College is expensive. Everything from tuition, to room and board, textbooks, and even everyday expenses add up very quickly. While it may leave you with a degree and a well-paid job in four years, what are you supposed to do when you don’t want to take out an excessive amount of student loans now?
Aside from tuition, room and board is the most expensive cost of a college education. One option that many people forget to consider is living off-campus. Most universities have rules pertaining to Freshman living off-campus, but typically allow those within a certain radius of the school to maintain their current living situation, if it is with their parents. For everyone else, moving off-campus usually becomes an option during their Sophomore year. While moving off-campus reduces some room cost, the board aspect of the equation can be just as expensive. If you live on-campus, opt for a smaller meal plan to save costs, and instead make use of the dorm kitchen. There are many meals that can be easily prepared without any complex difficulties associated with the kitchen. Take advantage of this new adventure and learn something new!
While you are learning, don’t forget your textbooks. The pinnacle of every college course is the lecture. However, most lectures revolve around a textbook, which often costs a pretty penny. Before you start searching for your book, determine if you are comfortable with the idea of renting a book. Used books can also be beneficial to cutting costs if bought from a reputable source. Purchased anywhere else, there are likely to be markings in the book that make reading difficult. After deciding on these few basic guidelines, the best method to save money is to complete a thorough search for the textbook. Everywhere from online, to a book store, to even the on-campus book store. Once you’ve compiled your list, buy (or rent) the least expensive.
While you are saving money, it’s important to recognize when you can spend it. In the midst of all the college planning, don’t forget to include a detailed budget. Every budget contains a few constant factors, such as car insurance and a phone bill. There are also a few semi-variable factors, such as gas, which can fluctuate depending on cost and number of gallons needed. The last factor in a budget is the hardest to determine: how much money to allot oneself to spend on extras, such as clothes, movies, games, and restaurants. That is a personal number that depends on how much money you earn, as well as how much you deposit in your savings account for emergencies. However, it is important to decide on your budget and stick to it. Varying too far away will lead to debt now, that will most likely carry over into your post-college life.
Sometimes the simplest way to save money is to follow simple methods such as those listed above. Finishing college with both a degree and minimal student loans is possible. To repeat some of the most famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and you can use those pennies to keep you out of college debt.
This essay was submitted by Valerie Michaud for FTWCCU’s Cash for Class contest. Valerie, a Freshman at the University of Dallas, is an Education major.
*Post has been lightly edited for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.