Unless you’re a trust fund baby, chances are you don’t have a lot of money lying around as a college student.
Even though a large proportion of college students work, many work part-time or take up flexible jobs that pay just above minimum wage so they can work and go to school at the same time.
Still others participate in unpaid internships or don’t have any money beyond what their parents might provide for living expenses and groceries.
If you want to make the little money you have stretch, take a look at the following handy tips for living frugally in college.
1. Ditch the car (or use it as little as possible).
A vehicle is a major expense in college, what with the cost of gas sky high, insurance and car payments every month, and the cost of routine maintenance. You can cut back on many of these expenses by ditching your vehicle entirely and opting for public transportation if you live in a city that provides it. Most universities provide tram services that get students from point A to point B on campus, and many of your classes are within walking or biking distance if you live on or near campus. If your city doesn’t provide public transportation near where you work, reach out to your co-workers and ask if anyone would be willing to carpool. Even carpooling a couple days a week can save you some serious cash on fuel. Back when I was in school, I knew a number of people in the dorms who got to class and work just fine without the benefit of a vehicle and many others who used their vehicle only once or twice a semester for trips back to their home town.
2. Don’t eat out.
One of the reasons college students are broke all the time (and the reason they gain the Freshman 15!) is because of all their late-night runs to Taco Cabana and IHOP, morning Starbucks runs and ordering in pizza for study sessions. Even cheap fast food at McDonald’s and Taco Bell adds up if you hit them up too often. Make use of meal plans while you’re living on campus (you paid for them after all!) and buy groceries for the rest of your meals. College is the perfect time to establish your independence and impress that cute/guy girl by stretching your cooking prowess and learning how to prepare your own meals at home. You may even want to check out campus clubs and ministries that provide free meals to students on certain days of the week (the Baptist Student Ministry at Texas State University used to provide free meals to any students that showed up for a noon sermon on Wednesdays, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof).
3. Get a cheaper phone.
I know it’s awesome to have a data plan on your phone or to possess the newest iPhone, Blackberry or Android, but these fancy plans and phones cost you serious money every month. Downgrade to a basic phone that is only capable of calls and texts and use your laptop or the computers on campus for all your Internet and social networking needs. I don’t recommend ditching your phone altogether though your parents will go nuts if they don’t get a call from you at least every now and then!
4. Shop second-hand.
You don’t have to have brand new clothing all the time in college. In fact, the only time you need to buy new is when you are purchasing clothing for a job interview. Many college towns have a variety of resale, consignment and thrift stores where you can pick up some gently-used or super-cool vintage steals. On many campuses, thrift and vintage wear is even trendy! Another option is exchanging clothing with a friendly roommate to keep your wardrobe fresh.
5. Take advantage of free entertainment.
Colleges are great at organizing free or cheap concerts and events on and around campus. Take advantage of these opportunities by regularly reading your college newspaper. You can also go with your friends to watch your college’s athletic teams play for free instead of going out and spending money on other entertainment. You can check out books and DVDs for free from your university’s library and also from any nearby city libraries once you get a library card.
These are just a few ways you can live frugally in college. How do you save your pennies while hitting the books?
This guest contribution was submitted by Jamie Davis, who specializes in writing about masters degree. Questions and comments can be sent to: email@example.com.
Photo Credit: SBA73