Published January 25, 2013
There’s no argument college is expensive--but it’s not just tuition that lands students in piles of debt. Books, room and board, supplies and other school-related expenses add up quickly.
Setting budget parameters for each expense category can help students get organized and aware of how much they will need to cover expenses each month. Here are six ways for students to keep their monthly expenses under control so they can stay on top of their bills and establish a good credit history.
Text Books. Going to the campus bookstore can be convenient for students in terms of accessibility, but experts say better deals can be found online.
Sites like Amazon, Chegg.com, Half.com and eBay can yield lower prices for text books and help students save over the course of the semester.
“[You can] take book costs down from about $500 a semester to the $150 range for the semester,” says Steven Smith, budgeting coach and CEO of Mvelopes.
Credit cards. When used responsibly, credit cards can be a great way for students to help build their credit score. Students who have established a good payment history with their credit card issuer can ask for an interest rate reduction to save each month, says Allyn Hebner, head of finance at Solavei.
“Companies like to keep quality cardholders, so they will be receptive to lowering your interest rate and saving you money,” he says.
Phone plan. Cell and smartphones have become an integral part of staying in touch but particularly for college students keeping up with friends and family from far away, text and data packages can be expensive.
For keeping in contact long distance, students can use Skype for a fraction of the cost of a cell phone or look at alternative plans, recommends Hebner.
“Traditional mobile phone plans typically lock you into a contract for two years and charge exorbitant monthly rates, often with surprise overage charges,” he says. “To decrease monthly phone expenses, consider a pre-paid, contract-free plan such as Solavei.”
Internet Costs. If students live off campus and have an extensive data plan on their smartphone, they can connect to the internet from their personal computer without having to set up a separate internet service, says Smith.
“If you can create a hotspot as part of your data plan on your cell phone, it wouldn’t make sense to pay another $40 a month for broadband—there’s no reason to double up on that expense.”
Cable bill. Students in off-campus housing may want to set up TV for entertainment value, but cable packages and satellite TV bills can run upwards of $100 per month, especially after introductory charges expire.
Hebner suggests looking into premium television alternatives like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, charging as little as $7.99 per month with movies and television from most networks.
“Using Roku, a Wi-Fi enabled Blu-Ray player, or almost any gaming console, these videos services can be streamed directly to your TV.”
Discretionary spending. Students should take advantage of their status and ask retailers, entertainment hotspots and other businesses if they offer student discounts.
“If you’re in a college setting, and you’re not aware of all of those opportunities for saving money, you’re spending way too much money for those things,” Smith says. “Take a few minutes to look online and do some planning and spend 50% less on the same entertainment value.”