaper by the bulk.
7. Carry your student ID. It’s no secret that a good majority of college students are, well, broke. That’s why there are all kinds of off-campus discounts available to college students simply by flashing your student ID. $5 movie tickets, $2 beers and $1 pizza slices were a few of my favorites.
8. Pregame. If you’re going to drink, do most of it before leaving your home. Alcohol isn’t cheap, and chances are you won’t be in the best shape to practice responsible spending while buying drinks at the bar. Dodge the overpriced pints, and have a beer or three with your friends before hitting the town.
9. Limit vices. Do one better, and don’t drink or do drugs, for that matter. They’re bad for you, and expensive, too. That said, we were all in college once. Practice good judgment and always prioritize your safety. And, seriously – it’s not cheap. Eliminating vices is a legitimate money-saver. There’s plenty of fun to be had that you’ll actually remember, anyway.
10. Get a job on campus. Campus jobs typically allow you to work around your school schedule, and you don’t have to commute. It’s convenient, you’ll build your school network and, best of all, you’ll earn cash in the process.