By Nici Perreault, GalTime.com
Unfortunately, the cost of college is a burden for many families-- and a cost they incur for many years after graduation. No matter if a student is attending a public institution in their home state, or one of the most expensive universities in the country, there is no avoiding the extreme cost of college.
Costs can spring up from anywhere, ranging from travel expenses to dorm room decorations, so it is important for students to know how to properly manage a budget as to not find themselves in debt within the first few weeks of school.
For most students, college will be the first time they are responsible for managing their own finances. This can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Lisa Reynolds, a Mom Saver-in-Chief at RedPlum, a coupon website, and Andrea Woroch, a Consumer and Money Saving Expert, offer eight budgeting tips for college students to help alleviate the stress of dealing with the financial burden of going to college.
1. Regularly assess needs versus wants - Reynolds says determine what you need for school first, such as a computer, school supplies and textbooks and make those purchases priority. Once you realize how much you pay for the things that you actually need, you will shy away from wasting money on unnecessary items.
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2. Plan meals around savings - This is a great tip for those students not on a meal plan. Reynolds warns of missing out on a fantastic coupon just because the item is not on your grocery list. Planning your meals at the same time as reviewing coupon offers and store circulars lets you take advantage of really great deals.
3. Consider consignment shopping - Both Reynolds and Woroch note the benefits of consignment shopping. Often, there are great finds at your local consignment shop, including some top brands. You can save up to 70% off wardrobe essentials. MagicYellow.com can help you find the nearest consignment shop in your neighborhood.
4. Bulk is not always cheaper - Check the price per unit and be sure to use coupons. Reynolds notes that you can save significantly on a single item purchase, making the cost of a smaller size item the better choice.
5. Consider store brands when they are on sale - Whether buying groceries, detergent or school items, Reynolds suggests purchasing the store brands when they are on sale. Often times, there will be in-store coupons associated with the store brands. Look into signing up for a CVS card or your grocery store's card to be eligible for savings.
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6. Rent textbooks from sites like Chegg.com and Bookrenter.com - Woroch advises visiting these sites before buying from your school's bookstore. You can find coupons at FreeShipping.org to save on those textbook rentals. Get a coupon code for 5% off rentals at Chegg!
7. Take advantage of your school's cafeteria food as often as possible - If you have a meal plan, going out and buying food off campus is an unnecessary, additional expense. If you are set on going out with friends or simply sick of the food, Woroch suggests looking for happy hour or early-bird deals on dinner. Some bars offer discounts on food for late night dinning during the week to get more traffic through the door. Look out for deals by using your smartphone with the Happy Hour Finder app. You can also check-in on Foursquare to find restaurant deals and freebies like free appetizer with entree purchase and use your zip code on RedPlum to find localized deals.
8. Share a warehouse club membership - Woroch advices splitting a club membership fee with several college friends to share the bulk buys and save big on basic dorm room cleaning supplies like laundry detergent or even food staples like oatmeal for quick microwave breakfasts. These stores may also offer better prices on body lotion, toothpaste and other such necessities.
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