Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
How to Save Money in College
Attending college is an expensive endeavor- you have to deal with expenses for tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and entertainment among other things. Even though going to college is expensive, if you major in a field where you can get a good job, it is well worth the expense in the long run.
So how can you save money in college?
Work Part-Time and Pay as You Go
It helps a lot to have a part-time job while in college. Of course, you don’t want to work too much or you won’t be able to keep up with your classes and get the most value from your education. I actually liked having something else to do for 10 to 20 hours per week. For a awhile I worked at a bakery, delivering donuts early in the morning and returning to the bakery in the late afternoon to package up baked goods and clean up. This was pretty easy work and provided some time to relax my brain and think about something other than my classes.
I decided I was interested in working in a biology laboratory. For one thing, this was an academic area I was interested in. For another thing, the biology building was conveniently located near my residence. I printed out a stack of resumes and went to the biology building. My plan was to read the bulletin boards outside the labs and go into interesting ones and leave my resume. I hoped that this would result in an offer to work part-time as an assistant in a lab. As it turned out, I got hired on the spot in the first lab I visited!
The point here is that you may be able to find part-time work that is interesting and can help you build your resume to help get your first job after college. The experience working in the biology lab paid about the same as working in the bakery, but looks much better on a resume! If you work at it, you may be able to find a way to get paid and get valuable experience at the same time.
Start a Business in College
This path is not for everyone. I managed to start and run a software company while going to graduate school. I know some others who did this as well. Back in the days when I was in college, you got your student loan check at the beginning of each semester. I know of someone who used her student loan money to open a coffee shop that became really successful and is still going strong today 20 years later!
While you are in school you have access to some resources that can facilitate starting a business. If you want, you can spend a lot of time developing your business. You have an almost endless supply of cheap labor in the form students and even graduate students. Professors are always interested in business start-ups and will offer advice and try to help you out.
The risk of trying to start a business while going to college is that you will end up with a failed business and no college degree. On the bright side, the best time to try to start a business and fail is when you are young so you have time to recover.
If you are thinking of starting a business while in college I would recommend that you get at least your bachelor’s degree in hand first- that way if things go wrong you have a way to get a decent job.
Live at Home
You can save a lot of money living at home instead of living in a dormitory or apartment near campus. Of course, this only works if your family lives pretty close to a college campus. The downside of living at home is that you miss out on the full experience of college life. You could stay with friends sometimes to experience this without paying room and board.
Start at a Community College
The first two years of college cover the basics, so you might be able to attend community college for the first two years instead of a university of four year college. Make sure the credits from your community college will transfer to your intended four year school. Starting off at community college may not be as exciting to going off to a more prestigious school, but you are likely to get good individual instruction at the community college for a great price.
Scholarships and Grants
Spend some time researching and applying for scholarships and grants. There is nothing better than free money to help you save money in college. You can get assistance finding scholarships at the college financial office. Only a few students manage to get a "full ride" scholarship that covers all expenses, but many students can find smaller scholarships that cover at least some expenses. Also, if you land a scholarship, it not only covers expenses but looks great on your resume.
Avoid Taking a Car to College
If you can manage without a car, you can save a lot of money and hassle by not driving a car to college. When you are in college, it is difficult to find time and money to maintain a car, and it is hard to find convenient parking anywhere near a college campus. Not having a car means you may need to ride with friends or take a bus to get back home for holidays.
Minimize Food Expenses at College
When I was in the dormitories, I had a meal and always had plenty of good food. After I moved out on my own, I saved a lot of money on food, but had much less healthy food available. Food is an expense where you can save money, but it is possible to go too far and end up harming your health.
Back in college- and still today, actually- I liked to take advantage of all-you-can-eat buffets. There was a pizza restaurant near campus that had an all-you-can-eat buffet and it is not hard to find Chinese restaurants that have a buffet as well. This can be a relatively cost-effective way to get some calories and maybe even some healthy food items as well.
Consider Military Service to Pay for College
Consider applying for acceptance into Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) or other programs where you can get your college expenses covered in exchange for serving in the military after college. In addition to covering college expenses, another advantage of these programs is that you will automatically get your first job out of college.
Many Ways To Save Money In College
The key to saving money in college is to find ways to reduce your expenses and earn money while you are in college. You want to get the most out of college, but avoid ending up with huge student loans and debts after you graduate. This article has provided some ideas on how to make college less expensive and tips on earning money in college to offset expenses.
© 2015 Dr Penny Pincher
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on June 26, 2015:
Thanks, thumbi7. I am always happy to hear that something I have written is useful! I think college kids are too focused on how much money they will make after graduation and sometimes do not think enough about minimizing expenses while going to college. My oldest son is rapidly approaching college age as well. Best of luck!
JR Krishna from India on June 26, 2015:
My daughter is to start her college very soon. I will share this hub with her. Though all the ways of saving money who have discussed here is not applicable to India, I think still she can learn a lot from this hub.