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College Living: Top Ways to Save Money in 2009

Feb 6, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

College costs a lot of money, and many students leave with mountains of debt. Often tuition is only part of that debt—the rest is from credit cards. Even if you’re broke in college, there are plenty of ways to earn spending money and save on expenses. Here are a few things you should do in 2009 to keep your finances healthy.

Don’t eat out

This is probably the easiest way to save money in 2009—it is almost always cheaper to buy and cook your own meals than eat out. If you’re on a meal plan, then your meals are all pre-paid for—if you don’t eat at the dining hall, you’re basically buying food you don’t eat. You’ll have to pay for that food later as part of your school loans. So avoid eating out whenever it’s possible to do so.

See Also: Distance Education Colleges

Never buy textbooks full price

College textbooks are a racket. But there are so many ways to get cheap books. Talk to people who took the class before you; offer to buy their books from them. Look online at sites like or even Amazon for cheap deals on textbooks. If it takes a long time for your books to arrive, borrow the library’s copy until yours gets in.

Become an authority on cheap drinks

College students traditionally spend lots of money on alcohol. We’re not telling you not to party—that is, as long as you’re 21. But now is the time to start investigating great happy hours in your area. There are always bars that offer free food and cheap drinks on regular weekdays and special occasions. Know where they are. Mark them on your calendar. Haul your friends to them. You will save money.

Make that student ID pull its weight

You can get all kinds of deals with your student ID card—on everything from movie tickets to airfare. Every time you buy anything, take out your student card or ask about a discount. Sometimes the cashier won’t ask you and it won’t occur to you to remind them—and when that happens, you’re basically throwing money away.

Cut up your credit cards

Think that’s too extreme? Think again. College students are particularly vulnerable to getting in trouble with credit cards because they’re often not used to managing their finances on their own. Credit card companies take advantage by offering what looks like a good deal—until your interest rate gets hiked. If you need spending money in college, don’t get a credit card—get a part time student job. There are many student jobs on campus that essentially allow you to bring schoolwork to work—like a paid study hall. Take advantage.

Pay attention to fees and fines

Does your bank charge you a monthly maintenance fee? Banks are notorious for nickel-and-diming their customers. If you’re using the same bank your parents used—as many college students do—shop around for a better deal. Look into credit unions, which are not-for-profit and often have few or no fees. This could save you hundreds of dollars. Keep an eye out for random fees and do your best to eliminate or reduce them.

Take an active interest in your loans

Many college students leave the details of their loans to their parents. This isn’t always a good idea. You need to know exactly how much you owe and how much interest is accumulating as you go through school—and stay away from high-interest and variable-interest private loans as much as humanly possible. Be aggressive in questioning your school financial aid department on Federal loans with low interest rates—you may be entitled to more than they’re telling you. Take an active interest in your debt load before you get out of college, and work to reduce your debt while in school by taking on work-study jobs, getting good grades and earning scholarships while you’re there.

College is expensive—especially if you’re living on your own, but even if you’re going to an online colleges. Follow these tips, and your bank account will be happy while you’re in school—and your finances will be healthy when you graduate.



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