With the school year just beginning, many students have already been scared into believing they’re doomed to four years of poverty. College students are often the butt of financial jokes, many focusing on all-too-real accounts of school-time poverty and couch-surfing. Despite innocent jokes about ramen-noodle diets and high textbook prices, they highlight a very real problem that thousands of college students face every year.
Research conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that lacking a place to sleep or enough food to eat is the largest deterrent to completing one’s degree. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that an alarming number of students find themselves seeking crowdfunding for tuition or dropping out of college completely because they can’t afford tuition.
The economy isn’t making things easier. College students are burdened with significant expenses such as rent and tuition, which has increased 213 percent since 1987. Students are struggling to keep up. So here are a few tips on how to save money in college.
Eat on Campus
Spending money on fast food is tempting, but food costs add up quickly. If you have a campus meal plan, use it. It’s there to help offset the cost of living by providing more affordable meal options, but it won’t help if you never use it. Stick to going out to eat once a week or on special occasions to avoid unnecessary spending.
Save Money on Books
Before you spend hundreds at the campus bookstore, try borrowing books from another student or from the university library. If that doesn’t work, check out a local bookstore. In large college towns, it’s not unusual to find cheap, used reading materials at a nearby Half Price Books. Another option is buying used textbooks on Amazon.com or renting them from the Chegg or Barnes & Noble textbook services.
Stay on Track
Every additional semester added to a four-year plan is another huge expense. The best way to make sure you graduate on time is to take advantage of university resources such as tutoring, academic advising and professors’ office hours. Adding a summer session can help as well by shortening graduation time and relieving a heavy semester class load. It’s not the end of the world to graduate late, but remember, every additional semester presents an avoidable cost.
Buy in Bulk
The next time you head to the grocery store, buy supplies in bulk to keep the number of your store trips low. It might seem more expensive in the moment, but staying away from the grocery store can save you more money than you’d think. A few items that should always be bought in bulk are toilet paper, shampoo and non-perishable foods.
Find Student Discounts
College towns are bursting with stores and restaurants looking for business, so it should come as no surprise that many are willing to give students a discount. A few notable members of the college discount club include Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and Subway, but those big names shouldn’t keep you from finding discounts at local shops, too.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.