Before and During College: Ways to Save Money While Getting a Great College Education

Yes, college is expensive. The College Board reports that academic year 2019-20 costs undergraduates an average of $26,590 at public 4-year in-state colleges and universities and $53,980 at private 4-year colleges and universities.

Tuition and fees account for $10,440 and $36,880 these costs at public in-state and private 4-year schools, respectively. That leaves $16,150 and $17,100, respectively, at such institutions that’s spent on books, class supplies, room and board (or groceries, rent, and utilities for those living off-campus), and other living expenses.

Students can generate significant savings by cutting such expenses. Here are some ideas about how to do so:

– Bank Accounts: Use checking and savings accounts that offer students good deals with lower fees, lower minimum balances, and overdraft protections.

– Brown Bagging: Students living off-campus who can’t get home between classes can save about $25 a week, or $900 per academic year, by packing their lunches and forgoing meals from on-campus and nearby eating places.

– Cars: Students who don’t have cars shouldn’t shell out money to buy and ensure them. Students who have cars should leave them at home to reduce their gas, maintenance, and parking expenses. There are plenty of other, less expensive forms of transportation to meet students’ transportation needs.

– Coffee and Snacks: Nobody needs anything from Starbucks and other costly coffee and fast food places. Instead, coffee can be brewed at home, put in thermoses, and carried in backpacks that can also carry grocery store or homemade snacks.

– Convenience Stores: Convenience costs! A price comparison on 10 common grocery items sold at a convenience store and nearby supermarket showed that buying those items at the convenience store costs 45% more than at the supermarket.

– Credit Cards: High interest charges can be avoided by going without such cards or by not using them to buy more than can be paid off each month.

– Eating In: Eating in campus dining halls or preparing them at home costs less than restaurant meals. And when students do eat out, taking advantage of specials (e.g. Applebee’s 2 for $20, Chili’s 2 for $25, Olive Garden’s $7.99 lunch favorites and $11.99 never-ending pastas) is a money-saver.

– Spending Plans: After paying tuition and fees, students generally know how much they have left for an academic term. They also know themnumber of weeks in that term. So doing simple math — with adjustments here or there for special events and happenings — can help avoid money shortages before the term ends.

– Student Discounts: Students should always have their campus IDs with them so they can take advantage of on and off-campus discounts for students.

– Tap The Water: Forget bottled water. Forget sodas in their styrofoam and plastic cups. Simple tap water in a reusable thermal tumbler costs nothing, is healthier, and is better for the environment.

– Textbooks: There are many ways to cut textbook costs — e.g. accessing open texts, buying used books, sharing and trading books, and shopping around.

Students can spend less, and borrow less, while still getting a great college education. They should identify every money saver that works best for them, then do it!

Want more ideas on how students can cut spending on expenses other than tuition and fees? Take a look at College Affordability Solutions’ Topical Index or contact us at (512) 366-5354 or by email at to arrange a free consultation.

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