A Few Tips on How To Stretch Your Budget Further

College can be really expensive and you'll find yourself needing to stretch your budget

Flickr user Monochrome

There are many costs associated with going to college. You arrive on campus ready to learn, but then you have to buy textbooks. And they’re EXPENSIVE! Then you have to feed yourself, buy school supplies, and more. Here are some tips on how you can stretch your budget!

Textbooks

College students usually complain the most about buying textbooks. Buying a book for $300 that you’ll only use for a semester? That just doesn’t make sense. While you may find that certain books are only available through your inflated school bookstore, many textbooks can be found at a more reasonable price!

Amazon
Amazon has many options for obtaining their textbooks. You can choose how you want the textbook (eBook, Hardcover, paperback, loose leaf) and whether you want to buy it new, used, or rent. The beauty of Amazon is that there are several vendors so it’s like a one stop shop to get the best price. (You can also get free 2 day shipping with an Amazon prime account–free to students for the first 6 months.)

Textbooks.com
Textbooks.com is nice because that’s all they do–sell textbooks. They have thousands of books available to buy new, used, electronically, or to rent. They also offer free shipping on orders over $25!

Direct Textbooks
Director Textbooks is like the Google search engine for finding textbooks from all the major retailers–Amazon, AbeBooks, Barnes and Noble, Half.com, CampusBookRentals, and Textbook.com. If you want to save time and get the best deal, start here.

Transportation

Most college campuses are designed to be walkable and bike friendly. Take advantage of this and save money instead of bringing a car to campus. Walking, using free public transportation, and biking are much cheaper alternatives than a car. Finding a bike can be easy and affordable. Check your local Craigslist, browse garage sales, or find ones on sale at big box dealers like Wal-Mart. Walking or biking is also an excellent way to exercise without paying for a gym membership! Not to mention you’re doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint. A great idea all around!

Food

Food is an essential part of life, but it can eat up your budget quick. This can be one of the hardest areas to stick to your budget. Dining is a very social activity, especially in college. Want to reconnect with a friend, get to know someone better, have an organization social? The answer is often “Let’s go out to eat!” While eating out is enjoyable and usually easier than cooking, it can be very costly. Many nutritious meals can be made at home for under $5, but if you’re eating anywhere besides a value menu, this will be hard to find. Here are some strategies to stick you your food budget.

Meal Planning

Meal planning may seem like a daunting task, but when you realize how much money you’ll save by doing so, you will probably feel more inclined to do so. Create a plan of what you will eat for every meal that week, decide on a grocery list, purchase only those items, and prepare them for the week. This can really be done any day of the week to prepare for upcoming days. A beneficial time could be on a Wednesday because of the next point.

Shop Midweek

Grocery stores often have sales beginning during the week. This is an excellent way to save money. You’ll have a good selection and pleasant time shopping because it won’t be as busy as the weekends when other people shop in preparation of the typical Monday-Friday work week. Also, never shop hungry! You are more prone to make impulse buys if your stomach is growling.

Use A Crockpot

A common reason many people go out to eat is because then they don’t have to cook. Rather than eating an expensive dinner or getting fast food, you can have a home cooked meal without the work.  Crock pots are affordable and it cooks your meal while you’re away for the day. When you come home, you’ll have a delicious meal waiting for you. There are also a ton of fun, easy recipes!

Lastly, many colleges offer a wide range of free items and services. Take advantage of those! You’re paying a lot of money to attend this school, so reap the benefits. Some schools do various free lunches or dinners for attending events. My school would sporadically have signs around campus promoting free lunch in the park catered by a local business. Score! There will be a lot of free stuff especially during your first week on campus. Pencils, drawstring bags, mini staplers, white boards, planners, and various other helpful items will most likely be passed out at your school- go get them!

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