4 Ways to Save on Your Other Big College Costs

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Don’t look at the bright and shiny sticker price of college — it’ll only distract you from the reality that your tuition could comprise less than half of your true cost of attendance.

After all, you’ll also have to account for room and board, books and supplies, as well as personal expenses. Add them up, and they’re likely to trump whatever it is you’ll pay to attend class.

Here are four ways to economize these secondary — but significant — costs, plus what to do with your savings.

1. Substitute a cheaper option

Especially useful for: Transportation

When you look at (or imagine) your budget, you can see every item and its monthly cost. Substituting out more expensive items is the first way to score significant savings.

To substitute, you might need to become a better shopper. Whatever item you’re looking to replace, you need to ensure you can retain a similar level of quality for a lower price.

Say that one of your larger college expenses revolves around commuting to campus. Maybe you drive a gas guzzler each way. Whatever the case, consider these examples of successful substituting:

  • Swap your ride for a more fuel-efficient car
  • Switch out your go-to gas station for the cheapest pit stop nearby
  • Ditch your pricey campus parking pass for free street parking
  • Trade your costly car insurer for a more affordable competitor
  • Leave your car at home and take public transportation part or full time

2. Conserve what you have

Especially useful for: Clothing

In addition to replacing what you already own, you could look to recycle. That’s the key to conservation.

By conserving, you’re taking a look at what you own and figuring out how to use it more efficiently. Then you don’t have to go out and buy more of it (or spend money to maintain it).

If you’re into fashion, for example, consider how conserving might help you save money on the clothing you wear to school:

  • Employ your design skills to cut up, color or otherwise retrofit what’s in your closet
  • Plan or time your clothing usage to do less laundry, less often
  • Clean and store your clothing properly so that it’ll last longer
  • Lend out nicer clothing you don’t regularly wear via a service like Style Lend (or earn serious cash selling it)

3. Collaborate with others

Especially useful for: Regular reoccurring expenses (rent, food, etc.)

You don’t have to resort to a bartering system to save money, but collaboration could also help cut your college costs. It’s more than doable, especially if live on or near campus with hundreds or thousands of other students doubling as neighbors.

To collaborate on limiting your living expenses, think not only about what you’re looking to find on the cheap. Consider, too, what you bring to the proverbial table.

Here are some examples of what collaboration looks like in practice:

  • Share rent and bills by cohabiting with roommates (or move back home with Mom and Dad).
  • Host bring-your-own potluck dinners to avoid the expensive campus meal plan.
  • Exchange services: You could work out a deal if you’re an amateur barber, for example, and your roommate is a handyman.
  • Create a nanny-share if you’re a student parent seeking cheap child care.

4. Utilize free resources

Especially useful for: Textbooks and school supplies

As the adage goes, nothing in life is free. That’s true of the college experience, too: What appears gratis turns out to be built into your cost of attendance.

So, instead of chasing free resources, look at it as benefiting from what you’ve already paid for, if indirectly.

Let’s see this money-saving method at work with textbooks. After all, the average student attending an in-state, four-year school spends $1,240 on books annually, according to The College Board.

To limit your spending in this expensive department:

  • Check out used books from the library instead of buying them new.
  • Search for the books you need on open source websites like OpenStax.
  • Ask your professor about school-provided resources for books.

If that only gets you so far, other methods could come in handy. You might purchase cheaper used books (substitute), for example, or share textbooks with classmates (collaborate).

The more you save, the less you have to borrow

You might think you’ll have to beg, borrow and steal to afford college. It turns out, you could instead substitute, conserve, collaborate and utilize free resources.

Consider these four strategies to trim those hefty secondary college costs. They require a little bit of effort, but they could add up to a lot of savings.

Plus, the more you save on transportation, rent, clothing, books and other expenses, the less you might have to borrow in the form of credit card debt or federal and private student loans.

If you’ve already borrowed, you could throw your newfound savings at your debt — maybe zeroing out your credit card balance or making (voluntary) in-school loan payments. These measures could help you earn your way to good financial health, even before earning your degree.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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