Starting Right: How To Live Below Your Means In College

One thing that everyone can agree on is how college life can be expensive. Students have to pay for costs like tuition and textbooks on top of their daily living expenses. It’s no wonder some students end up in lots of debt by the time they graduate!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or even a senior. The following tips and tricks will inspire you and help you keep your college costs down without sacrificing a fantastic college experience.

Check out these simple yet powerful ideas to live below your means in college:

Avoid Eating Out Whenever Possible

When you attend college, there’s always the temptation to pay for take-out or restaurant meals. After all, when you spend all day studying and absorbing lots of new information, you want to relax and treat yourself.

However, the downside is that you have to spend a lot of money paying other people to cook your meals for you! That’s why doing all your cooking at your college accommodation makes more sense.

Thankfully, there are tons of easy-to-prepare meal ideas that you can incorporate into your daily mealtimes; do a simple Google search online to find some tasty examples.

Make Use Of Public Transportation

There’s no denying that owning a car is ultimately the best way to travel, as it allows you to go wherever you want and anytime without restrictions.

As shocking as it sounds, some graduates spend far too much on their vehicle costs and can need a bankruptcy lawyer by the time they leave college!

Avoid getting into such a financial mess by using the public transportation network in your area. Also, consider investing in a bicycle or just walking to your destinations to save money.

Purchased Pre-Loved Learning Material

There’s no reason why you need to spend huge sums on brand-new learning material when you can purchase pre-loved examples for a fraction of the cost!

A significant proportion of college expenses relate to purchasing learning materials like textbooks. You can keep those costs down by considering used examples instead, plus it is often possible to download the information you need for free from the Internet.

Another alternative to purchasing brand-new textbooks is renting them instead. Your college can provide further information if that’s something that appeals to you instead of buying used learning materials.

Don’t Forget About Your Student Discounts

You might not realize it, but many local businesses and online brands offer student discounts. Why pay the full price for something when you can get it cheaper simply by proving that you attend college?

Examples of what you can get discounts on include:

  • Laptops, printers, and other IT equipment;
  • Entertainment, such as music and movies on DVD and Blu-ray;
  • Electronics like TVs;
  • Clothing;
  • Travel services, such as public transportation and flights.

Take a look at this bumper list of discounts that most, if not all, college students can enjoy to keep their learning and living costs down.

Live Off-Campus With Roomates

One thing you likely thought about before applying for your chosen college is living on campus. Doing so is convenient and means you don’t have to venture elsewhere for most of your education there.

Living on campus can be very expensive, and the costs are often prohibitive for many students. That’s why most college students live off-campus and have roommates in large rented houses.

You’ll likely find areas very close to your campus where residential accommodation almost always gets rented out to students. It’s cheaper, more fun, and has fewer restrictions than living on campus.

Take Advantage Of Free College Resources

Did you know that your campus has considerable resources at your disposal? The best thing about it is that many of them are free! It’s no secret that everyone loves free stuff, and there are plenty of resources you will find helpful at your campus that won’t cost you a penny.

Examples of free campus resources include gyms and fitness centers, tuition services, and even health clinics!

You can usually find more information about those free resources on your campus website. Alternatively, ask a member of staff for more details.

Plan A Monthly Budget And Stick To It

For most college students, the chances are high that they’ve never lived away from home before or had to budget for their monthly outgoings. As you can imagine, it can be a shock to the system when you discover just how expensive college life can be for students!

That’s why you should educate yourself on proper money management through budget planning. It’s something individuals and businesses alike have to do each month, and it’s no different for college students. Set realistic budget goals and do your best to stick to them.

Find Free Sources Of Entertainment

Part of college life involves socializing with fellow students, friends, and others. Social events often include attending movie theaters, watching live bands play, and going to concerts.

Spending your downtime socializing is an excellent way to recharge your batteries from a busy day of learning, but it can also be an expensive endeavor. That’s why it pays to consider free entertainment alternatives.

Did you know your college likely provides access to free events regularly, such as themed movie nights and concerts? It’s worth checking out what’s on!

Consider A College With Low Tuition Fees

You may have your heart set on a specific college. But what if it’s entirely out of your reach for purely financial reasons? Sure, a scholarship can help – but there’s no guarantee that you’d get awarded one.

With that in mind, consider alternative colleges that offer a similar level of education but for a fraction of the cost. It’s no secret that some colleges charge a lot due to their name or reputation.

There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the same level of education at a nearby alternative college and save significant sums in the process.

Be Thrifty With Your Shopping Habits

Unsurprisingly, some college students often blow their budgets on clothing and other apparel instead of saving their money. If you are guilty of doing that, now’s the time to rethink your spending habits.

It’s possible to get the garments you want for less simply by knowing where to look. For example, you could browse local thrift stores and online platforms like eBay and check out local buying and selling groups on Facebook Marketplace.

Use Cashback Websites For Online Purchases

Cashback websites are excellent! You sign up for a free account with them, log into it, browse for the online retailer you wish to visit, and click a unique link to visit that website. You then continue browsing and buying as usual.

When you make a purchase, that transaction gets linked to your cashback account, and the cashback website will give you a percentage of your purchase back as cash (hence the name)! It’s a great way to make some money passively by doing nothing more than buying!

Work While You Learn

Student loans, scholarships, and money your parents or relatives give you for your college education will only go so far. That’s why you must consider doing some part-time work alongside your studies.

Did you know that NCES (the National Center for Education Statistics) reports that up to 74% of students worked while they learned? The work you do can vary, but most students have jobs such as:

  • Bar staff;
  • Cafe baristas;
  • Library assistants;
  • Tour guides;
  • Side hustles (part-time businesses that are often run online).

Keep A Close Eye On Your Finances

You already know about the importance of setting a monthly budget. However, you must also regularly scrutinize your transactions and keep tabs on your money for your monthly budget to work!

Make sure you’ve got your bank’s smartphone app to keep an eye on your checking account. Moreover, consider using some budgeting apps that work with your bank’s app to alert you if you’re about to overspend.

Use Free Online Software

A college education doesn’t have to mean spending thousands of dollars on computer software. Did you know that it’s possible to perform everyday tasks on your desktop or laptop system using free software tools?

For instance, Google Docs, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice are viable alternatives to Microsoft Office. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is also a popular free alternative to Adobe Photoshop for image editing. The list is endless!

Avoid Smoking And Drinking To Save Money

Lastly, one surefire way to keep your monthly spending down as much as possible is to avoid smoking (or vaping) and drinking. The costs surrounding such unhealthy habits can leave you broke each month and cause unneeded stress and anxiety.

Find healthier ways to let off some steam, and when you’re socializing outside of the classroom, opt for cheaper non-alcoholic drinks. Your head will also thank you for that when you wake up the following day!

Final Thoughts

A college education doesn’t have to mean getting into significant debt by the time you graduate and needing to spend many years paying off what you owe!

The above ideas will help you control your money without sacrificing your college experience.