budgeting

9 Money Saving Tips for College Students on a Budget

By: Kayla Gowan

Let’s face it: college is expensive. Between tuition, housing, student fees, transportation, and textbooks – the costs add up quickly. For many college students, this is the first time you have to budget and manage money on your own. 

Managing money and setting budgetary goals may seem like the last things you want to do at the end of a busy day filled with classes and exams, but developing good habits is worth the effort. Managing in-college spending is a learning experience. Fortunately, there are many ways you can save money while in college. 

Here are the nine best money-saving tips for college students:

1. Rent Your Textbooks

Buying textbooks can be one of the biggest expenses every semester. One huge way to save money in college is to rent textbooks instead of buying them! With eCampus.com – you can save up to 90% off the regular price of a new textbook. eCampus.com also has three rental term lengths (short term, quarter term, and semester) to fit every student’s schedule and the ability to extend or purchase the rental at the end of the rental term.

If you’ve already purchased your textbooks, when the semester is over – you can sell your books back to eCampus.com for cash!

2. Apply for Grants and Scholarships

Start by filling out the FAFSA before each new school year, regardless of your family’s financial status, to tap into federal, state and institutional grants and scholarships. 

You can apply for scholarships and grants every year throughout college! It’s a misconception that scholarships are only for first-year students. In fact, many colleges have systems in place that reward students financially for good grades, volunteering, being an active part of the college town community, and many other things. Given that many scholarships go unclaimed (or have very few entries), if you dedicate some time to applying, you could find yourself saving on tuition costs! 

If you’re not sure where to find scholarships, the Federal Student Aid has compiled a list of places to look that you can view here. For more information about how financial aid works, you can read our eCampus blog post here.

3. Create a Budget

If you don’t know where your money is going every month, you’ll never know the true potential of your saving power! Start off small by giving yourself a weekly budget and see how close you come to accurately estimating expenses. Work on creating a realistic budget that you can stick to, incorporating all regular bills or payments. A budget isn’t set in stone and often takes several tries to get right – so keep working on it until you find the right balance!

A lack of structure can keep you from being on top of managing your spending and can mean disaster for your budget. Fortunately, there are a number of free budgeting apps to help.

3 Apps to Help with Budgeting for College Students

  • Mint: This money management and financial planning app lets you see all of your accounts in one place. You can swipe to check your balances or get reminders to pay your bills on time! 
  • Pocketguard: This app lets you see all of your mobile banking, including credit cards, checking and savings, loans, and investments in one place. After you’ve paid the bills, the app tells you how much you have left over, so you can save the rest! 
  • Personal Capital: Like Mint and Pocketguard, this app allows you to see all of your accounts on one platform. On this app, you can see separate graphs of your cash flow (income vs. expenses), your budget (what you’re spending your money on), and your investments.

4. Split the Cost of Rent with Roommates

Living with roommates is the quintessential college experience. This is helpful for many students as you can split the cost of rent and utilities with one or more roommates.

Make a point to know what’s already provided in your future dorm or apartment. Some dorm rooms come equipped with a microwave or small fridge or an ironing board in the laundry facilities. An apartment might already come with appliances or even basic furniture. Coordinate with your roommates before shopping so you’re not double-buying items or buying things you don’t need.

Take good care of your apartment so you don’t forfeit your security deposit at the end of the semester!

5. Cook Your Own Food

Eating at restaurants can be one of the most expensive items in your budget. It’s almost always cheaper to cook than it is to go out to eat. While a dinner for $5-10 may sound cheap, it really does add up over time.

How Much do College Students Spend on Food?

The cost of a meal plan has doubled in the last 10 years. The average college and university charges about $4,500, or $18.75 per day, for a three-meal-a-day dining contract that covers the eight months or so of a typical academic year.

You can probably cook the same meal (and prep for future meals) for about half the price. If you do eat out, go for lunch or happy hour when restaurants are most likely to be offering discounts.

That goes for coffee, too! Let’s say you spend $5 on a daily cup of coffee – this can equal up to $375 per semester. Save the bank by investing in a coffee machine and making your morning brew from home! 

6. Use Public Transportation

Parking, gas, and insurance for your car can quickly add up. Many college campuses have free buses and shuttles that help students get around campus and even to nearby apartments. Some schools even have rentable bikes or scooters for the semester!

If you need public transportation to get around, see if you can get a student pass. Many colleges partner with their local transit authorities and offer student discounts and student passes for busses, subways, trolleys, and more.

7. Use Student Discounts

Don’t leave home without your student ID! Most places offer a student discount – this can include restaurants, shops, movie theaters, theme parks, and more!

