Wednesday, August 27, 2008

10 Ways to Keep Your Money in College

Let's face it. College is all about one thing :self-discipline. It is what employers really see when they look at your transcript. It's why many people have a career in an area that has nothing to do with their diploma. Can you rely on and make yourself study for those tough exams? Can you hold down a part-time job and still keep a 3.0 or better. Perhaps the most important question, for yourself and not your future employer, do you have a firm handle on your finances?

It's a tradition passed down from generation to generation.Broke, starving and struggling. But you can make the best of what little you have without reaching out for a line of credit.Here's how:

  1. Take Advantage of the Free Transportation. Most college campuses offer free bus rides and various routes. Some even have stops at apartment complexes. If your campus does not have it's own system, check to see if your campus as a bus stop close by your campus and than check the city's transportation website to see if they offer free fares for college students with a valid student id. Check out Public Transportation if you live in the US, for a thorough list of transportation systems in you state and city.
  2. Save Money on Classes Using CLEP.CLEP or College-Level Examination Program is run by CollegeBoard and can save you a ton of money by taking a test that earns you college credit. While it does cost $70 and you have to get a satisfactory score(based on the school you send the results to), it is as easy as using an old textbook to study and costs about a quarter of the amount of attending a community college. Search to see if your school accepts CLEP or look at the tests being offered.
  3. Use a Coupon Board.What is a coupon board? My version is a whiteboard hanging on the wall with several magnets. Whenever I receive coupons for restaurants or fast-food joints I clip and stack according to the restaurant and than stick them to the board. Whenever I'm running low on cash and decent food I can go through the coupons for whatever food I'm in and get a meal or two for dirt cheap. It's not the healthiest tip but it is handy come exam time when I don't have time to work and therefore no money. It's also a good to have when you have friends over and no food to feed them, you can get a lot of food with lots of variety for very little. (It's also a handy little money maker when you do your neighbor a favor and go grab them lunch because they're too busy).
  4. Do Your Homework When You Buy Textbooks.It's horrifying to walk into the college bookstore on the first day of classes and shell out $800 for new books because they're out of used.Don't do it! Most schools start registering for the next term when you still have a month or two left in your current one.Take the time and go register.Once you have your new schedule in hand, communicate with your new teachers.Ask them for a copy of the syllabus so you can plan the required purchases and be ready for the first class.If your schedule says Staff, go to the department or department head and they will be happy to help. Next make several copies of the ISBN numbers of the textbooks you will need.Grab a computer and make the first stop the on-campus bookstore website. Find each book by searching the ISBN number.Note down the price(New and Used) for each book and title the first page On-Campus Book Store. Do this for each off-campus bookstore, even if you have to go to location. Also do this for other websites such as Amazon. Once you priced each location, cross-reference each store to find the lowest prices.Double check to make sure you can buy books in-store and if they have updated their used book selection. Than go buy those books.Order online ASAP to get the books in before the semester starts, or if your in-store won't allow you to buy books just yet mark your calendar for the first day you can. Remember: don't buy any supplement books, just check them out from the library. For example, your literature class will be reading The Iliad. Check with your teacher to make sure it's OK to have your own copy if you will be reading in class, and than go borrow it.
  5. Sell Your Textbooks Back, Keep the Giftcard. This one works up until you graduate. When selling back your textbooks it can be very tempting to just take the cash and run for the hills.It makes more sense however to accept the giftcard option instead. College is an investment.Shouldn't you be rolling your money each semester for that investment?Say you spent $800 on textbooks(you didn't read tip 4 very well did you?).You'll get somewhere between $100-$200 dollars back.If your on-campus store is run by a company such as Efollett you can choose to get that money back on a giftcard and they will add 10% more money on the card.So instead of just $200 you now have $220 to spend towards books and school supplies.If you choose to buy another $800 in books, you'll now only spend $680. That can be quite the relief to a college student.
  6. Free Entertainment is Everywhere. One of the best parts about being a college student is that the school and surrounding areas are always scheduling some sort of event that can be attended free with student id.Check the school website, Facebook and Craigslist for events near you. For free movie rentals try Redbox on Monday evenings with a promo code. Just do a Google search to find the codes each week, or try RetailMeNot for codes that aren't just tied to Monday.Use the library to check out books, movies and more for free.
  7. Master Your Gas and Food Expenses. These two things are in the top 5 expenses so you need to try to get a better handle on them. I recommend playing the "Grocery/Drugstore Games" to help you learn how to pay pennies for food and necessities. It can be a world of difference if you learn how o maximize the coupons you receive in the mail and newspaper.Although the Grocery Game cost some money($10 every 8 weeks for one store list) a lot of people say the list is worth it.The Drugstore game can save you boodles of money on everyday items such as deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, toilet paper and more. Two great articles to read about the Drugstore game are at Get Rich Slowly and Money Saving Mom.Once you get the hang of it become a member at Hot Coupon World to help plan your shopping trip and find the best deals for a multitude of stores. As for gas, implement tip #1 and you could go from using a tank a gas a week to using a tank every 2 weeks. Use sites like GasBuddy to find the cheapest place to pump.Don't limit your search to just the city you live in though. I frequently travel through 4 cites as I go to school, visit family, work and do my shopping. Gas prices can differ as much as 15 cents among the areas. That's a decent chunk saved if I do my research and plan my trips correctly.
  8. Shop Around for a Bank Account. While using cash is the ultimate way to go having a bank account while in college is important.Some colleges link a student account t to a debit card. You could also pay bills online, use ATMs and more depending on the account you choose. Many banks offer special checking accounts for college students.I have an account at Bank of America, but Wells Fargo(to get accurate information be sure to change your state if you don't live in Texas) and Compass are also good choices. Be sure that there is a branch where you living and could live within the next 5 years. Collegeview has a good article on choosing the bank that best suits your needs.
  9. Search For Refurbished or Employee Discounted Computers. Buying a laptop or desktop for school nowadays is not quite a requirement, but you'll find most teachers will expect you to have 24/7 access to the internet. While doing all your school-related activities on the computers in the library is certainly cheaper it can be impractical for some. But before you go spend $1000 on a brand new laptop consider looking into refurbished instead.If you buy from a manufacturer you can get a computer that has been tested and has been deemed to be of good quality, with a few dings, for a lot cheaper.Read a great article about what to look for in a refurbished computer at About. Another option to look into is employee discounts.Many companies offer discounts on their products to corporation employees.If you or a parent work for a well-known company check in with them to see if they offer discounts on electronics. With my father's employee discount I was able to get a great deal on a laptop for school with an option to upgrade later for over 50% off the original price.
  10. Do Yourself a Favor and Learn to Cook and Sew. Mastering even the basics of these two skills can save you tons of money, not only in college, but the rest of your life. Check out some books for beginners, swing by the grocery store with the help from tip #7, browse the discount bins at a craft store and join an online community like Craftster for help and ideas to breathe new life in your wardrobe and dinner menus.

With the help of these ten tips you should be able to keep more of your own money instead of shelling so much out for school. Some of these tips are well-known like walking as much as you can instead of shelling out $180 for a parking sticker.All of these tips come from my own experience(OK, not all of them, I'm still working on number 10 myself, but I already see the benefits).I see an incredible difference in bank account from back when I first entered college 3 years ago, to know. I know you can too.

If you have any tips you would like to share, please leave them in comments section.

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