Tallying up the cost of going to college isn’t for the faint of heart.
Annual tuition and fees alone can range between $9,900 for in-state students at a four-year public institution and $34,700 at a four-year private college, according to the College Board.
But that only covers part of the bill. College students and their parents also need to add in the cost for room, board, books, transportation and other incidentals. Once you put it all together, the total cost for an education as an in-state student at that four-year public school could more than double to a whopping $25,290, the College Board says. At a private four-year institution, the bill would skyrocket to as much as $50,900.
Considering the cost, it’s no wonder that four-in-ten Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have outstanding student loan debt, as the Pew Research Center reports.
Scholarships, grants and other student aid, of course, can help lower the burden on students and their families. (Just don’t fall for common scams that leave you with less money for college.)
And there are other tips for saving on college essentials, especially those incidental ones that can quickly add up if you’re not careful.
Textbooks can cost a college student more than $2,000 over the course of four years. College students spent about $579 on books for 10 courses during the 2016-17 academic year, according to the National Association of College Stores.
But there’s good news. The total amount that students are spending on books has decreased in the past couple of years because they are borrowing, sharing and downloading materials more often. According to the association, in spring 2017, 25 percent of students said they used a free method to get what they needed for class -- up from 19 percent in spring 2016 and 15 percent in spring 2015.
And there are other ways to save if you just have to have a particular book. Sites such as #OccupyTheBookstore makes it possible for students to key in the courses they’re taking and pull up the cheapest place to buy the book they need. Chegg Books lets students actually rent the textbooks they need -- saving as much as 90 percent. Students also can check with their professor to see if previous and often cheaper, used editions will work.
Finally, when the semester is over, sell the books you no longer need -- and use that money to buy the ones required for your next round of classes.
Dorm room essentials
Once you add up the comforter and the sheets, the shower shoes and caddy, plastic containers for storage space, fans, cleaning products, a television and more, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on stuff for your dorm room.
But, before you head to the big box store to stock up, hold up. First, consider using what you already have. If your existing sheets and comforter will fit your dorm room bed, just bring those. Your old flip flops or soccer slides will do fine as shower shoes.
And check in with your new roommate to find out what they’re bringing. Work out ways to share what each of you already have so you both can cut costs.
Anybody on a budget knows that regularly eating out can put a huge dent in your wallet. If you’re on the meal plan, be sure you take full advantage of it -- and an apple for the road.
In your dorm room, have a stock of snacks and drinks that you love so you aren’t lured to the more expensive convenience store down the street. And consider talking with your roommate about sharing a mini refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave so you can satisfy those late-night munchies at home.
Gas and transportation costs
Instead of relying on your car to get around, use the campus shuttle instead. Investigate the public transportation options where you’re located if you need to travel beyond campus. And consider carpooling -- to campus and home for the holidays. Most colleges have ride boards where you can find fellow students who are headed in your direction and are more than happy to chip in on gas or share a seat in their own vehicle.
It took smarts to get into college. And it will take focus to keep costs down while you’re there. Put it all together and use these tips for saving on college essentials and it will be more than worth it in the end.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
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