There is no denying the high cost of a college education. According to the College Board, “the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013 and 2014 school year is $30,094 at private colleges, and $8893 for state residents at public colleges.”
Given the high cost of a higher education, it’s no wonder that some people skip attending a college or university and prefer trade schools. But depending on your chosen career path, getting a four-year college degree may be the only alternative. Therefore, you have to accept the possibility of graduating with a ton of student loan debt.
If you are fortunate enough, your parents may pay for your college education, alleviating any financial burden upon graduation. But if you are like the majority of college students, you’ll have to apply for a student loan or get a job to cover your own expenses.
There is, however, good news.
Despite the high cost of a college education, there are ways to offset this expense and reduce how much you spend in certain areas.
#1 Tuition/room and board
Tuition plus room and board will be the largest expense as you complete your four-year education. And although you can’t get around this expense, there are ways to save money.
For starters, don’t rely on student loans. Federal and private loans are readily available for those who attend college. However, by planning ahead, you might find a scholarship or grant program to pay all or a percentage of your tuition cost. There are no guarantees when you submit an application, but if you meet certain income qualifications, study a particular subject, participate in certain extracurricular activities, or have excellent grades in high school, there’s a good chance that you’ll qualify for a scholarship or grant – which don’t have to be repaid.
In addition, you can consider a part-time job while in school. By working, you can pay some of your tuition out-of-pocket. This reduces how much you need to borrow, which ultimately lowers your total student loan debt at graduation. And if you have a student loan, there’s the option of paying down this debt while you’re still in school.
Also, you might attend a college closer to home. This way, you only need to pay for tuition, and not room and board.
Purchasing three meals a day while away at school can add up quickly. Some students have a meal plan which reduces their daily out-of-pocket expense, but this plan adds to their student loan debt.
Depending on your college, you may be allowed to have a microwave and/or hot plate in your dorm room. If allowed, invest in these appliances and a mini refrigerator. This way, you can purchase food from the grocery store and prepare your own meals in your room. This might cost less than purchasing meals in the college cafeteria.
There are benefits to having your own car while away at school. However, an automobile adds to your monthly expenses. If you purchase a car, consider paying cash. This way, you can avoid a car payment. Plus, an older car will typically have a cheaper insurance premium and you’ll pay less in personal property taxes.
If possible, don’t purchase a car. Depending on the location of your college or university, you might be able to get around town using public transportation. Or if you have a car, keep your automobile parked and use your bike when traveling on and around campus. This reduces the wear and tear of your vehicle, plus it’ll save on gas.
#4. School books
Books for one class can run anywhere between $30 and $100. To offset the cost of books, consider selling your books after each semester. You can utilize marketplaces like valorebooks.com to sell textbooks and use the money to pay for your books next semester. Another option: purchase digital versions of your books online for the upcoming semester from other students selling them off after they are done with them. Even better, if you and a friend take the same class, maybe you can split the cost and share the book throughout the semester.
You work hard during the semester, and you deserve a break. But unfortunately, getaways and vacations might be outside your budget. To make it happen, visit discount websites such as Groupon and look for deals on vacation getaways. Also, you might travel with a group of friends. You can drive to your destination together and split the cost of hotels and gas.
Recreation and entertainment are both crucial to maintaining your sanity. However, fun shouldn’t break the bank. Give yourself a weekly or monthly budget for entertainment and recreation. Set aside a reasonable amount; and if possible, seek free entertainment. Visit a museum with a group of friends, attend a free concert or spend the day at the beach. In addition, search for coupons to save at restaurants and attend matinees to save at the movies.
The college years may be some of the best years of your life. But unfortunately, if you don’t make wise financial decisions during these years, it can take years to recoup and get your finances on track. The above tips will not only offset the cost of your education and lifestyle, but also help you build a strong financial foundation. Be smart with your money, get a part-time job and always look for opportunities to save or spend less.