Whether you just graduated high school or are returning decades later to advance your career, going to college is a major investment. However, there are a lot of small measures you can take to keep your expenses to a minimum. Here are eight ideas to help you keep a frugal mindset:
1) Use your student perks
No one likes their campus student ID picture, but that small piece of plastic can save you a lot of money! Museums, movie theaters and tons of other businesses offer discounts for students. Before an evening out, browse online to see which organizations in your area give students a break, then plan accordingly.
2) Pack snacks
As most of us know, it’s extremely difficult to concentrate when you’re hungry. Yet, when you’re running around between work, class and other obligations, you might not realize how much food you need to stay fueled up. It’s easy to fall back on fast food or vending machines in a pinch, but these options will take a toll on your health and your wallet. Make a point of packing healthy snacks on long days, and also keep a cache at your desk or other areas where you work frequently.
3) Get a library card
Rather than spend money on books, movies and music, use your campus and public libraries to get your culture fix. More importantly, you’ll likely be able to check out texts you need for class or access databases that would otherwise cost you a pretty penny.
4) Talk to your office manager (and a financial aid advisor)
Your place of work should be elated you’re gaining new skills by going back to school. If your degree is related to your job, your organization may have policies in place to help pay for your education, or at the very least hook you up with some discounted office supplies. Talk with your boss or office manager to see what kind of assistance is available.
Likewise, take the time to meet with a financial aid advisor to learn more about the process and get your questions answered. For more information on how to set up an appointment, check out our blog on managing your first financial aid meeting.
5) Go to free events
Odds are you can find many free activities throughout the year in your community or even on campus. Whether it’s an outdoor movie night or a free day at the local zoo, take advantage of the opportunity for a cheap outing.
6) Skip the coffee run and get to your studies
If you add up all the times you buy a cup of joe at your neighborhood coffeehouse it will seem astronomical compared it to the cost of making your own. Save yourself some money (and the barista butchering your name) by brewing coffee at home.
7) Prioritize your current needs
When you’re a student, your studies comes first and foremost. That said, adopting a pet or taking on another major expense while you’re in school may leave you overwhelmed, from a time management and financial perspective. It’s certainly important to balance your academics and personal life, but keep in mind that it’s super important not to overextend yourself as you pay for your degree.
8) Budget, budget, budget
Last but not least, budgeting is perhaps the most practical and important method for saving money while you’re in school. From groceries to books to your monthly bills, the more you can plan out and prepare for the better. Stick to your plan and be diligent about keeping it up-to-date. It’ll pay off in the long run.