The cost of living in college towns tends to be higher than average. High-demand for housing and competition for part-time jobs make it tough for a college student to make ends meet. Sometimes being a college students simply means tightening that belt buckle and living a little more frugally — which, of course, we’re big fans of around here.
Even if you need to cut down on some expenses, it doesn’t mean that you need to go completely without things or activities that you enjoy. You just need to be creative in making your college dollar stretch a little farther. Scholarship America offers these three tips for trimming your costs of living at college.
We all know that paying for college isn’t cheap. After stocking up on dorm room necessities, handing over a tuition check and buying expensive textbooks, most college students barely have enough money left over for the plane ticket home for winter break, let alone cash for incidentals that pop up throughout the year.
But there are ways to stretch your limited college dollars. And by becoming an expert at scrimping and saving during college, you can build a financial safety net – and also free up a few bucks to use for takeout when you just can’t stomach another night in the cafeteria.
Use Student Services of Campus
Your tuition dollars finance a variety of student services that you can benefit from. In order to start saving, make sure you learn what you’re already paying for.
The student health center at your college or university will likely offer certain services at no cost. For example, Texas A&M University—College Station offers free flu shots and health education programs.
And many colleges offer testing for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as counseling services, at little or no cost to you. If you find you need immediate medical care and simply do not have the money to go to the doctor, a physician once advised me to tell student health services that I had no money and ask for free care. It worked.
Before you shell out money for the bus, check to see if your school offers free or discounted public transportation. For example, student fees at the University of Colorado—Boulder fund city bus passes for students. And some colleges offer their students free late-night rides home from local establishments as a way to curb drunk driving.
If you’re looking for back-to-school technology, a number of colleges have licensing agreements that allow them to sell software and hardware from vendors for greatly reduced prices.
Hopefully you won’t run into any legal trouble while you’re trying to earn your degree, but if you find yourself needing some legal advice, colleges often provide free legal services. This could prove useful if you’re having problems with your landlord or experiencing a range of other legal issues.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
In addition to the student services from your school, many businesses also offer student discounts, so make sure to be on the lookout for reduced prices for college students. A great place to start is the website Living Rich With Coupons, which lists businesses and museums that offer student discounts, including Apple, Amazon and Amtrak.
Other places you’re likely to find a discounted student rate include restaurants near campus, professional sporting events and nearby movie theaters. If you aren’t sure if a business offers a discount, just ask!
Heading out of town for spring break? Before you fork over any cash for airfare or lodging, check out the travel resources available to college students. The StudentUniverse, STA Travel and International Student Identity Card websites connect students with discounts for travel, lodging and entertainment.
Finally, realize that clipping coupons isn’t just for parents! If you have a smartphone, use free coupon apps to browse discounts based on your location.
Look for Freebies
There are many clubs and organizations that lure students to meetings with free food. Check them out before you make your grocery list. And do make a grocery list, as cooking is a lot cheaper – and healthier – than eating out.
Many Internet resources are out there that describe ways to score free stuff on campus. From free entertainment to swag and even cash, your student union is also a good spot for handouts. Look for flyers advertising free upcoming events.
If you can keep your basic expenses in college to a minimum, you’ll have more money to invest in the things you are passionate about. Living thriftily doesn’t just pay your bills – it frees up funds for chasing your dreams.