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Image from Pexels

Of the many machinations humanity has introduced to the world, few are as efficient in depleting one’s funds as attending an American college. In fact, the sticker price on most private colleges is enough to wipe out the annual income of most working class families. And while many schools offer generous amounts of financial aid that can be supplemented with private scholarships and other sources of funding, most college students still find themselves deep in the red by the time they walk across the stage.

It’s no secret nowadays that going through college can be an outrageously expensive endeavor. After all, the phrase “starving student” certainly didn’t come from nowhere! College students are notoriously short on cash, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Here are a couple of things you could do to make sure that you have a bit of green tucked away for a rainy day.

1. Get Creative When It Comes to Buying Your Textbooks.

By now everyone and their grandmothers should know that books are damn expensive. As heavy as they are, these little buggers cost their weight in gold. It’s not uncommon to spend upwards of $500 per academic quarter here at UCLA on textbooks. Worst of all, most of your professors will force strongly encourage you to buy the newest edition of these monstrosities that only differ from their predecessors in a couple of passages here and there. This is because, more often than not, your professors authored these veritable avatars of avarice themselves. Quite shameless indeed.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: ask around! In my experience, most of your fellow students are fairly decent people who would love to advise you on when a new edition is really necessary and thus help you save some of that sweet wallet juice. On another note, you are by no means obligated to buy your textbooks from the student store. If you can find what you need cheaper online, by all means, go for it! Just make sure you’re actually buying the right book, though.

But let’s step out of the box here for a second. Who says that you actually have to buy your textbooks? And before you get any ideas, no, I am by no means advocating piracy. I just want to point out that most school libraries will have a textbook or two on hold for almost every class, and if you can get all your work done there, you may have just saved a hefty chunk of change. Alternatively, you can also borrow books from friends who have already taken that class, assuming that they have not managed to sell them off. Be creative!

2. Food for Thought: Eat What You’ve Already Paid For.

For some people (myself included), the quality of a school’s food can make or break one’s college experience. However most schools, regardless of the sustenance they provide, offer require students to purchase a prepaid meal plan that rarely offers refunds, especially if those students plan to live on campus.

Under such conditions, students will have literally paid for meals that they might not eat. Therefore, it makes little economic sense for students to avoid school dining halls in favor of splurging on vending machine products and fast food. Those Starbucks lattes really can add up. So ditch them. Drink water. It’s better for you, anyway.

Now personally, I’ve never had much of a problem with eating at the dining halls (shout-out to UCLA Dining), but for those of you who find school food to be less than appetizing, fear not! Buzzfeed can show you how to transform your dining hall experience; it’s pure GENIUS.

Alternatively, you and your friends can always (learn to) cook for yourselves and show your school how it’s done. If you want to know more about saving on food, check out TP’s tips here!

3. Hardware: Do You Really Need It? 

College students are pretty much expected to bring their own computers nowadays. Most college students would indeed dub their laptops as essential to their endeavors, academic and otherwise. But do you really need to put out the fistfuls of cash for that souped up, top-of-the-line custom gaming PC just so you can seamlessly experience the world of Skyrim on Ultra settings? Or do you think you make it on the basics like the rest of us plebeians? Shop wisely.

If you’re looking to buy a laptop, prominent companies offer an abundance of student discounts and specials. For example, Apple consistently offers discounts and rebates to students and educators. Dell and Hewlett-Packard offer specialized discounts to students of participating universities as well.

And forget about the TV. You can watch cable TV through your new (and hopefully purchased at-a-discounted-price) laptop. Your laptop has graphics comparable to most HDTVs, so enjoy! And if you have a Netflix subscription (or have a close friend that does), you’re set!

4. Be a Friend to the Environment: Carpool!

POP QUIZ: 1 trip to your local college town per week x 30 weeks spent in school per year x 4 years x the 15 mile between your dorm and college town x about $3 for gas when the economy is great + 2 grocery runs per week because hey, your friends don’t have cars + that one concert that you just HAD to see even though it was halfway across the state = a lot of driving = a lot of money.

Like Starbucks, the costs of driving can really pile up and sneak up on you. Before you know it, you will have spent more on gas this quarter than you did on your textbooks (gasp!). Why should you and your roommate take separate rides when you’re heading to the same place? Even if you don’t get along, you’re just being practical and splitting the cost of the trip, not giving him or her a kidney.

 5. Leisure

One of the best perks of being a college student is undoubtedly the plethora of student discounts that local venues shower upon those who carry a valid student ID card. Being a student can get you a discount on almost anything, from a set of movie tickets to a swagtastic school sweatshirt. Just remember that a product, even with a student discount, isn’t necessarily the cheapest option!

The College Board estimates that the average student spends $1173 on personal expenses every year. What the College Board didn’t report, however, is that the average student is often unaware of most of the amenities that being a college student provides. In fact, if one took the effort to look, one would find that colleges often riddle the year with events and activities, everything from guest lectures by prominent experts to gym access and intramural sports that are all free to students. So gather up your friends and go. You don’t have to go to Disneyland to have a blast. I, for one, have found that it’s your friends, not your location, that actually makes your fun times fun!

If you follow these tips, you might find your budget a bit leaner and your finances a bit stabler, both during college and throughout your adult life. Remember, thrift begets plenty!



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  1. Jojo on March 24, 2014

    Great tips! I will definitely use these.

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