6 Ways to Borrow Less for College

Tuesday, Oct. 19th 2010 4:33 PM

The word is out – too many students are borrowing too much money to earn their college degree. While it can be difficult to control the cost of tuition and fees, students can make their college years far more affordable by simply focusing on reducing the costs of the other expenses incurred while in school.

iStock_000001263418XSmallOften referred to as incidentals, these aspects collectively can add thousands to the cost of a year of college.

Ditch the Car

While attending college, one way to reduce costs is to forgo a car while on campus. Instead, we would suggest, in order, that students walk, bike or ride the bus.

While most college students think they need a car, a set of wheels means a number of expenses including gas, the cost of parking (or parking sticker?), insurance and maintenance. Throw in the other headaches, even finding a place to park and the fact that everyone will want to borrow your wheels and a car is often a significant negative.

While on campus, save those costs by walking or bicycling. In addition to the cost savings, there are also the basic health benefits of the extra exercise.

And for those cases where it is truly not possible to walk or bike, then ride the bus. Public transportation is generally inexpensive and in most college cities, students pay even lower rates or no fares at all during certain times of the day.

The hitch is you may not be able to go at exactly the time you would prefer. But with a little effort, you can work your schedule around that of the local buses.

Buy Used or Rent your Textbooks

Depending on your class load, if you purchase new books at the campus bookstore you can spend several hundred to a $1,000 per semester. If you take the time to shop around, you can get most cheaper online.

Even better, look to obtain used copies of the same books. You can find copies online at Amazon.com, Half.com or one of the many used bookstores out there. Purchasing used will save you 50 cents on every dollar if not more.

Yet another option is to consider renting your texts from one of the newer sites such as Chegg.com or BookRenter.com. This is an even better option than purchasing used if the book is not one you think you will want to keep as a resource when you graduate.

Take Advantage of Free Activities

One of the best aspects of college is all the peripheral activities, the concerts, the parties, the sporting events, etc., that occur almost daily on campus. But some of these activities can carry a steep price, especially the concerts and performances that feature nationally known talent or the football and mens basketball games.

However, the beauty of college is that there are always free or extremely reduced cost activities for students. Instead of attending the mens basketball game, students may attend the ladies game instead or one of the lower profile sports for less and in some cases, for free.

Another set of options includes the many campus recreation facilities, whether it be the first class tennis courts, the state of the art swimming pool, or fitness equipment. On campus there will generally always be times when students are permitted to use these facilities at no cost.

Lastly, from on-campus movies to concerts featuring new, as yet undiscovered talent, there are always a wealth of options where you can leave your wallet in the dorm room. The key is to do your homework and find these available options.

Eat In

iStock_000005739545XSmallOne of the biggest drains on the wallet for college students is the constant desire to eat out. It really doesn’t matter whether it is McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts or a higher end outfit, you can go through cash in a hurry over the course of the week by dining out.

If you bought a campus meal plan, use it to the fullest. If you don’t get up in the morning, then don’t buy a plan that includes breakfast. And don’t simply skip a paid for meal because you are less than thrilled with what is on the menu.

If you didn’t buy a meal plan, then make sure you create a budget for how much you can reasonably afford. In addition, spend the necessary time it takes to grocery shop so that you have foods you can prepare for yourself. Those Ramen noodles or cans of prepared pasta just might be necessary once or twice a week to get by but you can’t prepare them if you do not have them on hand.

Most importantly, get yourself a coffee pot and brew your own coffee or have a microwave and drink instant. One of the largest drains on the budget over the course of the semester is spending $2.00-$3.00 a pop to treat yourself to a cup of fancy coffee once or twice a day, four to five days or more a week.

Refrain from Drinking Alcohol

It is likely one of the staples of college for most students. But drinking and partying can prove to be very costly.

Drinking at a bar or restaurant is always expensive even during happy hour. And when you are drinking, your inhibitions and your self-control diminish even as your appetite grows. The result is blowing some more cash on an outrageously expensive plate of nachos or wings.

And drinking back at the dorm can also blow some serious cash if it becomes too frequent to say nothing of the costs for the delivery of that loaded pizza.

Work Part-time During the Semester

The best way to limit your borrowing is to find a part-time job. Working as little as 6-8 hours a week at minimum wage will produce $40-50 of spending money weekly.

Some students like to work part-time in the cafeteria where shifts last as little as two hours and three and a half at most. Short shifts are easy to work into your schedule and take very little energy and focus away from classes and study time. Just three such shifts a week can raise some steady spending money.

A second option is to research convenience store or desk jobs where you have to be available to answer the phone occasionally. In many instances, you will find accommodating businesses that will allow you to bring your school work into the job setting as long as you are committed to handling the job responsibilities when they arise.

Posted by Thomas | in Advice, Saving Money | 1 Comment »

One comment on "6 Ways to Borrow Less for College"

  • May I also suggest:
    Eating in with friends, buy in bulk, cook large and save both on grocery bills and cooking/heating fuel. (If a group of you are in the same room for a couple of hours or more then there’s no need to heat your own place.

    Swap clothes, we generally get fed up with what we wear before it’s worn out, therefore don’t buy at all but swap.

    If you can’t get rid of the car, then share the ride and expenses.

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