Think Differently To Save Money While In College

According to the Pew Research center, the average cost of tuition and fees for private colleges reached $27,293 in 2011. At the same time the average student loan debt increased to a record $25,250 in 2010.    You can buck that upward trend by trying to save money while you’re still in college.

I’m not going to recommend the usual suspects of applying for scholarships, getting a part-time job or even selling back your books since you already know that.  Let’s try thinking differently, shall we?

Don’t Live On Campus
Student housing is both tiny and expensive.  If your parents live close enough to your school, try living at home since you did it so well for the first 18 years of your life.  If not, rent an apartment (your parents might need to sign the lease for you) and get roommates.

Drop The Dining Plan
If you’re not eating in the school’s dining hall, considering dropping the cafeteria plan that might have been added to your bill.  If you’re like me, and skip half of your meals, then you’re paying for a service that you are not using!  This also holds true if you have food allergies that might make it difficult to eat foods that you have not prepared yourself.  If you don’t have a dining plan, consider taking the food stamp challenge.

Seek Government Assistance
If you are not someone’s dependent, try applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps.  This program was created for individuals who need assistance in feeding themselves.  If you’re taking out student loans for food, I would say that you might as well consider applying.

Internships Are Your Friend
If you can do work study, paid internship or unpaid college credit internship, do it!  Either way, you’ll reduce your expenses by either getting paid to learn, or getting credited for a class that you didn’t have to pay for.

Sell Your Talents
If you don’t have time for a job, the internet is full of opportunities for enterprising people.  Try putting up a gig on Fiverr or applying for a virtual gig via oDesk , eLance or Freelancer.  You can take only the jobs that you’re interested in and you can work in your spare time.

Just Say No – To Credit Cards
Finally, if you can avoid getting a credit card, do so!  Not only did most students graduate with college debt, they also graduated with credit card debt.  The last thing that you want to do is pay for a pizza four years after you ate it.

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10 thoughts on “Think Differently To Save Money While In College

  • I was amazed how much less expensive it was to live with roommates in college than to live on campus. The on-campus experience was good, but the savings in my sophomore, junior and senior years were invaluable.

    I also like your tip about taking on unpaid internships for class credit — that would have been perfect for me way back when!

  • When I was in college I always wanted to write an article for the school paper on how our meal plans were a rip off. If you didn’t live on campus you could get meals cheaper through one of their other programs but they never really advertised it much. Think outside the box and ask around to get the best deals in college.

  • While I 100% understand your credit card comment, post-secondary is also a time for people to start building good credit. IF you’re smart, a credit card is a great way to also make things cost less. Charge everything you can, then pay it off in full with your credit line, you will save up to 30 days of paying credit line interest while developing a good credit history. Obviously it requires self control and good money management, but it can definitely help!

  • If you live on campus, dropping the meal plan might not be possible. Many colleges require at least a minimal meal plan.

    I’d also add graduate early. 12 credits is full-time, but you can often take 18 or 19 without any extra cost. Cutting even one semester is going to save you a lot of money, but few students go for the more rigorous schedule.

  • MY son has started preparing for Uni – he is eleven BTW. He is learning to cook, clean and budget for himself. He is learning great study skills so that he can learn effectively and work as well – he is saving half of everything he earns or is gifted.

    But I am leaving this on my browser so that he can have a read about some other things to consider when the time is right.

  • Great tips on savings money in college! Just moving off campus and cooking for yourself can save a lot of money.

  • Thanks for the tips! I’m really struggling to make ends meet here at college. My college actually provides subsided housing to us, and while the rooms are tiny, they are much much cheaper than anything I would be able to find myself.

    The option of selling ones talents is a great idea! Most students have some kind of exceptional skills, which they could market and sell to other people via the internet. As you have mentioned, there are countless freelancing marketplaces that allow workers to bid on projects and earn some extra side cash.

    I think that method is particularly good for students, who need flexible jobs so that they can manage them around their studies. If a person is busy, they can easily turn down jobs, whereas if they have the time, they can take on more projects and earn money. The money might not be as much as at a part time job, but at least you’ll be learning some very useful skills on the job, and you’ll be able to make your own timings and schedule.


    Henry Andrews

  • Textbooks are an overlooked expense. My general rule of thumb is to rent the textbooks that are for general education classes and buy used textbooks for classes related to your major. is free and allows you to compare prices for your book easily, definitely saved me some money.

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