Tips for Parents

10 ways to save money in college

By Diane Schwemm

Tuition, room and board are just the beginning! Life in college can get expensive, especially if students don’t pay attention to the little things that can really add up.

Here are 10 ideas to share with your student about how to keep costs under control from move-in day through graduation.

Save money in college: create a budget

  1. Stick to a budget. If you commit to a budget, you’re less likely to misuse your credit card or dig too deeply into savings. Plan ahead for long weekends and spring break to avoid last-minute temptations you really can’t afford.
  1. Dorm furnishings – go minimal. Shop after, not before, move-in day. It’s easy to get carried away and buy tons of stuff for a room that will turn out to be half the size you pictured.
  1. Alternatives to buying new textbooks:
  • Rent from the college bookstore
  • Buy used, in stores or online (check with the professor to make sure an older edition is acceptable)
  • Go to the library – Textbooks for every class will be on reserve
  • Swap with fellow students at a campus exchange
  • e-read through a service like the half-price “Amazon Prime” student account.

Save money in college: ride public transportation, walk, or ride a bike.

  1. Ride a bike. Instead of paying for gas, parking and insurance to keep a car on campus, save money by biking, walking, and using mass transit or the campus bus system. Public buses and trains usually have student fares.
  1. Swap and sell. When you have stuff you don’t need any more – books, furnishings, clothes, sports gear – get rid of it.
  1. Scholarships and financial aid. Continue to renew and apply for financial aid and scholarships each year.

Save money in college: make use of your meal plan

  1. Maximize your meal plan. The food is good, and you’ve already paid for it. Decide in advance how many meals out, coffee shop visits, and pizzas to allow yourself each month. Skip the vending machines. Adjust your meal plan if you find you’re paying for meals you’re not eating.
  1. Student discounts and freebies. Local businesses offer plenty of these. Movies and concerts on campus are less expensive than in town. The best entertainment is theatre and improv put on by your own college classmates. Wherever you go, take your ID and ask if there’s a student discount.
  1. Avoid bank fees. Shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge fees to college account holders. Pay bills on time, and don’t carry a balance on your credit card.
  1. Graduate on time, or even early. Make sure you got credit for all the A.P. classes you took in high school. Are there any other introductory requirements you can test out of? Your academic advisor can really help with this — make the most of that relationship!

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our Community Forum and College Parents’ Facebook group.

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