Just when you thought it wasn’t possible for college costs to go up even more, guess what, they just keep rising. According to the College Board, tuition and fees in 2012 for in-state students at public four-year colleges will exceed $8,200 -- and that number will top $12,500 for out-of-state students. What’s more, private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees alone. On top of that, all students and families have to figure in room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, transportation and more. So, what’s a student do? Experts agree there are five relatively painless ways college students can stretch their budget in 2012 and still have a great experience at school.
1. Take Charge of Your Personal Financial Life: Make a monthly budget and stick to it. It seems obvious, but students should only purchase what they can afford. First, seek to eliminate all credit card debt. With interest payments hovering in the range of 20% range, that’s a very expensive way to pay off your debt. Second, students should seek out financial institutions that offer free checking and savings accounts and make certain they do not incur fees for returned checks due to insufficient funds. Third, explore every avenue possible for financial aid, grants and scholarships. Many go untapped each year!
2. Be Frugal with Food: Everyone loves to eat well, but there are definitely ways to stretch a dollar and still fill your belly. How? Cut down or eliminate expensive cappuccinos. At $3.00 a pop, that’s $1,000 per year you could save – just by eliminating a single cup of mocha morning Joe. And, when you’re hungry, rather than fast food, think pasta, or noodles – ideally whole grain. They’re good for you and priced right. Eating out often is a sure way to blow the budget.
3. Save on Hardware and Software. When buying a computer, look for student specials, rebates and back-to-school offers. Apple Computer and HP both periodically offer attractive discounts for students and teachers. And, when you’re buying software for your computer, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, seek out a company like Einstein Academic, a Microsoft and Adobe partner. Einstein Academic specializes in offering genuine, licensed software, at prices up to 85% off the list price. That’s huge.
4. Cut Down on Housing & Transportation Costs: Living off campus with roommates is often a great way to trim your costs – but only if you pool your resources, cook at home and don’t have to travel too far to school. As for a car at college, that’s a tough one. With costs for insurance, parking, tolls, gas and tickets, cars at college pose a real financial strain. In fact, one of the best ways to visit family and friends is via bus. Check out companies like Chinatown Bus and Megabus. They’re cheap, reliable and will definitely get you places.
5. Be Smart About Phones & Calling Plans: Mobile and smart phones are everywhere and the norm. They’re also expensive. It may be best to stay on your family’s existing calling plan while at college and keep your text messaging to a minimum. Better yet, there are plenty of free or inexpensive voice over Internet calling programs, such as Skype, Google Talk and Vonage that will keep you in touch – at a smart price.
So there you have it. Five relatively painless ways to cut costs at college in 2012. You’ll still have fun and feel a lot smarter about your budget in the process!
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