College is a fun time for most young people, but it’s also a very cheap time. Unless your parents are fully funding your recreational activities or your class load is so light you can afford to work a lot, you’re probably going to wind up low on cash. Not only is that a drag when you want to go do stuff, it can be intimidating to face graduation without any money saved. Here are five tricks you can use to make your college experience less costly and more enjoyable!
1. Be an RA
Most schools offer free or reduced room and board for students who want to be resident advisors or “RAs.” It’s a position that typically involves fairly light duties like resolving roommate disputes, organizing dorm activities and checking-in visitors. Nearly all of these are things you can do while studying, so if you’re worried that getting another campus job will interfere with your schoolwork, this might be a great fit for you. Getting a job while you’re in school is a great way to save money anyway, but being an RA is an especially sweet gig.
2. Buy Used Textbooks
Unless your professor is extremely strict about having the most current editions of every book on their list (sorry science majors), don’t you dare buy new books! Go to Amazon, go to E-Bay, check out your school’s resources (they may have their own book sale where previous students will sell the books they bought new), or hit up local libraries. Heck, get an e-reader version and print off what pages you need. Whatever way you decide to go, remember that buying brand-new textbooks is more often than not a complete waste of money.
3. Hack the Dining Hall
If you have a meal plan, use it. We don’t just mean to eat your main three meals. We mean to swipe stuff for snacks. If you have access to a sandwich bar, grab a to-go container and take enough supplies to make a few sandwiches in your room. Maybe there are cereal dispensers at your disposal. Grab to-go cups full of cereal and milk, and you’ve saved yourself paying for breakfast at least one or two days a week. Also, if you get bored with what your school typically serves, start making up your own creations. If your dining hall has a salad bar, a French fry station, and a microwave, you can make restaurant-style cheese fries complete with bacon bits and ranch dipping sauce. That’s not the healthiest option, but here and there it might save you from the temptation to go out to eat.
- Get That Paper (Money)
Just because you didn’t score any scholarship money from your university doesn’t mean there isn’t still some out there left to claim. Look online for contests and scholarships that may apply to you even if they’re not affiliated with your institution. Fastweb.com is an amazing resource for such things, and it even boasts a bunch that applies to students who’ve already entered college. These little nuggets might not be a full ride to Michigan State University, but if you want to save money in college, a couple hundred bucks here and there won’t hurt.
5. Don’t Get a Credit Card
There is absolutely no reason you should have a credit card in college. As a matter of fact, credit card companies target college students because students land themselves in debt easily, and that’s good for banks. Thing is, you aren’t making any major purchases that would require the use of a credit card, and if you want to build up credit, there are other ways to do it. Funds are most likely going to be tight while you’re in school, but you should use that opportunity to learn how to budget. If you have a credit card at your disposal, you’re going to be sorely tempted to treat yourself to dinner out or a trip to the mall when you don’t have the means. If you have post-grad plans like a master’s in music education or something similar, you’re probably not going to want to pause those plans so you can work off credit card debt.