September means back to school, and back to school can mean only one thing – bills, bills, and more bills! Find out the best ways to cut some of the costs of going back to college.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re a freshman starting college for the first time, or a battle-hardened senior who’s been through the mill before – all students have one thing in common, and that’s an awful lot of expenses.
Tuition fees, new books, new clothes, rent, socializing… the list gets longer, and definitely not cheaper, every year.
September is an expensive month.
But there are ways to reduce some major schooling expenses and make some savings as we kiss goodbye to summer and join the back-to-school bedlam.
It seems like an obvious one, but you can never underestimate the power of of a well-planned budget – providing you stick to it!
There are a lot of good budgeting apps already out there, but planning a budget for school or college expenses can be a little bit more challenging.
Usually, you’re spending a lot more money than you earn, all the while trying to pay back some astronomically large student loan or tuition fees. You’re also subject to quite a lot of unforeseen circumstances, especially if you have one of those professors that assumes you have a personal library at your disposal.
Creating an education-specific budget – divided into a short-term and long-term spending forecast – can really help you take hold of your outgoings and reduce the chance of getting a nasty surprise with your next bank statement.
In the short-term, you’ll track weekly and monthly payments like rent, books, food, etc – smaller daily expenses that usually require immediate payment. The long-term spending forecast will then focus on the less regular, but perhaps more costly, expenses like tuition fees and course materials.
Tracking these costs, even if they’re not due for another couple of months, will give you some time to figure out how you’re going to pay for them. Once you start putting a little bit aside every week, it really takes the sting out of paying them.
2. Be Book Smart
Some people are book smart, others are street smart. But how can you be street smart about your books?
It’s important to do a bit of research before whipping out the credit card and investing in hundreds of future door-stops.
Will you actually need all the texts on the list? Most students end up majoring in their own discipline or specific areas of study, so maybe you don’t need all of the books. Just get the ones that you’re sure you’ll need to start out with.
Check the library. If the book is on the reading list, you can pretty much guarantee that there’ll be at least one copy in the library. Check out how many copies they have, and how long you can take it out for. And remember, even if there’s only one copy between 300 students, a lot of libraries will also have electronic copies available through a university database.
Or what about splitting the cost with a friend? Some of the heftier textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars, but you might only end up using it a couple of times. If you have a friend in the same class, buy the book together and study-buddy up!
But if you can’t stand the thought of joint-custody, remember that you don’t always have to shell out for a brand new copy. Websites like Abebooks have a massive back catalogue of great quality secondhand and ex-library books for next to nothing, while other sites like BookRenter could bring you savings of up to 90% through long-term rental.
There are loads of way to save cash when getting your required books, but unfortunately we can’t help you read them.
3. Eat In To Your Costs
You don’t have to be a master economist to know that dining out is more expensive than eating in. But the fact of the matter is that the difference in price is getting wider, and it’s your pocket that will feel the difference.
So how do you change your costly eating habits?
Start out with small changes to your day-to-day life, and include a little more preparation in your meal-planning.
Take a leaf out of the body-builder’s handbook and prepare your meals in advance. Spending 2-3 hours every weekend cooking and freezing your meals for the week ahead will not only mean that you’re saving money, but it will take out the hassle of having to cook meals from scratch every day.
If that sounds like too much forward-thinking, you can still kill two birds with one stone by cooking a little extra for every evening meal. If you can stop yourself from overindulging, that extra bit can be used for tomorrow’s lunch.
And the the most important thing to remember when you’re trying to cut down your eating costs?
Never, EVER, go food shopping when you’re hungry.
Trust us on that one.
4. Student Discounts
One of the major perks of being a student is the coveted student ID.
Almost every store – from clothing to technology to entertainment – offers a student discount of some description. Most will knock 10-15% off your purchases, while other companies like Apple will throw in a little reward instead.
Discounts extend to eateries too, and if you decide to treat yourself for being such a good budgeter, you can find some relatively good savings on food and drink. Chipotle, for example, are offering a free beverage with any entree for students for the month of September as we all get back into the swing of school (and they try to reel some customers back in).
But student offers don’t just apply to things you buy. A lot of the services you use everyday offer concessions for students too, you just need to look out for them!
Banking is one area where you can save a significant amount of money by availing of the programmes they have for students. With a student account, most banks will waive the monthly maintenance fees – which could save you up to $160 on average per year. Other features like lower minimums and no checking fees will all end up saving you money in the long-run too.
The key is to shop around and find out which bank will suit your needs best.
5. Know What You’re Entitled To
This is definitely the most boring – but probably the most important – saving to consider as you plan for the academic year ahead.
Are you getting everything you’re entitled to?
Being a student is expensive, but there are certain tax breaks and initiatives available that can relieve the cost somewhat. Tax credits, like the American Opportunities Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit can help to reduce – or even give you refunds on – your tax returns.
You can also deduct education related expenses, like tuition fees or the interest paid on your student loans from your overall tax bill in some cases.
The key is to educate yourself on what you’re entitled to and make sure you’re taking full advantage of it. These breaks are there to be used, so make sure you actually use them!
Fancy adding another book to your reading list? Download Rubicoin’s free ‘The One-Hour Investor’ eBook now and start your investing journey.