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12 Ways to Save on College Expenses From a Recent College Graduate

·5 min read

You've signed up for all the available scholarships and figured out ways to save on college tuition, but we hate to break it to you: that's only the beginning of the expenditures ahead of you. College students pay about $1,200 per year for textbooks, and the average meal plan costs about $4,500 per year. And while the average cost of course materials ($400) has actually declined in recent years, there's no getting around the simple fact that college expenses pile up fast.

Luckily, there are some ways to save money on college expenses so you won't have to survive on ramen for the next few months. As a recent college graduate, I picked up a few tips and tricks on how to survive at school without going broke.

If you can handle not writing in your books...

Rent your books

Many classes only run for one semester and a student may never need their books again. There are some exceptions, say, if a student is in STEM, many of them keep their textbooks for more than one class. However, STEM textbooks can be expensive, some of them going for almost $200 each! You can avoid that by renting textbooks on either Chegg or Amazon. If you can handle not writing in the book to take notes, this is a great way to save money and not have to hold onto a pile of books at graduation.

Borrow your books

Professors often have extra copies of books left over from prior students to loan, and some order copies of the required book for the library. If your school's library doesn't have a copy available, consider doing an inter-library loan and borrow the book from another school. Library loans from colleges often last all semester, so there's no need to keep renewing the book.

If you want to eat something other than ramen...

Get a flexible meal plan

Colleges and universities often require students take a certain meal plan their first year so they can get used to living on campus. However, once sophomore year comes along, it might be better to buy a flexible meal plan. It may cost more upfront, but it gives students more flexibility for eating on campus. The more you rely on a meal plan, the less you'll spend on food delivery.

Chef it up

Don't want to rely on just a meal plan? If you managed to snag a living space with a kitchen, you'll be able to cook meals whenever possible. Dine with friends and split the cost of groceries, or organize a potluck where everyone contributes a dish. And be sure to make enough food to have leftovers for the next day.

If you're up for living with others…

Double your roommates

Many schools charge more for room and board if a student decides to dorm alone or in an apartment. Costs go down the more people you live with, so consider a double, or even a triple, room. It's also a great way to find your first friends at school.

Become an RA

Resident Advisors get subsidized housing, or no living costs at all. However, they do have to be on call some nights and communicate with the other RAs on certain projects. If you like to help others and have good leadership skills, this is a great option for sophomore year on. Not to mention, you'll get guaranteed housing when the lottery goes live for the rest of the campus.

If you want to save on supplies....

Stock up

Buy toiletries, like toothpaste or bath soap, in bulk so you won't need to run to the local shop on campus when you run out.

Thrift or upcycle clothes

Many students prefer comfort over style when it comes to getting dressed for class and studying. When it comes to dressier events, you can always save money (and the environment) by upcycling clothes you already have or shopping at thrift stores. College towns and cities often have wonderful consignment shops and thrift stores nearby, so you can find fashionable items and support small businesses, too.

If you want to save on more than supplies...

Use a student discount

There are many online and brick and mortar stores that provide great student discounts when you show your student ID or email. For example, you can get 50 percent off Amazon Prime with a ".edu" email address, and the membership lasts for as long as you're in school.

Buy decor locally

Many college towns have talented local artists that rely on the student community to thrive. Instead of purchasing a tapestry, for example, from a big-name company, check out the local artists in the area instead. You could save money and you'll wind up with something you'll cherish for years.

If you want to prepare for the future...

Take a work study job

If you qualify for financial aid, you may also qualify for work study, which means that the school will allot a certain amount of money you can make per semester at an on-campus job. Some students can take jobs off campus and continue to be paid through the school. This money is intended to go towards school costs, like textbooks.

Pay your loans in advance

Don't wait to pay off your loans, even if there's a grace period. It's better to get ahead of them before the graduation ceremony starts.

RELATED: How to Pay Off Your Student Loans

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