Being a student who is attending college or any other type of higher education almost always comes with a sharp increase in the amount you are regularly spending. This naturally takes a toll on your finances, particularly if you are unprepared or haven't planned out a budget to ensure that you are living within your means.
Student Loan Temptations
The temptation experienced by almost every student to immediately spend their student loan on a luxury purchase or a holiday is very real. After all, the majority of students have never had that amount of cash to themselves before - you could be forgiven for seeing dollar signs on the day the first payment arrives. It is also the first time for many student where they are are required to manage their own finances, beyond a simple bank account paid into by cash from a part-time job.
With that in mind, we have collected together these 10 (reasonably) easy ways to save money while you are studying in college.
1. Live with parents or family
Now, stay with me here - it may not sound like the most glamorous option, but staying with family while you study will knock a huge chunk out of your regular spending, and in the long term, your student loan repayments.
It may be harder to go to every party and social event, but at least you will have money to spend at the ones you do attend! Plus, there is nothing like a home-cooked meal - particularly compared with the typical student diet.
2. Share a house off-campus and split travel costs with friends
This may be a more appealing choice if you are going to college to gain independence and strike out on your own. Depending on where you are going to college, privately renting a house or flat off-campus can work out cheaper than staying in dorms on-campus.
Just remember to choose your housemates wisely, and take your food spend into account - many dorms provide this as part of the cost but you'll be very lucky to find a private rental that offers this luxury!
3. Plan out and stick to a budget
This one is crucial. As countless lottery winners have proved, it doesn't matter how much money you have, anyone can end up broke if they aren't careful enough with it.
Plan a budget that takes into consideration all of your financial muscle, including student loans, federal loans, scholarships and support from family. Then, weigh this against the outgoings that you will make over the course of the year, including tuition, rent, food, entertainment and so on.
Our Student Budget Calculator can help you with this.
4. Inquire about working in a residence hall
Students who work in residence halls or dorms can benefit from the convenience of living on campus and the camaraderie of living close to peers while also enjoying subsidized room and board costs.
Don't expect it to be a picnic though. You will need to be tough sometimes, which can make you unpopular - and you may find it is a lot less fun being the person trying to shut down a party, than being the person who throws the party.
5. See if you can take your courses in three years, rather than four
This one sounds simple and easy, but the reality can be quite strenuous. The idea is to try and attain enough credits to graduate your course in less time than initially planned. This will save you money because you will end up paying less tuition fees, which translates to less debt.
Be careful when attempting this method however; there is a very real possibility that the stress of trying to do too much work in too little time can get on top of you and prevent you from enjoying the experience of higher education. Also if you push too hard and fail, you will be leaving yourself a mountain to climb and won't have gained anything. Always be certain that you can complete the work on time.
6. Try to gain credits for life experiences
Following on from the previous point, some higher education establishments offer credits to their students for completing certain 'life experiences'. Such offers naturally depend on the school, but can be highly beneficial in the long run as well as enabling you to get your degree faster.
In particular, you could look into corporate training programs or professional accreditation and licenses, as these will give you a vital edge when the time comes to look for work after you graduate. If you are a more physical type, military training programs are sometimes offered too.
7. Stay on your family health insurance plan as long as possible
Obviously, the ideal would be to not get hurt or sick at all while you are studying, but that is just unrealistic. Particularly if you are living away from home for the first time, you will need to be covered in case of a medical emergency so that you are taken care of.
The cheapest way to do that would be to stay on your family's health insurance plan. Even if you feel the need to pay your share, it will still most likely be a great deal lower than any individual plan you would be offered.
8. Buy used books and equipment
For every student starting a course, there are students leaving it - and the vast majority of them will be looking to get rid of their old textbooks. In some cases the books might have never even been opened!
Buying your textbooks and equipment from fellow students will enable you to get the course materials you need for a fraction of the price you would pay at the bookshop. If you don't know how to find students selling their books, try Amazon.com or check Facebook to see if there is a group set up for the purpose.
9. Use the books in the student or public library, rather than buying your own
If the idea above isn't thrifty enough for you, this one surely will be! Instead of buying your course books, you should be able to borrow them from the university or local public library.
The downside to this is you have to get in quickly, and sometimes wait a long time - many libraries are simply unable to maintain the level of stock required to provide everyone with every book they need. You could always go halfway; borrow all you can and buy the books you can't find. Then sell them when you are finished!
10. Get a job!
Perhaps the most obvious choice, saved for last. Sometimes, it doesn't matter how much you carefully budget, scrimp and save - if you are living outside your means or aren't getting enough support, you'll need to earn some money.
Take a look at our article on 5 ways to earn money while studying for some fresh new ideas on how you can supplement your income while studying in college.