How to save on college expensesSaving money for college is a job in and of itself.  Not only do students have the responsibility to maintain good grades in their classes, but nowadays students are also expected to keep costs at a minimum in other areas of their college lives.

Bills for food, rent, textbooks, and everyday entertainment can add up quickly if you aren’t careful.  Here are a few helpful tips to keep your costs to a minimum so you can focus on paying that pricey tuition.

Textbooks.  It’s best to try and avoid buying your books at the school bookstore at all costs.  This is where your textbooks will be the priciest.  Instead, try shopping online. There are many different websites, even Amazon.com, that offer new and used textbooks at a fraction of the price.

Students usually don’t give themselves enough time to enjoy the luxury of buying discounted books online, so make sure you plan ahead and allow enough time for shipping in order to get your book for the best price.

Another option is to rent your book.  This is a relatively new concept that can be even more cost-effective than buying your book online or in the school’s bookstore.  Sometimes you can save up to half the cost by renting your books online. The best part is you can typically browse by subject when hunting for books to rent.

Sending your textbooks back at the end of the semester is super easy, too. With each textbook rental, a reputable company will typically provide you with a return envelope to use at the end of the semester so you can avoid having to pay shipping costs.

Food.  As if student loans and textbooks aren’t enough stress, students have to also survive on a day-to-day basis.  If you aren’t careful, food can be one of the biggest budget busters and can spiral out of control quickly.

As a student, it is important to take advantage of student discounts.  Many businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and bars offer discounts just for being a student when you present your student ID.  So make sure to keep that with you at all times!

Looking to get a little creative?  Try and put a potluck together each week with your friends, neighbors or dorm-mates.  This is an awesome way to save on food.  You can switch off with different people bringing different dishes, or each person can bring one ingredient to create one simple dish.

In the end you will have a giant meal, with many different dishes to choose from, while only having to pay for your particular portion.  Another perk—leftovers!  You and your friends can save the leftovers and eat them the next day for lunch.

Entertainment.  One of the best aspects of being a student is hanging out with your friends and having a good time. However, it is important to keep your entertainment costs in line with your overall student budget.

Enjoying listening to music? Look for local festivals and events that have free admission, often times you can find flyers on campus’ bulletins. You can spend the day with your friends, while people watching and enjoying the different activities the festival has to offer.

Also, don’t forget to check out discount websites such as Groupon.com and Living Social.  These websites offer discounts and coupons on basically everything—entertainment, fitness classes, spa treatments, and restaurants.

So, what do you do with all this money you save from textbooks, food, and entertainment? Well, I would suggest taking some money and investing it. Investing early can really set you apart from your peers and put you on the track for financial freedom. I would suggest opening a Roth IRA with Betterment or investing in ideas with Motif Investing.

I have known some students to take their savings and actually get help with their college course load. Some students take a lot of courses in order to reduce tuition. If you can graduate in less than four years, then you pay less. Did you know you can get help writing your term/research papers? I didn’t either until a friend of mine was hiring writers from a couple of sites. While many might not go this route, he was overloaded with work and school and needed to get the course completed. I had never heard of such a service, but apparently they are quite common. Many students use services like this to just handle the preparation of their essay, such as research and lead ins. Interesting…

If you want to learn more about college life and how to handle your money, make sure to check out CollegeFocus. It’s a site geared toward the ins and outs of living the college life.

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