Another big expense for college students is technology. Many students want (or need) to get a new laptop. Plus, some classes require their own specific software that you need to install. Often, technology companies offer significant discounts to students – from Apple and Microsoft, to Adobe and more. If you’re getting any type of new computer or software, make sure to buy it through the education store and get your student discount.

Click here is a list of the top 60 discounts available to students right now! If you’re not sure whether a company offers a student discount, there’s no harm in asking. Better “save” than sorry!

8. Utilize Campus Resources

Check out the amenities that are free for students to use on campus. Campus resources are designed to make college easier, but that’s only the case if you use them!

  • Student Gym: working out and staying fit is important in college. Instead of spending money on a gym membership, see if your campus offers the use of the student gym for free. Most campuses have great athletic and gym facilities available to students. Take full advantage!
  • On-Campus Printing: printing is another area that can be costly, with papers eating up ink cartridges at home. Oftentimes, the cost of printing is included in your student facility fees. Check the school library to see if they offer free or discounted printing.
  • Campus Library: one of the most under-used, but best free tools on a college campus is the library. College libraries have everything, including books, computer stations, software, and more. Libraries also offer free spaces to study, meet with group members, or use the computer. 

Other commonly provided resources include tutoring, counseling, childcare, and career services. Check what your college offers before you pay extra for the same service elsewhere.

9. Take Advantage of Campus Activities

Going out every weekend can drain your entertainment budget very quickly. Instead, keep up with what’s happening on campus. Most colleges organize plenty of events throughout the semester, ranging from museum visits, to movie nights, and more for free or discounted rates.

Check the events page on your school website to see what’s up and coming. You can also look for signs and promotions around your campus. These signs often promote free food in an attempt to get students to come. If you do this regularly, you can probably get your lunch taken care of most days! And maybe even learn something! 

Bonus: Attending campus events is a great way to make new friends, too!

While saving money as a college student is not always easy, it is possible with plenty of hard work and a commitment to your financial security and wellbeing. Meeting your budgetary goals will not only help your college experience, but prepare you for a bright financial future!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References:

  1. https://turbo.intuit.com/blog/real-money-talk/how-to-save-money-in-college-1539/ 
  2. https://www.debt.org/students/college-budgeting-101/ 
  3. https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/student-guide-to-budgeting/ 
  4. https://thecollegeinvestor.com/22453/save-money-in-college/ 
  5. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/financial-wellness/63-quick-tips-to-save-money-in-college/ 

Saving Money During the School Year: Tips and Tricks!

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1. Get a job over the summer to save up some extra cash!   Even a part time summer job can save you a decent amount of money for the school year and anything helps.  This can be your spending money for your time at school!

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2. Stock up on essentials before you leave for school.  Go to places like Walmart and Target for your shampoo, soap, other toiletries, and cleaning supplies.  Or try wholesale stores like Costco and BJ’s—buying in bulk will save you money in the long run and you won’t have to worry about buying those things when you’re at school.

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3. Right before heading off to school, figure out exactly how much money you have saved up so you can plan out your budget.  Then, set a weekly or monthly budget for yourself and stick to it!

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4. If you have a meal plan, take advantage of it!  Limit yourself to only going out to eat or ordering in a couple times a week so your cash doesn’t disappear too quickly.  Going out to eat too often will start to add up so be careful!

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5. Live off campus.  Room and board is often very expensive and living off campus can save a lot of money.  Splitting rent and groceries with roommates will be cheaper in the long run.

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6. Buy or rent textbooks online (www.eCampus.com is a great option!)  The books at your school’s bookstore will set you back a lot of money and the amount of money you can save buying or renting online is astronomical!  Do some research and find your cheapest option.

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7. If you need furniture, kitchen supplies, or other apartment essentials, ask family and friends if they have anything they’re not using or plan on getting rid of to save some money.  Once you’ve done that, see what else you need and go shopping online or at discount/budget friendly stores.  You don’t need to splurge on your college apartment!

Study Abroad: Eating too Much, Eating too Little

It’s like freshman year all over again…the dreaded thought of weight gain. In a foreign country with an entirely different diet than the States, it can be hard to maintain your weight and fitness—especially when you have to juggle class, exploring your new home, and venturing off on the weekends to new places! Not to mention having a host mom who likes to fill your plate with three courses at 8 pm. Others try to save money or avoid the weight sitch entirely by eating infrequently and as little as possible—no buono!

