8 Easy Money-Saving Tips for College Students

The cost of going to college continues to rise. Along with tuition, college students need to budget for course materials, lab fees, food, transportation, and other hidden costs of getting a degree. Here are eight ways college students can save money on everything from textbooks and school supplies to transportation.

1. Rent Books or Buy Used
According to the Chicago Tribune, the average full-time undergrad at a 4-year public school spent more than $1,200 on books and supplies alone for the 2014-2015 school year. The cost of textbooks can add up quickly, but you don’t need to buy everything new. There are a few ways to save money on textbooks including buying used books online, buying digital textbooks (which usually cost less), and renting books from sites like Amazon and BigWords.

2. Check for student savings
Many retailers offer savings for college students, often during the back-to-school season. For example, Apple offered college students up to a $200 discount on MacBooks. Your student ID can also earn you a discount on car insurance through State Farm, shipping and document services at FedEx, merchandise and food at Sam’s Club, and wireless service through AT&T.

3. Shop around for an affordable loan
If you plan to use student loans to finance your education, make sure you shop around. Be sure your student loan payments will be affordable and have a plan for paying off the loan when the time comes. Start by exploring all grant and financial aid options before turning to loans, then compare student loan providers. Along with federal student loans with low fixed rates, you may want to consider private student loans. Be sure you compare rates with those offered by marketplace lenders like SoFi, which has among the lowest interest rates if you have great credit.

4. Budget for transportation
Transportation is a major hidden expense of going to college and many students aren’t prepared for just how expensive commuting to campus can be. Students usually spend between $1,000 and $1,300 a year on transportation, and paying for transportation with savings in a 529 plan account can be tricky at best, according to US News. Budget for your transportation costs and look into public transportation options.

5. Use discount gift cards
Buy discounted gift cards online to use to save money on everything from clothes and gasoline to food and even textbooks. The amount of money you can save depends on the retailer, but savings can be anywhere from 3% to 25%.

6. Avoid credit card debt
College is the perfect time for building credit that you will need to get an apartment, buy a car, get a mortgage, and even land a job. Still, it can be easy to go overboard and find yourself in debt if you start charging college expenses and entertainment. Avoid temptation; if you get a credit card, use it responsibly and pay the bill in full each month.

7. Prepare your own meals
Many schools require that on-campus students purchase a meal plan, but you can usually choose whether you want a small or large meal plan. Learning to make your own meals won’t just save you money while you’re in college; it will also help you save money after you land a job and settle into a home of your own.

8. Take advantage of free campus amenities
Most campuses offer plenty of free amenities and entertainment that can help you save money. Most college students spend between $1,800 and $2,000 on personal expenses each year. Reduce this burden by turning to the on-campus gym, sports, dorm dinners, student clubs, and free on-campus entertainment.