School may be out for the summer but strategies to save money should never take a break. As most students are enjoying their time off vacationing and sleeping-in, recent college-bound high school graduates are scrambling to find ways to a more affordable college degree.
Naturally scholarships, grants and loans are the go-to choices to cover tuition costs; and while these options are ideal, all too often college students don't know how to carefully spend the "reimbursement" money that is awarded after their tuition and books are covered.
In short, they don't know the strategies to save money while in school. But if you want to avoid eating Top Ramen every night for dinner and because you didn't make your money stretch, then continue reading below to learn some strategies to save money while earning your degree.
Give Yourself a Budget
By far one of the easiest strategies to save money is to make sure that you establish some sort of weekly budget. Only you know the amount of money that is available to you so you will need to set your budget accordingly—but do make it reasonable (not too high or too low) and never forget that your reimbursement will have to last you the entire semester.
It would be wise to start recording your spending habits now and analyzing where most of your money goes; this way you'll know what needs to be factored in your budget and what you can cut back on. For example, if most of your money goes to your sushi addiction, it might be wise to only allow yourself to indulge every two weeks, as opposed to every two days.
Swap Credit for Cash
Carrying cash may seem like a hassle, but it is actually a highly effective strategy and can help you save substantially. It's all too easy to just swipe your credit or debit card whenever you are out and about and it makes it oh-so much easier to go over your set weekly budget.
Cash on the other hand will help you stay within your plan. Once a week withdraw the amount of money you set for yourself. Once you spend it, condition yourself to not withdraw any more money until the new week begins. Granted there are exceptions to this rule—if a "real" emergency occurs by all means take out money to resolve the issue—but this little trick and help you conserve your money.
Eat Out Less
Dining out every day is one of the fastest ways to burn all your money and pack on the pounds. Instead, consider purchasing a meal plan at your school—for one set price all of your meals will be covered. If you do not live on campus consider cooking.
You don't even need to be a chef either, easy to assemble meals like sandwiches can get you full and save a few extra dollars in your pocket. This isn't to say restaurants are out of the question, but when you do go out to eat consider the following things: pass on alcoholic drinks because they're expensive.
In fact, skip the sodas and teas too and go for some tap water with some lemon instead to save a few extra bucks; try to avoid getting the most expensive item on the menu; and always bring your student I.D.—the restaurant may just offer special student discounts. It's equally important that you pay attention of free events and intro meetings to clubs and organizations happening on campus. Often times these events will offer free food to attendees.
Utilize Other Methods of Transportation
If you live off campus, one of the simplest strategies to save money is ditching your gas guzzler and using greener and cost-effective transportation options instead, such as carpooling, riding your bicycle or walking if distance permits. Note that most college towns typically always offer either free or discounted bus/shuttle rides to students with a valid I.D.
Consider Online Classes
Lastly, taking online classes is one of the best strategies to save money and is ideal for those who are trying to juggle a part-time job or are enrolled in a work-study program—you can save more money staying at home with parents if you want and can avoiding spending unnecessary gas money coming to and from campus.
Most online classes also offer online textbooks which are sold at a fraction of the price of traditional textbooks. Granted these aren't all of the strategies to save money while in college, but they can most certainly help you survive your new profound status as a broke college student and make an affordable college degree within reach.
Nancy Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to the Criminal Justice Degrees Guide, which discusses about child abuse, human rights, divorce, and crime related articles. Questions or comments can be sent to: nancy.farrell13 [at] gmail.com.
There are other strategies to save money for an affordable college degree including avoiding excessive credit card debt for college graduates.