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4 Ways to Save Money in College

Michelle —  January 24, 2013 — 2 Comments

College can be very expensive. Whether you are going to a local community college, local public university, private university, graduate school, getting your doctorates and every other possible thing you can do in order to further your education, it all adds up. I know first hand, I finished my Finance MBA with nearly $40,000 in debt (altogether, two undergraduate degrees and one masters degree).

Even though I did graduate with a decent amount of debt, I could have had a lot more. I worked full-time throughout college and had no help from parents, as my dad (and the sole provider of our family) passed away when I was 18. I moved out right after high school and had to find a place to live, and ended up moving into a house that I rented.

I worked 40 hours a week and took 21 to 24 credit hours a semester. I was super tired, but it was all worth it in the end when I graduated with TWO degrees in only 2.5 years. I then went on (after a 6 month break) to get my Finance MBA. It took one year to get and is the majority of my debt, as the graduate schools around here do not give any scholarships if you decide to work at the same time (yup, not a single one, I called them all).

My undergraduate school was around $30,000 a year I believe. I received around $20,000 in scholarships every year which was definitely a blessing. Without the scholarships I would not have been able to attend. It would have been more but I decided not to live in the dorms, as it was around an extra $10,000 to $15,000 a year to live on campus.

Here are some ways for you to save money while in college:

1. Don’t take out more in student loans than you need.

When you get that letter in the mail that states how much you are approved for in student loans, do you usually take the full amount or just take enough to cover what you actually need for school? Most people just take the full amount and pocket the rest. This is a mistake! You might think you need that TV or those new clothes, but you don’t. Try to reserve your student loans just for your actual schooling costs.

I did fail at this one time. I took out more than I needed. I wasn’t thinking and used it on stupid extra spending. I still regret it and I have nothing to show for it!

2. Apply for scholarships.

Most schools offer scholarships. Make sure you apply to these. Apply for both scholarships directly at your school and also private scholarships as well. Scholarships can add up, and even an extra $100 is something that you did not have before.

Like i said above, I received a little less than $20,000 a year from scholarships. None of it was private scholarships though. All of it was directly from my university. I bet I could have applied for private scholarships and received some of those as well.

Many online universities offer financial aid as well, so remember to apply regardless of where or how you wish to take your classes. You can easily access free additional information on any official college’s website, and from there you will be presented with plenty of useful information about how to apply for FAFSA and other forms of financial aid. They even provide you with a phone number for an admissions representative or financial aid officer just in case you have additional inquiries. Remember, always be on the lookout for additional financial aid.

3. Look for a job that will pay a part of your tuition.

There are many jobs out there that ask that you only work full-time, and then they will pay for your tuition (or at least a part of it). This is something that I did not do while in college, but I still regret it. If a job is willing to pay $2,000 per year for 4 years and all you have to do is do your normal job, then take it!

4. Buy textbooks cheaply.

Textbook prices can add up very quickly. If you go to your university’s book store, I can almost guarantee that the prices are much higher than what you would see online. So rule number 1, try not to buy at your school’s book store. Look online first and compare prices.

Rule #2? Try and buy used textbooks. Most of these are probably in decent condition. I’ve always had good luck with this and the cost is almost always much, much cheaper than buying a brand new textbook.

How did you save money in college?

Is going back to school in your future? Maybe you can no longer move up in your company and a degree with help move you up, you want to brush up and increase your skills, increase your professional network, etc. However, what else should you think about when you finally decide to go back to school?

Your finances!

Your finances will be effected of course. Now that you’ve decided (or are planning) to go back to school, there’s a lot of planning to do, especially if you’ve been out of school for some time and have many bills to pay. Just quitting your job and going back to school isn’t a plan for most people. Those bills need to be paid and your debt that you currently have needs to be paid down. Also, what will happen to your retirement?

With the right amount of financial planning, going back to school doesn’t have to kill your budget and your goals for retirement, savings and paying down debt. If your financial plan is well thought out, then hopefully you’ll come out ahead after you graduate.

What you should financially think about when you decide to go back to school:

1. How often you’ll work.

Working while attending school can be tough. Will you attend school full-time while working still? Attend part-time and work full-time? Will your work allow you to do both at the same time? I’ve heard of companies that will not allow you to attend school full-time while working at their company because they don’t want you to have to choose which one that you’ll give more effort towards.

I did my whole undergraduate and graduate degrees while working full-time. It was definitely hard, and I only did it that way because I had things to pay for. Working part-time wasn’t really an option, but maybe if I had a better plan then it would’ve worked.

You can also majorly cut expenses and try as hard as you can to live like a student. You can find somewhere cheaper to live, find a better fuel efficient vehicle, eat cheaper, coupon, and so on. The list is really endless. Cutting expenses can really help you financially if you are unable to continue to work the same amount of hours while attending school.

2. What the costs are.

There are many costs to think about when going to school besides just the college tuition. How much will food cost between classes? Will you be able to go home and grab a snack? How much will the added cost of gas be? If you’re driving from work to class (or vice versa), then your gas costs will most likely increase.

Some people fund all of their costs by tacking it all onto their student loans, but I don’t think this is always a good idea as you will be adding a lot of unnecessary debt which will be a burden after you graduate.

3. Your budget.

Now that you’ve finally decided whether you’ll attend full-time or part-time, and whether you’ll work full-time or part-time, now is the time to decide your budget. You need to calculate how much you need every month, and also estimate how much you’ll be earning (if you’ll be working).

Also think about whether you will work on paying down debt (including any student loans that you may be adding toy our current debt) and if you’ll be saving any money towards retirement.

 

How were your finances affected when you decided to go back to school?