Save Money in College
Education is tough on the wallet, and everyone is always trying to save money in college. Not only is tuition inching up each year (do they think we won’t notice?), but when you consider how much textbooks, rent, food, and general living costs, it all adds up to thousands of dollars over four years.
And that’s if you’re lucky and you manage to get all of your classes to fit within in that time frame.
It’s tough weighing your options, mainly because no one really wants to skimp on their education—it’s your most valuable possession, after all.
It might require a little extra work, but there are ways you can save your bank account and your diploma all at once. Here are some tips to save money in college.
Cheap Textbooks in Cambridge
The average cost of school supplies (textbooks, laptops, fun Post-It notes) per student per year is over $1,000—and it’s still climbing. In fact, the cost of books is rising faster than the cost of tuition in most areas.
Of course, this number may be off if you consider the fact that some textbooks cost over $300. For one book. That you will use for a single semester. Ugh.
In my college career, I have never been forced to spend more than $300 per semester on books.
Now, this may be due to my journalism major (another fun way to save money in college is to avoid the sciences) but when I was going through general education courses at BU, this still held pretty true.
As a rising senior (cue heart palpitations), my best tip is buy used. Not only are used book stores usually local businesses, but their prices cannot be beat.
You’ll have to paw around and maybe fight off other students with your purse/satchel/man bag to get your hands on that certain edition, but it’s worth it when you realize you paid 25 percent of the university bookstore’s price.
Warning: If you’re anything like me, you’ll need to fend off that urge to impulse-buy basically every novel on the shelf that’s priced under $6, but hey, you probably needed to fill your bookshelf anyway.
If you’re around Harvard Square, check out Raven Used Books, which dedicates its stock to scholarly publications—perfect for your diploma and your wallet. All in all, a great way to save money in college.
Renting and downloading are also viable options, but I need to highlight and annotate books half to death to understand things. Keep your learning method in mind as you navigate this needlessly difficult path of textbook purchasing.
MOOCs at Harvard (and Beyond…)
With the skyrocketing price of tuition (which is increasing at four times the rate of inflation), massive open online courses—also called MOOCs—are becoming a cheaper and way more viable option for millions of students across the country. It’s one of the four great ways to save money in college.
Many universities, including Harvard University and my beloved Boston University, are beginning to offer online courses in fields like management, technology
development, and on and on and on.
It is completely within the realm of possibility to be eating pie at a random diner in the Middle of Nowhere, Iowa, while taking classes at Harvard University.
MOOCs are also a great alternative for those with bustling real-world lifestyles—you take the class when you can, and are not stuck in a tiny-topped college desk.
Be warned: MOOCs are not without consequences. As with most of life, what’s great for one may not be so great for all.
The reason for the much lower price tag is due to the elimination of the faculty who lead the courses in the classrooms—no professors, no salaries. While the current education system is just screaming for a drastic change, this may not be one that you support.
Off-Campus Living in Cambridge
Nothing quite compares to dorm living. There’s that sense of community with your floor, the dank and fungus-filled showers, that random pair of underpants in the
corner that no one has claimed.
Ahh, sounds like home.
In all seriousness, in an urban campus setting like those at Harvard, Northeastern, and BU, off-campus life is often a very reasonable and much cheaper solution than on-campus housing. Annual room and board at Harvard University is projected at $14,669; at MIT, it’s $14,395.
At a glance, rent is about $3,000 per month for a 2-bedroom apartment in Cambridge. Split these costs with one, two, or three roommates to drive it down to as low as $750 per person per month, or $9,000 each year.
There are also plenty of real estate listings to choose from, so you can find the best apartment for your budget.
That’s around $5,000 in the bank (or on the bar at The Druid—it’s really your call).
Coupons for College Students
At the beginning of each year, most of the schools in the area have representatives standing in the school’s bookstores handing out giant coupon books with deals on haircuts, pizza, smoothies, and I don’t even know what else.
Most people take the coupon books without a word and either throw them out or shove them somewhere and forget about them. Coupons are some of the best things that have ever happened to our society, so stop complaining about your lack of funds and actually dig them out of the pockets of your cargo shorts.
For necessities that don’t usually come with fun deals in coupon books—toothpaste, Milky Ways, notecards, and shower crayons—open a CVS rewards account.
You kind of have to spend money to save money at CVS, but there’s no better feeling than entering your phone number at that kiosk in the middle of the store and walking away with $15 worth of ExtraBucks.
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Learning how to save money in college is difficult, especially when you go to college in a huge university town like Cambridge or Boston where so many things are begging for a swipe of your debit card.
Just know that it doesn’t have to be painful.There are thrift stores, food deals, used books, and your university’s “free and for sale” page.
You do not have to live up to the “starving college student” stereotype.
– Katie Smith