While colleges and universities nationwide are winding down the 2013-14 school year, it should not come as a surprise that many students (and parents for that matter too) are already looking to next fall as sons and daughters take their first steps on college campuses.
With the cost of tuition increasing by the semester, it’s important for freshmen and their parents to save money anywhere they can.
Luckily, there are ways to cut college costs while learning efficient spending and saving habits without resorting to a ramen noodle diet. Besides, a penny saved while in college results in a penny earned at graduation.
So, with collegiate capital in mind, here are just a few ways you can save on expenses your first year of college:
Create an Achievable Budget
Putting together a budget doesn’t take a degree in finance, but it is important to know the difference between a budget that’s attainable and one that isn’t. So, when arranging your budget, try to keep reality in mind when it comes to expenditures.
In other words, if you’re allotting $200 month for entertainment and only $50 for groceries and school supplies, you’ll definitely come up short in one department. Balancing a budget does take time to master, but making common sense budgeting decisions is half the battle.
In addition, there are hundreds of apps available that can help you balance your budget, control your spending, and even send you alerts when you’re over-budget. And, the best part is, many of the apps are free – a freshman’s favorite word.
Buy Used Books
As long as the text is still legible, a used book is just as good as new, so try going the used route when buying textbooks. Although the college bookstore probably won’t give you as much when it comes to a buyback price, the lower initial cost is definitely worth it.
Likewise, before buying a textbook, first check to see if it comes in a digital version.
Digital books, also known as eBooks, are growing in popularity in the academic world and offer price flexibility depending on whether you need the book for the entire semester, a week, or even a day.
Student Credit Cards
Building a line of credit is an important aspect of living on your own and there’s no better time to start doing so than during your first few years of college. And, as long as you don’t abuse the privilege of having one, credit cards are effective credit builders.
But, before you go out and apply for every credit card you can find, try to keep in mind interest rates as well as spending limits.
For first-year students that are also first-time credit card holders, only use the card for essentials like gas and groceries, pay it off in full each month, keep the limit low, and never have more than one credit card at a time. Whether you are using cash, checks, credit cards or mobile payments, make sure you account for each of your purchases, noting why you needed the product or service.
College and Computers
Pretty much every college in the world requires its students have a computer and, considering the portability factor, laptops are usually the computer of choice.
But, before you pay the going rate for that shiny new laptop, first see how your enrollment can help.
Many computer manufacturers offer student discounts and rebates on computers and electronics of all kinds. Likewise, many state scholarships and grants include a stipend for computers, so it’s always wise to find out what your student aid covers.
Start college off on the right foot by following the tips above, spending frugally, and keeping an eye on your budget.
About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including saving money and social media.