College is expensive.
You have to pay for school, and you have to pay for food, clothes, and a place to live.
There are a variety of ways to help alleviate the cost of a college education, however. Let’s explore some of them.
Create a budget
This should be your very first step. A budget is your financial playbook. It lists what you would like to go out and what you take in every month. Here’s what you need to do to set up a good one:
- List your fixed expenses — housing, utilities, debts, food and transportation
- List your discretionary expenses — Fun money (keep this number at a minimum)
- List your monthly income
- Compare your expenses to your income and make adjustments as needed
Plan for emergencies
Have a savings account set as an emergency fund. Contribute to it on a weekly or monthly basis. You should have enough to cover any emergency expense that may come up.
Automating your savings makes it much, much easier. Personally, I have money automatically transferred from my checking account to my emergency savings account each week.
It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a little to get you started. Once you’re comfortable with that regular transfer, you can incrementally increase the amount of the transfer.
The alternative is paying for emergency expenses with a credit card, but that’ll cost you more money in the long run due to money wasted on interest.
Shop smart for textbooks
Buying new textbooks online or from the campus bookstore can be very expensive. This is not necessary seeing as how many alternatives exist today.
You can by books from a student that’s taken the class already, rent textbooks, and/or use various websites to order used books, like the ones below.
This list was brought to you by LifeHacker.
Avoid loans when possible
Though not always possible, it’s important to avoid student loans if you can. Apply for grants and scholarships. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of different grants and scholarships out there.
Click here for a exhaustive list of scholarships available.
Apply for financial aid (FAFSA). This is income based so not everyone will qualify, but it’s worth filling out. Here are some tips to filling out the FAFSA.
Make a plan ASAP to tackle those loans
There are essentially three ways to do this.
- Debt avalanche — Tackle the loan with the highest interest rate. Pay the minimum to your other balances and pay as much as you can to the loan with the highest rate. Once it’s paid off, redirect that money to the loan with the next highest rate
- Debt snowball — Tackle the loan with the lowest balance. Pay the minimum to your other debts and pay as much as you can to the loan with the smallest balance. Once it’s paid off, use that money to pay down the next smallest balance
- Refinance — You may be able to a) consolidate your loans to one lender and/or b) lower your interest rate
Try to find a job that’s near campus and has flexible hours. Something close to campus will save you money on transportation, and something flexible will give you the ability to work when you aren’t in class and/or doing homework.
Always ask about student discount
There are so many places out there willing to give students a discount.
Click here to see a HUGE list of places that’ll give you a discount.
Start at a two-year university
These schools are almost always less expensive than a four-year university. Get your general education done here and then transfer to a four-year college to finish up your degree.
Life as a college student can be very expensive. Not only do you have to pay for school, but you also have to pay for the rest of life too (food, clothing, shelter, transportation). Use some or all of these tips to reduce the expense that college life can have on you.
For more information about financially planning for college and for our disclosures visit www.crgfinancialservices.com.