Many students have the benefit of gaining independence when they go off to college, but financial independence needs to be monitored closely. Tuition and housing are two major costs, but there are so many other ways college students can spend (and waste) money if they’re not paying attention.
Awareness about how much certain things add up and careful budgeting can make a difference in a college student’s financial health. Here are five habits college students might have that, if broken, can save them a lot of money over time.
Buying New Textbooks
If you’re going to be a freshman, don’t simply wander to the university book store and buy every textbook at full price. The cost of books can add up to an almost staggering amount, as upperclassmen have realized by now.
In fact, according to research from Student Monitor, students at four-year institutions spent an average of $534 on books during the 2010-2011 school year. Furthermore, 49% of textbook spending was on new books.
Instead of buying brand new books, Forbes recommends asking people who’ve already taken the class about whether required books were used often. If they were only necessary on occasion, borrow those from someone who’s taken the class already. If this doesn’t work, try getting an earlier edition as long as the material isn’t different. When a class is over, sell the book immediately, as they lose value over time.
Eating Junk Food
Next time you’re picking up the phone to order pizza, think about this: The publisher of FinAid.org told Fox Business that if a student buys a pizza once a week off-campus, the student will have spent $2,000 on pizza after four years. It’s probably not your intention to spend two grand on late-night snacking, but this is the perfect example of how costs can add up.
Instead of spending money on pizza and fast food, try to take advantage of your kitchen (or community kitchen if you’re in a dorm). Nurse practitioner Robyn Kievit told Fox News that she recommends students have kitchen supplies that will help them make basic meals. Some of these items include:
- Cutting board
- Medium cutting knife
- Wooden spoon
Students should also make a list before they go grocery shopping so that they’re able to stick to a budget. Taking actions like this can help with excessive spending on food items.
Buying Coffee Each Morning
College can take a lot out of you, and if you’re the type of student who needs a coffee fix to make it through the day, you might want to brew it at home. Say you’d usually spend $2 on a cup of coffee a day. That adds up to $60 a month. If you’re in college for eight months out of the year, that adds up to almost $2,000 over the course of your college career.
If you’re thinking about it in terms of an entire year, you’d spend about $62.05 a year on making 6-ounce cups of coffee at home, according to Daily Finance. If you opt for the grande coffee from Starbucks every day instead, it could add up to about $835.85 a year. When you zoom out and think about the total cost, doesn’t it make you want to buy a coffee machine?
Swiping Your Credit Card Constantly
According to Sallie Mae, average graduating seniors with at least a single credit card had $4,138 in debt on that card. When you take out credit, it’s important to do so responsibly — getting any sort of money loan should be for emergency situations or when you know you can pay it off.
An MSN guest post offers advice for college students who feel like they can handle the responsibility of using a credit card. Some tips include only using the card for emergencies at first and then moving up to making small purchases that can be paid off right away. This type of credit card activity can help you build credit.
If you decide to bring your car to school, you may be surprised about how much money you might be spending just to drive around. The average household spent $4,155 on gasoline in 2011, and while you won’t be considered a household, you can divide that number by 4 and still end up spending about $4,000 on gas during your four years at college (and over the summer).
But you already knew gas was expensive. If you consider gas and additional costs (like insurance and other expenses), the average car that drives for 15,000 miles a year costs about $8,776 each year. And that’s not even taking campus parking costs into consideration.
If you live near campus or on campus, you might want to take advantage of public transportation. Some colleges, like the University of Florida, allow students to take the city transportation for free as long as they have their student ID cards. Find out if your college offers similar services to spend less on driving.
There are plenty of ways to save money in college, but the key to realizing this is paying attention to how much money you spend weekly, monthly, and annually on certain goods and services. Create a budget and keep track of where your money goes in order to better manage it.