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Interactive Checklists

Save Money in College

Category: College Preparation
This check list is in the following categories:
Here are some interesting ways you can save money if you are preparing for college.
College is expensive no matter where you choose to go to school. However, there are several things a college student can do to save money while in college and after graduating.
  • Consider online degrees.
    Getting an online degree could be a good option. It cuts down on costs associated with transportation and perhaps an expensive dorm room. Just make sure you have a relatively good internet connection and a healthy computer.
  • Make use of community colleges
    To save money on your college education, consider taking general prerequisites courses at a community college. Classes at a community college are usually less expensive and of equal quality to the same classes offered at a major university. Discuss this option with an adviser at the community college near you. Find out which classes in your major will transfer to your chosen university.
  • Continue to live at home, if possible
    Although there are advantages to living on or near campus (such as the social environment, easy access to resources on campus, and sometimes less distractions) it will cost more than continuing to live at home, even if this means having to pay to commute to school. Living expenses are the second most expensive item for college student. This means going into debt sooner or having to work more hours.
  • Complete the FASFA form
    Many students qualify for FASFA money each year. Do not assume you will not qualify because your parents make too much money or have a large amount of assets. You might be pleasantly surprised! Go online and complete the application whether you think you will qualify or not. FASFA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is grant money from the federal government that does NOT have to be paid back. See our "FASFA Pell Grant, Scholarship, and Student Loan Advice" checklist for more helpful information about getting the most FASFA money possible.
  • Apply for college scholarships
    There are many scholarships available. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. However, understand that it is very difficult to secure any scholarship for college, let alone a good scholarship. The best way to increase your chances of finding a college scholarship, is to talk to your high school or college adviser or professors. Most scholarships require an essay and a paper about your goals. Make sure you and other people proof you writing for grammatical errors.

    Scholarships sent directly to the college are usually only available for tuition, books, and fees. They are not included as income but reduce the dollar amount used to figure an education tax credit. College scholarships sent directly to the individual student can be used for purposes other than tuition (thus increasing the amount used in figuring the education tax credit), but must be included in income. For low income taxpayers, this could increase the tax return.

    Ask you tax professional about the best way to claim college scholarship money on your tax return.

  • Create a budget
    Budgeting allows more financial freedom because it lets you know when it is alright to spend and when you need to wait. It helps you reach your goals, feel organized, and eliminate guilt from spending money that should be saved for other expenses.
  • Purchase used college books instead of new
    Used books sell out quickly at the college bookstore. Try searching online using a shopping comparison website. Also, you may not need the current version. Sometimes the previous version will suffice, but ask your professor for their suggestion.
    REMEMBER: Keep all receipts for books purchased for college. These may be used to increase your education tax credit.
  • Limit eating out
    Going out to dinner is the quickest way to eat up your extra cash. Limit eating out by purchasing quality foods and preparing them at home instead.
  • Think of inexpensive dating ideas
    Regardless of who pays the bill for the date, it is best to make sure you stay within your budget when dating. Plan ahead in order to save money without sacrificing a good time.
  • Apply for a cash-back credit card

    It is important for young college students to start building good credit. This does not mean it is a good idea for a student to make large purchases on credit that they are unable to pay off right away. A credit card with a low spending limit and small purchases paid off over three to six months will help establish a good credit rating which is crucial when trying to rent a home, purchase a cell phone in their own name, or rent a car. It is also a good idea to have a credit card when traveling or in case of emergency.

    Note: Apply for a cash-back credit card whenever possible. This option offers more financial value than credit cards which offer points or rewards.

  • Limit student loans
    Education is expensive and that often means having to borrow money. A student loan generally has a very low interest rate (which can save a student money) and have deferment options, but they should be used as a last resort. Even a small student loan can take a long time to pay off. This means you could be living on a tight budget, trying to save money to pay off these loans, for many years. Limit a student loan to only the amount you are sure you will be able to pay off within three to five years after graduating.
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Note: Although these checklists have been carefully prepared by individuals who are experts in the subject, we do not suggest the information be used as a substitute for legal, medical, or financial advice. Always consult a professional who understands your specific situation.