Paying for college is one of the most significant investments you’ll ever make. It’s well known that the cost of higher education continues to rise at an alarming rate. Even as some institutions have made an effort to cap the rate of tuition increase, there are still many other expenses that college students have to consider. These include housing, food, transportation, and textbooks to the countless other day-to-day expenditures.
However, there are many ways to bring down the cost of a college education without having to sacrifice enjoying the college experience. In fact, there could be a number of avoidable mistakes that are eating into your bank balance. By making a few simple changes, you could significantly reduce your monthly outgoings and ease those financial worries about the high cost of college.
- Stop buying new textbooks.
No matter what you’re studying, you’ll need textbooks. The reading lists published at the beginning of each semester are enough to fill any student with dread, and even more so when you discover how expensive they are in the campus bookstore. Even purchasing used textbooks on campus can be very costly, especially considering how little money students receive when they sell them back at the end of the semester.
There are numerous options to make this process less of a financial drain. Amazon and eBay stock thousands of course books at significantly reduced prices, and you could save even more by buying slightly older editions. Facebook groups are another way for students to help each other by exchanging used textbooks at affordable prices. Even better, you could stop purchasing textbooks altogether and rent them, instead, at significantly lower rates. Many websites now offer rental textbooks in either physical or digital form, and you can typically set the rental period to fit your course requirements. Having all of your books stored on your laptop or tablet also means that you won’t have to carry a heavy backpack around campus.
- Explore unique scholarship opportunities.
Whether you’re a high school student, undergraduate, or grad student, there are undoubtedly scholarships that you’re eligible for but haven’t yet stumbled across. It can be overwhelming to search for scholarships online, with endless application forms and little idea of your chances of success. However, some innovative new platforms are changing how students access scholarship opportunities.
Websites like Bold.org allow students to create a detailed profile and then apply for multiple scholarships (many of which are exclusive to Bold.org) in just a few clicks. There are plenty of no-essay scholarships, and many specific to students with particular backgrounds, hobbies, interests, or life experiences.
- Make a budget – and stick to it.
Unfortunately, many college students put off making a budget until they’ve graduated and are earning a steady income. However, this is a significant mistake. By learning to budget at a young age, you’ll develop good financial habits that will serve you well later in life. And for the present, a budget will help you ensure that you have sufficient funds to cover all of your monthly expenses while also setting aside money to pay for the activities you enjoy. It’s also the best way to make sure that you save some money every month, which will stand you in good stead later on when you’re considering major financial decisions such as buying a house or switching jobs.
By budgeting, you’ll quickly discover exactly where your money is going every month. This will help you spot ways to make savings, such as cutting back on unnecessary subscription services or cooking for yourself instead of going out to eat too often.
- Shop smarter with a free browser extension.
Online shopping is an essential part of every college student’s routine. From sourcing dorm essentials to buying groceries, students are making more and more of their purchases on the Internet, rather than visiting stores. Frustratingly, it can be nearly impossible to ensure that you’re getting the best price online without clicking back and forth between browser windows to compare multiple retailers.
However, a new way to shop online is making it easier to find the lowest prices. Capital One Shopping is a free extension that you can add to your browser in seconds. It then works in the background as you shop online, discreetly notifying you if there’s a lower price available on the item you’re interested in. Another useful feature is that the Capital One Shopping extension automatically applies available coupon codes to your shopping cart at checkout, so you don’t have to individually try a long list of expired codes. It’s a great way for students to save money on the types of purchases they’re already making.
- Explore federal aid options before looking into private loans.
Even after making a budget, applying for scholarships, and cutting back on your spending, many students will still need to secure additional funding for their education. It’s important to explore federal (and state) financial aid options before turning to a private student loan provider. You could be eligible for grants or a work-study award that could drastically lower your education costs. And if you need to take out a federal loan, their borrowing conditions tend to be more favorable than private loans, with fixed interest rates, income-based repayment plans, and postponement options.
- Complete your degree online.
The cost of attending college in person is almost always significantly more expensive than pursuing an online degree. When you take tuition costs and room and board into account, you’ll be spending far more than you would living at home and taking classes online. As undergraduate and graduate students seek to minimize costs, online degree programs are becoming an increasingly mainstream and sought-after option.
Today’s employers recognize that there are many rigorous and fully-accredited online programs, so this needn’t affect your future employment prospects. Additionally, an online degree typically provides more flexibility about when to attend class, so you may be able to fit it around your job, even if you’re working full time.