Attending college is practically a rite of passage for many of us. It's a time to explore and to live on your own. College comes with ideas of experiencing new things and managing your money without mom and dad looking over your shoulder. Living on your own can get expensive, though. What happens when you have to pay for your own food and housing, and be completely responsible for your entertainment costs?
The good news is that you can enjoy your time in college without going broke. Here are some ideas for living the college life without breaking the bank.
Take advantage of college activities and services
Many colleges and universities offer activities that include food. You can save a little money on food costs by attending activities with refreshments. Clubs and activities can also provide you with access to fun things to do and interesting people to befriend. Attending can save you money on entertainment costs and help you begin to build a support system at college.
Beyond activities, it's also possible to receive discounted (or even free!) help with healthcare and career counseling. Many universities also offer student access to fitness facilities, sporting events and a range of other items. It's easy to save money when you take advantage of all your campus has to offer.
Work at an on-campus job
If you want to earn a little money while attending college, look for an on-campus job. Most of these jobs limit students to between 15 and 25 hours a week to allow for an acceptable balance between work, life and school. Not only that, but an on-campus job can save you money in terms of gas and time spent on a commute and might also come with extra perks. Working in the cafeteria could mean a free meal at the end of your shift, while a job in an academic department might mean internship hours.
Many college towns offer student discounts. Whether you are doing your grocery shopping, eating out or buying clothes, you might be eligible for a discount of between 5% and 15%, depending on the store. Some colleges pass out discount and coupon booklets at orientation, or offer a smart phone app that allows you to download special student discounts at local businesses. Take advantage of these discounts whenever possible.
One of the most brutal costs of college life is the textbook purchase. Even when you can buy used and sell your textbooks back to the bookstore, you can still come out far behind. Instead of buying textbooks, consider renting them. There are a number of companies that offer textbook rental, including ebook rentals that allow you to skip the hardcopies altogether. Just be sure to check with your professor to ensure an ebook rental will be acceptable and won't put you at any disadvantage.
Research other options, such as textbook swaps with other students and sharing one book among two or three students to save. Just make sure you have a workable study and homework schedule arranged so that everyone gets the access they need.
Carpooling and public transportation
If you live off-campus and commute in, the cost of driving a car every day can add up. You might even be required to pay for a parking pass. Look for carpooling options to share the cost of gas and parking with three or four other students, reducing how much you pay. Also, consider public transportation. If you live in an area where you can save by using public transit to get to campus, you could save a lot of money over the course of four years.
You don't have to spend a lot of money for a great college experience. A little ingenuity can go a long way.