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National College Savings Month: Tips for Quarterlifers

September is National College Savings Month – a whole month focused on the importance of saving money for college. But if you’re a Quarterlifer, chances are you’re already in college. But it's never too late to find ways to save.

We know how expensive college is – from tuition to books to late night brain food – so we have listed a few ways you can cut back on college costs and save some money.

Buy used or rent your textbooks. The average textbook today costs $175 and on average, college students pay $900 per year on textbooks. Can you imagine what you could do with an extra $900 each year? You could pay back some of your student loans or fund a great spring break vacay! College students seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to textbooks: teachers pick the books that are required for their class and students are required to buy them. You want to do well in class, but it’s tough to shell out $175 for a book you’ll use for three months. Yes, you might be able to sell it back, but bookstores often buy the books back for pennies on the dollar and chances are, the professors may have a new edition to use next year.

So what’s the solution? Buy used textbooks or rent them if you have the option. This can be done at a local student book store or online. Amazon is a great place to start looking for books, and websites such as Chegg allow you to buy or rent textbooks at big discounts. 
Also if you have a friend in the class that you trust, you could consider sharing the cost of the book for the semester. But make sure you have an idea of what the workload will be for the class and are aware of how much you’ll need it for assignments and studying – you don’t want to have run out of time to study if your friend has the book!

Cut back on driving and parking costs. Depending on your college town, you may be able to find alternative forms of transportation to cut back on gas and other vehicle costs. Does your college campus have a bus system? Is it bike friendly? If parking is in high demand on your campus, monthly parking passes can cost $50 per month! That means you’re spending over $500 over the course of the school year just to park for a few hours each day. 

If biking or using a bus system is not an option, coordinate with roommates or friends to share the driving responsibilities or costs. Try to sync up your on-campus time so you can arrive and leave together. You can even use the extra time on campus when you’re not in class to study in the library.

Opt for the meal plan or at-home cooking. Take a good look at the meal plan options that are available to you in the dining halls. Depending on your needs, one of these plans may be your best option. If you live off campus and the meal plan isn’t convenient, stick to grocery shopping, eating at home and packing a lunch for when you’re on campus for long periods of time. By becoming a smart grocery shopper and creating your own personal meal “plan,” you can save hundreds of dollars each week compared to eating out for every meal. Sure, $6 for a burrito doesn’t sound that expensive but that can quickly add up!

Find a job. Working may sound like the last thing you want to do (especially when you’ve been in classes all day), but it can help tremendously in the long run. Even if you find a student job working for a few hours each week, the extra income can start chipping away at some of those expenses or student loans. One of the best kept secrets for a student job is working in the library. Not only will you get paid, but you’re in a quiet area and will likely have time to study. Restaurants in college towns are also great places for students – they’re usually flexible and you can build your shifts around your class schedule. 

Budget. We’ve said it many times before and we’ll say it again – budget, budget, budget. Build an Excel spreadsheet or use an app to chart your expenses each month and allot a portion of the remaining funds for other items such as groceries or entertainment/activities. Seeing those numbers each month is a great way to keep track of what you’ve been spending money on and where you can cut back when you need to.

Do you have any other tips to save money in college? We’d love to hear them! Share with us at