Food is an important part of every culture. Italy is all about the pasta, bread and vegetables, versus Americans chowing down on hotdogs and hamburgers. But if you look around Italy, you’ll see mostly skinny or average weight citizens ordering light lunches and big dinners. So how can you handle a pasta lunch, and a pasta dinner followed by potatoes, meat and salad, and ending with a fruit salad? You have to keep your food quantities in perspective. Follow the culture. If they eat a lighter lunch, follow suit. You might get hungry again before dinner if you’re used to eating earlier or having a larger lunch, but give yourself some time to adjust. Grab a snack or go exploring to keep your mind off food (though passing so many little gelato stores might make it worse). After an adjustment period, you’ll be able to eat on the same schedule as the Italians, or whatever culture you’re experiencing, do.

Saving money is always a concern when abroad, but don’t let that keep you from eating! You don’t have to go to a nice restaurant every time you want to eat. Check out grocery stores—they often have cheap, already made options for lunch or ingredients to make your own. Go out to eat with a large group and try sampling a variety of dishes; by splitting the bill, you’ll still get all the flavors of your country at a lower price then trying to work your way through the restaurant’s menu on a variety of visits. Also, simply checking out the smaller cafes and lesser known restaurants on side streets could lead to big money savings—and having a secret hangout!

Besides money and weight gain, others are just concerned about pleasing their host families. When you first arrive, just talk about what you can or can’t/won’t eat and go from there. Get a sense of their eating habits—how much they eat and when they eat—and try to mimic them as much as possible. They want you to have a good time studying abroad and want to make the adjustment easier, which can mean making you feel at home with a big hearty meal. Don’t feel like you have to eat it all. Learn how to say “I’m full” or something along those lines, and politely decline. They won’t be offended and it can actually help them learn how much food they should make so it’s sufficient for the whole family.

Most importantly, you need to enjoy your abroad experience. Don’t let counting calories or coins hold you back from eating and doing what you want to do. Once you immerse yourself in the culture, measuring out everything you eat won’t matter anymore. Besides, there’s always time to lose weight if you need to or form a stricter budget for the rest of your stay. In the meantime, buon appetito!

 

 

Ways to Help Pay for Your Semester Abroad

Your departure is approaching. It’s almost time to set off for your semester in a foreign country. The excitement is brewing, but there’s something nagging at you. Studying abroad is expensive! Besides tuition and room and board, there will be plenty of other expenses as you go around your new home for the semester. But don’t worry, you have options to help you pay your way through a foreign country without bankrupting you and your family.

While preparing for your semester, you should start off looking at financial aid options your school has to offer. The majority of colleges have special scholarships for students with certain majors or studying in particular countries. There’s also the basic financial aid scholarships based on merit and need, so poking around your college’s website is a must. If you’re going through a different study abroad  program not offered by your school, look around their website and call someone in charge. Asking the program managers is always the best place to start.

If none of the school’s scholarships are right for you or you don’t get enough aid from the school, there are other places you can look for help. A good way to help raise money for your extended trip is to do some fundraising. It may sound odd to do without a specific cause or charity other than yourself, but people strongly believe in getting a good education. Reach out to organizations you’re affiliated with, relatives who would be willing to help, and even your community. It might not be Race for the Cure, but you’d be surprised at how many people are able to pitch in. Keep in mind, this option is probably best for the outgoing, persuasive types—the situation will only be awkward if you feel incredibly uncomfortable in the first place and can’t present your case.

While you’re abroad, you can opt for a work-study option. Though this isn’t for everyone, there are lots of opportunities to secure an internship or work-study while you’re out of the nest. Check with your school for any opportunities with their university center abroad, if they have one. You can also work with the abroad center to look for opportunities with your major. Keep in mind if the place you’re going speaks a different language, having this type of opportunity will generally require your knowledge of the language; you might not need to be fluent, but you should be conversational at the least! Also, visas are generally needed as well to work overseas, so talk to your program and who you’re interested in working for to find out the specifics.

Taking out a loan is another option you can explore to help pay for your semester abroad. Again, your first step should be to talk to your school or people who have studied abroad before. They will be more than willing to help you prepare and they’ll surely have plenty of recommendations for you. There are lots of different organizations to go to when planning out your loan, like Sallie Mae, Study Abroad Loans and International Student Loans Center. With so many possibilities, it’s important for you to really talk with your parents and figure out what one works best for you and your financial needs. There’s a lot of information out there, so just take a deep breath and get ready to do some digging. It may be frustrating and overwhelming at first, but the pay off (literally) will be worth it.

Basically, the best way to find out ways to help pay for your study abroad experience and make the most of it is to just do your research and start as early as possible. Spend time working with the program managers at your school, and if you’re not going through your school, work with the program you are going with. Talk to friends or family members who have studied abroad before to get tips and tricks of the trade. Research loans and financial aid options your family thinks is best for you. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help!

Be safe, be smart and have fun!

-ToonyToon

I’m reading Goode’s World Atlas