Going to college is expensive! Especially when you factor in tuition, books, room, and board. You need to make every dollar county no matter if you’re working full time to support yourself or paying for everything with scholarships award money. Here are ten tips for getting the most out of the college money you have:
1. Learn general money management skills. Establishing a budget and sticking with it is a great way to make your money last. Limit your spending in non-essential areas and prioritize your needs. Also, be aware of student discounts on travel, entertainment, etc. and keep your student ID handy at all times.
2. Don’t let Wall Street take advantage of you. Make sure you are getting the best deal available in every area of your finances, including bank fees, credit card APRs and insurance payments.
3. Understand tax credits. College students can get money back from the government by writing off their college expenses on their taxes. The allowable amounts may change from year to year, but be sure to research an income tax rebate for college tuition. Remember, the IRS isn’t just going to hand extra money over to you without being prompted, so it’s up to you to find out what’s available.
4. Apply advance placement credits. In high school there are plenty of opportunities to earn cheap or free college credits and you should be sure to take full advantage. It’s also important to keep the necessary information on hand so those valuable credits can be applied toward your college degree.
5. Take more courses at a time. The price of your college credits often decreases when you take more classes at one time. You can save money by taking a heavy class load, as long as you can manage the extra work without sacrificing the quality of your education.
6. Transfer from a cheaper college to the institution of your choice. It’s very common for students to start out their college education at a community college or less expensive state-run school, and then transfer to their dream school later on. Doing this can save you big bucks in the long run while still providing you with the credits you need to graduate. Just check ahead of time to make sure the credits you earn can be transferred to the prestigious school where you’ll be receiving your bachelor’s degree.
7. Buy used textbooks, then sell ‘em. You will not even believe how much a college thinks is an appropriate amount to charge for a book! And to make things worse, your instructors will often expect you to purchase two or more books for one three-credit class. Once your receive your list of textbook requirements for the term, begin searching for cheaper copies from online sellers, or use one of the many “exchange” services like ScrewTheBookstores.com. Then when you finish a course, go back online to sell or exchange your textbooks.
8. Get a roommate…or three. Living at home with Mom and Dad is usually your least expensive option, but if you’re tired of hearing “Are you really going out dressed like that?” and “Get your filthy feet off the couch, young man!” then it might be time to find your own place. If your college scholarships don’t cover dorm fees, find a few reliable friends to share rent and expenses and live in an on or off-campus apartment. The more people you can pack into one apartment, the less each of you will have to pay each month.
9. Use public transportation. You can save yourself a lot of money by ditching your car (or cutting way back on your driving) and walking to class, riding a bike or taking the bus. With today’s gas prices, that can save you a lot of money! If you can’t sacrifice the freedom to drive to the beach on weekends, then make friends with someone who owns and maintains a car.
10. Enroll in college-sponsored healthcare plan. If you are no longer covered under your parents’ health insurance, check to see if your school offers medical coverage (many colleges and universities do). There may be restrictions about which doctors you can see, but for basic medical needs, your premiums will be lower on your college’s group plan.