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The Best Money-Saving Tips for College Students

Aug 17, 2007
With the cost of tuition on the rise, college students are seeking new ways to save a buck while going to school. "Scholarships Around the US" has compiled a number of such ways - 118 to be precise - that can help offset the cost of higher education. While the entire list ought to be required reading for any co-ed, I've excerpted the ten that I thought were most effective and most striking, and then I added the one that they forgot: getting a Costco Membership.

1. Borrow textbooks. If you can't borrow, buy used. If you can't buy used and have to buy new, check for an "international" edition. International editions are nearly identical, except for maybe some Chinese characters on the front, and it will be exponentially cheaper.

2. Brew your own coffee. Your daily latte, cappuccino, or mocha from a coffee house will run you between $2.50 and $3.50. Seven days of that routine costs you $17.50 per week, $70 per month, and around $280 per semester. Making your own coffee or drinking less could save you $500 over the course of a year.

3. Kick the bottled water habit. Support your local tap water and drink for free. Get a filter if you want better-tasting water.

4. Two words: Ramen Noodles.

5. Decline extended warranties on computers. Your computer should be under manufacturer's warranty for the first year anyway. Companies dupe you into believing the plan is worthwhile and become rich off your extra cash.

6. Don't buy ink cartridges from the manufacturer. Instead, purchase cartridges online where you can compare prices and get free shipping. Better yet, refill your own cartridges (refills can cost as little as $5 per cartridge).

7. Save money on utilities. Living on an upper floor will typically keep you warmer in the winter, but it'll get hotter in the summer. So, if you go to school in a region where winters are longer, then try to get a room on the upper floor, otherwise live low. Also, try to find an apartment where utilities run on natural gas (stove, hot water heater); it's generally more cost-efficient.

8. Don't shop hungry. This goes for any kind of shopping. If you're in the grocery store, you'll grab more and spend more; if you're somewhere else you'll probably spend more than you planned getting something to eat. Carry a snack in your purse or backpack.

9. Get your haircut at a cosmetology school. They charge much less for cuts, highlights and color in exchange for the use of your head.

10. Two more words: donate plasma.

Finally, there was one idea that didn't make the list but which - I know from personal experience - is a gold mine. Get a Costco membership. The reason for the membership is not so you can buy in bulk, which, frankly, can mislead customers into thinking they are saving more than they really are. Rather, the real perk of membership is access to the free samples.

Let's be honest: a Saturday morning trip to Costco is a trip to an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. You can taste a variety of cuisines without ever having to commit (like you do at a restaurant). That's the beauty of samples - you never get bored. If you don't like something, toss it in the garbage. On the other hand, if you really like something, take a lap around the aisle and get back in line for seconds or even tenths (believe me, it's possible).

Truly, there's no better place to get full and explore the subtle nuances of your palate than Costco. And the best part of it all is that you can go as often as you want - every Saturday or every day. Trust me, whatever you invest in your annual membership will be more than repaid, even if you have to earn it back by the tablespoon.
About the Author
Benjamin Welch offers advice for students seeking information about college, financial aid, work-study, student loans, grants and scholarships at Classesandcareers.com.
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