Small choices you make with your college budget can add up to big savings. To find areas where you can cut costs, first create a list of your expenses, and then decide if each one is a necessity or a luxury.
Congratulations! You'll soon be a bigtime college student. Now all you need to do is find out how to pay for college.
Unfortunately, college costs don’t end at tuition and room and board. You’ll also have to pay for textbooks, meals, transportation, a computer with working Internet and a variety of other student costs.
To avoid graduating college drowning in credit card debt or dealing with college loans that you can’t pay back, you’ll want to pay attention to all of your expenses and opportunities to generate college money. When you’re creating a budget to pay for college tuition and other costs, it’s important to factor in all of your expenses, large and small.
Here are five tips to help you make smart decisions with how you budget your money and how to pay for college.
1. Cut expenses to accept lower college loans than you’ve been offered.
When a college or university accepts you, they may offer you college loans as part of your award letter. While you may be relying on college loans to help pay for college, bear in mind that you don’t have to accept the entire amount you’ve been offered. Review your budget carefully to see if you can cut down your college loan and make up the money in other ways, such as through scholarships, grants, work-study assignments or a part-time job. The less college money you borrow, the less you’ll have to pay back after you graduate. Read more: Borrowing Basics, How to Keep Debt Low
2. Keep looking for scholarships and grants after you start college.
Keep good records of the scholarships and grants you’ve applied for, and continue to research scholarships and grants after you start your classes. Gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid is a great way to help keep costs down throughout your college degree. Talk to the financial aid office, professors in your major and other students about possibilities for obtaining additional financial aid. Read more: How to Find Scholarships, Beware of Scholarship Scams
3. Make the most of your summer.
Summers during your college degree offer you two good financial opportunities: You can either take a job to earn money for college, or you can take summer courses and graduate from college sooner. While taking summer courses requires you to pay for the courses and housing, graduating a semester earlier can save you a significant amount of money on tuition, room and board and other college expenses.
4. Be careful with credit cards.
There are some credit card companies that prey on college students, knowing that students may make naïve decisions about how to spend their money and might not read the fine print, thereby racking up huge fees in late costs and finance charges. If you do get a credit card, do your research to find one with a low interest rate, and make sure you pay your bill on time to avoid penalty fees. Not only will this help you avoid credit card debt, but it will help your credit score, which you’ll need to rent an apartment, buy a house or even get a job after you graduate.
5. Look for cost-saving measures in your daily life.
Small choices you make with your college budget can add up to big savings. To find areas where you can cut costs, first create a list of your expenses, and then decide if each one is a necessity or a luxury. For all of your expenses that are luxuries, see which ones you can cut down on or cut out completely. Buying used textbooks or sharing books with roommates will also reduce your costs each semester. Finally, ask if businesses offer student discounts. You may just need to show your college ID to get a break on the price of a movie, meal, computer supplies or other costs.