The following is a guest post on Money Q&A by Andrew Rombach, who manages the scholarship website, scholarshipfly.com. Would you like to write the next one? If you would like to write an article for Money Q&A, please visit our Guest Posting Guidelines page.
You are spending too much money on your college education. Unless you’re the world’s thriftiest student already – and chances are you’re not – it’s a fact that you’re not saving as much money as you could be. You’re spending too much money on college student expenses.
Save on College Student Expenses on Campus
Below are a few of the biggest categories where students fail entirely in picking cost-effective options, aside from opting for in-state tuition. These failures keep students from saving or making money throughout their education.
Scholarships – Always Be Applying
Unfortunately, most college students who apply for scholarships for their freshman year fail to apply for another scholarship ever again there are still three more years to go!
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Unless you have a full ride with living expenses paid for, you should plan to apply for new scholarships every year that you’re in school. There are plenty of easy applications found online (such as opportunities with no essay requirement) to increase your chances of success.
Although it’s true that the majority of scholarships are for incoming freshman, there are still plenty of opportunities to score additional aid for sophomore, junior, and senior years. Also, since many people fail to apply for those scholarships, you’ll encounter less competition for those dollars which puts you in a better position to be successful. It is entirely possible to pay for your full education through multiple scholarships.
Work-Study – Take Advantage of Paid Time
The federal work-study program is a component of federal financial aid that ensures that paid on-campus jobs go to those students who need them the most. The secret to work-study is that you’ll often find yourself in a low-maintenance job that will allow you to spend some portion of your time studying on the clock.
You’re essentially knocking out two birds with one stone – so to speak. Typical work-study positions include manning the circulation desk at the school library or answering the phone in the admissions office.
When no one is asking you for help and the phone is silent, you’ll be allowed to – even encouraged to – study during that time. Many of these jobs involve free time, so it is perfect for staying up-to-date with school. If work-study is available to you as part of your financial aid package, then by all means, take advantage of it.
Housing and Meal Plans – Save Money by Living and Eating Off-Campus
The lure of the shared apartment is real. Whether you’re entering your freshman or senior year, the money you spend on a campus housing and meal plan is substantial. While the dining hall food may be delicious (or terrible depending on who you ask), it comes with a serious catch.
When you graduate and stare that student loan balance squarely in the eye, you’ll probably wish you found a cheaper alternative. Take the cost-effective route instead by splitting a two-bedroom apartment off-campus. Not only do you save on housing and meal costs (with some frugal grocery shopping), but there are considerably less oversight and more privacy.
Student Discounts – Ask for Them
When it comes to student discounts, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It’s downright surprising how many establishments in college towns offer a student discount without advertising it.
They might not want to give that 10% discount to all the students that walk through the door, but most will offer some discount because no one intends to be the place without school spirit. So don’t be afraid to ask every restaurant and store about a student discount, and take them up on it if they do.
You can also look for discounts through companies like Student Advantage.
Campus Amenities – Use Them
It’s simple. If your school offers something for free or reduced price, then don’t pay for it off-campus. The school gym might be small and crowded, but it’s free.
Going camping? Don’t even look at buying new camping supplies until you check the rec center. Most colleges offer free or very inexpensive rentals for all kinds of outdoor and camping equipment.
Ask your student services center what else they offer. For instance, most campuses have DVD rentals, movie nights, free pizza nights, and much more. All of this can save a savvy student serious bucks over four years.
Textbooks – Buy Used, Sell Used
It’s a no-brainer that you should always be buying used textbooks whenever possible. The exception to this general rule is when the book comes with something like a one-time-use website code, or anything else that can’t be passed along to a second-hand user. However, those situations are few, and the average student can save hundreds of dollars a semester by buying used books.
There’s another textbook tip you should be taking advantage of, and that’s selling your textbooks after the semester is over. Unless you intend to keep them for future reference, you’ll want to sell them and use the money to purchase the next semester’s books – this continues the cycle of savings.
If you want a different option, then you can even consider renting your textbooks. In most cases, this option is cheaper than buying the new book, and it is a great option if you do not trust the used textbook market. There are several online sites for selling, renting, or buying textbooks, but there are plenty of free local markets through social media on-campus.
What about you? How do you save on college student expenses and earn more income while in school?