The cost of college can be eye-watering for many, if not all, students and parents alike; and it’s not just tuition fees that have to be paid, but all the living and additional costs ranging from rent to textbook purchases. With many families feeling the pinch of the economic downturn more than ever at the moment too, this makes going about college in a frugal way more important than ever. But it’s not just the student that can find ways to cut the cost of college, as it’s also the parents who will undoubtedly be funding some part (or all) of their son or daughters time at university too. Hopefully the tips below will, therefore, provide both students and parents with a few ways to make college expenses slightly more manageable.
Textbooks can cost over $100 dollars each. And if you buy all the textbooks you need, brand new, over the course of a four year degree you will spend a staggering amount. Buying second hand books is the obvious – and a very good – idea, but also consider buying older editions of the same textbook. Very often, from one edition to the next, the changes will be minimal and let’s face it, how much does a subject like math or statistics change? Also make the most of your university’s subscriptions to online journals. You’ll be able to access journals for free, and they contain more recent research findings than text books. Sharing textbooks with a class mate is also a way to half their cost which, again, can’t be a bad thing. As far as laptops and computers go, remember that a budget $400 dollar one will access facebook, allow you to type up essays, and send emails just like a MacBook can.
Discipline Yourself with Drinking and Going Out:
You want to have fun when you go to college, and don’t let money get in the way of that unless you’re in a position where you have to. But keep a cap on how much you end up blowing on beers and nights out with your friends. Think about setting a budget for this part of spending each week and sticking to it. Also, when you go out don’t take more cash than you can afford to spend and leave your debit/credit cards at home so you don’t get tempted into spending money you don’t have.
There are Times When it doesn’t Pay to Cut Costs:
Although cutting unnecessary costs and avoiding overspending should be encouraged amongst all college students, there are occasions where you need to take a more balanced view and sometimes pay that little bit extra. For example, it’s a good idea to replace takeaways with easy-to-cook homemade meals, and it’s also sometimes a good idea to replace fresh vegetables with frozen ones that are cheaper and will store for longer. But with your diet especially, you do need to consider keeping a bit of a balance. For example, whilst it might be possible to feed yourself on $10 a week, you’ll probably also end up jeopardising your health as you cut out certain food groups that are essential for a healthy lifestyle.
Another example of where it pays to spend that little bit extra is with heating bills. Students in shared houses are renowned for living in the cold to save their dollar bills, but a cold/damp house can lead to a number of health problems. For example, dampness can lead to an increase in allergens and dust mites that can exacerbate and induce asthma. A cold and damp house will also do no good for your immune system, increasing your propensity to get a cold or the flu as well.
And Some Tips for Parents:
As mentioned, most parents will take on board some or all of the financial responsibility for their son or daughters college expenses. And for that reason, you too can also have a big influence over how much money gets spent across the course of their undergraduate years. Therefore rather than giving them a lump sum of cash at the start of each semester for example, think about a weekly direct debit instead. That way, they won’t be able to spend all of their allowance at once and they’ll find it easier to budget for all the costs they encounter.
Another important thing for parents to do is to foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding when it comes to managing college expenses. As a parent, you need to encourage your son or daughter to be open about any of the financial difficulties they might be having. That way, they won’t end up trying to sort out a problem – like a late credit card payment – themselves, which might only escalate into a bigger and bigger problem later down the line. Showing that you understand the fact that there will be other things they want to spend their money on aside from textbooks and fresh groceries will also go a long way in fostering this all important two-way line of communication.
Bio: Julian is a writer interested in careers, frugality and personal finance topics. His blog is called Frugaal blog.
img credit:NazarethCollege on Flickr.