Aside from acing your midterms on astoundingly little sleep, the gold medal of collegiate accomplishments is cutting costs anyway possible. Sure your undergraduate experience will give you a wealth of knowledge in more ways than one, but the true golden ticket will assuredly be your student discount.
Rent over buying.
Never, ever buy a new textbook. Chances are you will not read the entire book from cover to cover. In reality, you will have a handful of required texts for each assigned class with each new book featuring a very hefty price tag. If you must, rent the textbook but hold off until after the first lecture period if possible. Often times a professor will assign a textbook and only use a few selections from each required textbook or express that one of the books listed on the syllabus would be “optional reading,” meaning it will not or will rarely be cited. If available, scour your school’s library for available copies of selected texts and search the internet for free PDF files or chapters of assigned reading.
Need a new laptop for school? Check out sites for used texts including searching through local Craigslist findings. Companies like Dell, Apple, and Adobe will offer student discounts for certain products. Keep an eye out for tech deals associated with your student status. The same rule applies for clothing. Buy used instead of buying new. Thrift and consignment stores will offer a variety of clothing appropriate for that internship you’ve been eyeing.
Use your meal plan.
Purchase a meal plan that will fit your needs. Identify when and how often you eat in order to choose the right plan for you, generally aligning your meal plan with your class schedule if possible. Plenty of dining halls will offer healthy options and a variety of food to satisfy the number of students rotating through the cafeteria daily. Especially for students living on campus without access to a full kitchen, a dining plan will cut costs on dining out and lessen the stress of having to plan meals in advance.
Deals and Steals.
Use coupons, sign-up for a rewards card with the local grocery store, and use google alerts for updates on affordable entertainment whenever possible. Check your local grocery store for daily and weekly deals and get creative with your meals. As a general rule of thumb, do not run to the grocery store when you’re hungry. This will prompt overspending on things you don’t need. In order to dilute the possibility for overspending at the grocery store, keep a list of planned meals. Create a shopping budget for groceries and stick to it. If you must eat out, certain restaurants will offer discounts with Groupon especially new up-and-coming places. Groupon is also a great tool for cheap date nights or stay-cations with friends.
Take advantage of campus amenities.
Use the school library when you need to study or looking to rent materials for class. Certain schools will rent miscellaneous items like camera and video equipment, iPads, laptops, and outdoor recreational gear. Talk to a representative from your university’s resource center to find out what specifically your school has to offer. This can include a variety of perks ranging from discounted partnerships with local businesses to student ride sharing when planning a weekend trip at home. These “freebies” to take advantage of include working out at your school’s gym instead of buying a private membership, using your school’s bike sharing option, or free computer coursework through your IT Department to bulk up your resume.
Opt for roommates.
Roommates have become a fact of life. If you’re apartment shopping on your own, it would be best to search for a roommate to cut costs. If you have the ability to live alone, by all means forge on. However, if you’re looking to save extra coin a roommate would be an economical fit. If not a friend or potential classmate, living with your parents is a great way to save costs on housing. On the plus side, having a roommate is having a built-in companion if you happen to be compatible. Cutting half the rent can also translate to splitting grocery costs that can add up over time. Just be mindful on setting boundaries for your Netflix password.
Find the free food.
Free food and student events go hand in hand. Attend university events where there are free meals and snacks galore. Go to the sorority fundraisers with free cupcakes. Sit in on the pro bono lecture offering free pizza. Sign up for any and every event offering a hot meal. These events are a great way to get involved not to mention food is the number one way to break the ice. Outside of student events, working in food service often includes a free staff meal or take home freebies at the end of a shift.