A college education in the U.S. can be absurdly expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average cost to attend college is over $20,000 annually. Most students are not rich and often have to find creative ways to make their money stretch. Whether you are a student new to college, in grad school, continuing your education or a caretaker preparing to send a child to college here are some money-saving tips.
1. Take community college classes.
Community college is significantly cheaper than a four-year college or university. Some community colleges have relationships with larger institutions where class credits are easily transferable between the two. This would be a great option for students new to college or students open to taking summer/winter classes.
2. Take college classes while in high school.
Some students in high school are advanced and can handle a college credit or two. Some schools may even allow advanced students to be partially enrolled in high school and college. Often the college course is offered free to the student.
3. Take electives at a community college.
If the class doesn’t count toward your major there is no need to shell out big bucks for it. I took, at least, two elective courses during the summer and paid a fraction of the cost.
4. Rent textbooks.
There are many online companies that will allow you to rent textbooks. The cost is a lot less expensive than purchasing the book. Again, if it is not a book needed for your major, then, I would recommend this option.
5. Use the previous textbook edition.
Professors will insist that you purchase the latest edition of a book. Often the latest edition has changed very little from the previous edition. However, the pagination will be different so you may need to refer to the newest edition for any assigned readings. Time to get to know your fellow classmate.
6. Copy the core pages and return the book the same day.
If you have one of those awesome professors that list all of the assigned readings in the syllabus—great! Borrow a friend’s book and copy the assigned readings.
7. Check with your job.
Education is expensive and employers are realizing this. Some employers will pay for education expenses, particularly if it is related to work of the organization.
8. Cut your housing cost.
Don’t overlook living with family or in shared housing as a temporary way to save. Or, consider minimizing some utility and home services. can save you thousands of dollars.
9. Print papers front and back.
Print your assignments front and back to save money as well as the environment.
10. Wash clothes by hand and/or hang them to dry.
If you don’t have a full load and you want to wear your favorite t-shirt from the other day, there is no need in wasting money to wash one item. Just roll up your sleeves and wash it the good ol’ fashioned way
11. Focus on making your space functional—not pretty.
Buy what you need to be able to focus and work effectively, anything outside of that is unnecessary.
12. Buy in bulk (with friends).
Buying in bulk can lower the individual (per unit) price of an item. Instead of buying a single roll of paper towels, split the cost with a friend and buy the package of six. You’ll pay more money upfront, but you will save on the backend.
13. Be mindful of what you eat—plan ahead.
Plan your meals in advance to curb impulse buying. See my Saving on Groceries blog for more insights on how to cut food cost.
14. Keep clothes basic.
During those school years keep your wardrobe basic. Have the essential items and some keys pieces to help you diversify your basic wardrobe. But, there is no need to spend oodles of money on clothes while you’re managing the cost of school.
15. Watch your health.
We don’t realize how expensive it is to be sick until we are. Do your best to stay healthy and that will help to keep dollars in your pocket.
16. Save when you debit.
You are charged fees when you use your credit card. Avoid the fees be using your debit card.
17. Sign up for benefit programs.
You can get special perks for being a student. Some companies have deals or benefits for students only like entertainment and transportation discounts. Of course, this is not commonly known so you may need to do some research to find them. When I was a student I’d check with almost every place, particularly those around the university.
18. Shop consignment, second hand or in a friend’s closet.
There is nothing wrong with getting quality goods second hand. It allows you to obtain what you need while spending wisely. There is also the added benefit of having something unique since the item(s) cannot be easily found in traditional stores.
19. Buy quality.
Choose quality, particularly, if you plan to have it for a while, and/or if it is necessary to your day-to-day. You may find yourself spending more money if you have to replace a cheap purchase.
20. Be open to unexpected opportunities.
Being fluid and flexible allows you to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. When we relinquish some control we open ourselves, and allow the powers that be, we open ourselves to welcoming new possibilities.
What have you learned to save money on education expenses?
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