While it is important to shop around for the best student loan rates, it's also important to minimize the amount of debt you take on during college. Let's put issues like scholarships and grants aside for now and focus on some simple ways to save real money in school. Here are 25 ways you can spend less.
1. Don't buy textbooks new
Borrow or buy used books from fellow students. Rent a copy from Amazon or Chegg. Or, check your school library for a recent edition of the same book. Although the chapters may be arranged differently, there is a good chance the older edition contains the same information. Sell or rent your old textbooks to someone else to help finance books for the new semester.
2. Use meal plans
Take advantage of your meal plan instead of eating out. If you are going to eat out, set a limit on the number of times you will do so each month.
3. Opt for homemade coffee
Invest in a coffee maker and whip up your own brews rather than stopping by a coffee shop each morning.
4. Go vehicle-free
If there is any way to get by without a car, take advantage of it. Gasoline, insurance, and car maintenance add up. Instead, walk, bike, or take public transportation.
5. Chase student discounts
Make a list of places around school that offer a student discount. Everything -- from movies to clothes -- may be discounted. All you have to do is flash your student ID.
6. Find free stuff
Never pay for what you can get for free. Find out what your school offers. University amenities often include things like free movie nights, museums, fitness classes, and lectures presented by world-class experts. Take a break from buying music while you're in school. Instead, use free services like Google Play Music, Pandora, or Spotify.
7. Use free banking services
If your current bank does not offer a free checking account, shop around. There are plenty of banks that cater to students by not charging monthly fees, scrapping minimum balance requirements and offering other money-saving features.
8. Avoid credit cards
If at all possible, pay cash as you go. It can be a nightmare to dig yourself out of high-interest credit card debt as a student.
9. Look for roommates
Skip the dorm and make peace with having a roommate (or three). The more people available to split your housing costs, the less you will be out each month. As much as you may dream of living alone, there will be plenty of time for that later.
10. Buy in bulk
Things like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, and detergent will keep indefinitely. When you catch them on sale, stock up and save the money later.
11. Obey this cardinal shopping rule
Never go grocery shopping when you're hungry, or after partying.
12. Stop smoking
Not only is it horrible for your health, smoking is a money-suck.
13. Pay promptly
Always pay bills on time to avoid late fees (and save hurting your credit score).
14. Downgrade your tech
This includes your phone plan if possible. Use only what you need.
15. Minimize school supplies
Don't waste money on pens and notebooks if you normally take notes on your laptop.
16. Hold off on those furry friends
If you don't have a pet, hold off on getting one until after college. Veterinarian care and pet food are expenses best postponed.
Ask about your options for testing out of classes. If you're exceptionally strong in a particular subject, why waste money on the class? This is true especially if the subject is not in line with your chosen major.
18. Look into becoming a resident advisor
Many schools offer free room and board to their resident advisors. Not to mention, the extra responsibility will look good on your resume.
19. Keep a budget
Following a budget is the best way to track where your money is going and ensure you're paying bills on time.
20. Check your bank account often
Being aware of your daily balance will help prevent overdrafts and expensive bank fees.
21. Save money on printing
Between the cost of printer cartridges and paper, printing can be expensive. If your school offers campus printing, take advantage of the perk, particularly when turning in a large project. Better yet, go paperless in any class that allows electronic submissions.
22. Take it easy on alcohol
Drinking not only makes it tough to get up for classes the next day, but alcohol represents a needless expense.
23. Cut the cord
Skip cable and watch your favorite shows online.
24. Get a side gig
Think you don't have time for a part-time job? Look for a side-hustle that allows you to set the schedule.
25. Pay interest on student loans as you go
Come up with what you can each month towards your debt. Unless you have subsidized federal loans, you'll accumulate interest even while you are studying and exempt from payments. Every little bit will decrease the amount you owe once you graduate.
College is a time of transition. You're exposed to new ideas and people, required to make independent decisions, and get a jumpstart on the rest of your life. You can make it easier by minimizing your debt and maximizing your potential.