Your college years are some of the best of your life — you make new friends, learn new skills and information and enter the adult world. The first two are usually great. It’s the “entering the adult world” part that proves challenging for some, especially when you’re footing the entire bill. Sure there are student loans, scholarships and grants that will help if you’re lucky enough to get them, but since few undergrads are fortunate enough to get a full ride, here are six tips you can implement so that you graduate with as little debt as possible:
Live on campus and use their meal plan.
Unless you have extenuating circumstances, it’s usually simplest and cheapest to live in the dorms since you’re likely to be close to your classes and you don’t have to worry about maintenance and repairs. Likewise, having a meal plan means that you don’t have to go to the grocery store, cook meals-for-one or waste the extra food that you forget about in the back of the fridge.
Get a job on campus.
Work-study programs or a regular on-campus jobs are great ways to earn money without the expense of having to drive to work. Working in the cafeteria isn’t as lucrative as waitressing at a trendy café, but your boss will be cool with working around your classes, and you’ll always have plenty of people who can work for you when you need a night off.
Make the most of technology.
If you’re just a casual listener, buying music from iTunes or Amazon can do a number on your bank account, so take advantage of services like Spotify which allow you to stream music for free or purchase a low-cost premium option. You can also stream your favorite shows from Hulu or Netflix for little money. If you need to pay for your own cable, phone and internet, www.dsl.com notes that by buying bundled packages you can save over buying them each separately.
Become a bargain hunter.
Do you love designer clothes, but not the price tags they carry? Head to an upscale part of town (or one in a nearby city) and check out the secondhand stores there. Often you’ll find the brands you’re looking for at a price you won’t gag over. If buying used isn’t your cup of tea, head straight to the clearance racks and start your shopping trips there.
Make a date with the Sunday circulars.
Living and eating on campus won’t take care of expenses like toiletries and school supplies. Each Sunday head to your school’s library or student union to check out the weekly sales and see if there’s anything you can stock up on. Stores usually run sales in 12-week cycles, so even if you still have a bottle of shampoo left, it’s a wise decision to buy another two bottles when it’s 50% off so that you don’t have to pay full price when you run out.
Keep your student ID with you at all times.
You never know just where you’ll be able to score a student discount, so be prepared to flash that piece of plastic that forever immortalizes your freshman-year look. Get in the habit of asking if your favorite coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants offer discounts. Check our list of some businesses who offer student discounts.