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Personal Finance
Money Saving Tips for College Students

(College News) -- Here are a few simple but useful means to help you save money in school.

Buy used books.

Used books are usually in fairly good condition and cost about half the price of new books. The campus bookstore and local bookstores usually stock both new and used books. Also, check local papers and campus bulletin boards for used computers, furniture, and housewares.

Attend a community college and transfer.

For many students, the cost of a four-year college is simply too high. Attending a community college is relatively inexpensive and can afford students the opportunity to save money for a four-year institution.

Work-study programs.

College federal and state work-study programs will convert loan money into pay for a campus job. Unlike loans, this money does not need to be repaid and the work is usually extremely flexible, allowing time for your classes and studying.

Off-campus jobs.

Many students have non-work-study jobs off campus. The pay is usually comparable: most student-type jobs pay about $6 to $7 an hour. To make the best use of your time, attempt to find a paying internship, or a job that gives you experience that could translate into college credit.

Reapply for financial aid and scholarships each year.

Every time you reapply for financial aid, you face the possibility of getting a different financial aid package. This is especially true if your or your parents' financial situation has changed. And every year, you have the opportunity to apply for new scholarships. If you didn't win a particular award the first time you applied, try again.

Accumulate college credits before going to college.

In addition to impressing admissions committees, advanced placement courses are also much less expensive than their college counterparts. Many students are able to accumulate an entire semester of credits before graduating high school. That's not bad given the cost of a semester at many private universities and even some public schools for non state residents.

Look into combined degree programs.

Many schools offer combined degree programs that save you time as well as money. These programs consist of completing combined Bachelor's and Masters degrees or Masters and doctorate degrees. Depending on your career interests, these may be worth considering.

Explore ways to pay the in-state tuition rates for public colleges.

Many states, particularly several in the Midwest with declining populations, have very short citizenship time requirements. If the requirement is only six months, for instance, it may behoove you to move to the state immediately upon graduating and attend school part time your first semester while working full time. Once you are a citizen of the new state, you could then begin taking classes full time.

In certain extreme cases where you are certain of your desire to attend a particular school, say Michigan, where the out-of-state tuition rivals that of private schools, you may want to consider moving in with a relative who may live in that state for your senior year of high school. (Yes, we do realize that this is a bit risky and dramatic. Hence, we stress you may want to do this only in certain extreme cases.)

Take advantage of any available tuition prepayment discounts.

Some colleges offer discounts of up to 10% for early payment. Even if you do not have the cash to prepay this tuition, in the current low interest-rate environment, it may be cheaper to finance this prepayment with a loan.

Leave the car at home.

This is truly a luxury. Additionally, you may not even need a car on many college campuses. The chances are good everything you need will be within walking distance and your friends will have cars for those occasionally long road trips you'll certainly want to biggest expenses each month. If you can, live at home as long as possible. Believe me, when you have to find and furnish your own apartment, you'll really appreciate all those years of free rent when you were growing up.

But, if you want to live on your own or can't stay at home, there are a few on-campus and off-campus options you can try. If you want to live on campus, become a Residential Advisor. You usually get a meal plan as well. If you want to live off campus, many people offer a free room or guest house in exchange for help around the house, with their kids and sometimes with their businesses.

Never pay retail.

There are coupons and discounts for everything from plane tickets to textbooks to pizza. Seek them out and use them. The Internet is loaded with deals. A little surfing can save you a lot of dough.

Don't pay for two meals and eat one.

This is what happens when you have a meal plan at the cafeteria that allows you a specific number of meals each week and instead of using them up, you go out to eat. The food may taste better at the local restaurant than the school cafeteria, but it's costing you twice what you actually paid for.

Never pay just the minimum monthly payment on your credit cards.

Most companies structure their minimum payments to be just a few dollars over the amount you are paying in interest. Let's say you pay $38 a month in interest on your card and the minimum payment you have to make is $43. You're only paying off $5 of your actual balance. At this rate, it will take 10 years to pay off just $600. Now let's say that you are carrying a total balance of $2,500 at 18% interest. After 10 years, you will have paid about $4,000 in interest on that balance and you will still be carrying $1,900 on the card. Hard to believe, but true.

Whatever the minimum payment is, try to pay at least double it.

Percentage points count.

Credit cards are a great way to start establishing a credit history, but you want to be sure that the history you establish is a good one. If you have to carry a balance on your cards, at least try to find one with a low annual percentage rate. The difference between a card with 12% interest and one with 22% interest is $100 a year for every $1,000.

That's a $250 difference for a card with a $2,500 balance. Each month you will save $21 in interest alone just by having a card at the lower interest rate.

Become money conscious.

Because most of the money you have in college is discretionary income (you can use it at your discretion), it's very easy to buy things you really don't need. A trip to Starbucks, $4. A magazine you could have read at the library, $3.50. The $10 shampoo that works about the same as the $3 shampoo. Impulsive spending is easy because it makes you feel good at that moment. The euphoric moment, however, is often brief and is later followed by guilt for indulging in things you could do without.It's okay to splurge now and then, but not every time the impulse strikes.

Stay away from the ATM machines.

These are some of them most dangerous machines in the world. They lure you with their easy money and soon you find yourself addicted, going back for more, again and again. It's easy, it feels good, it leaves you with crisp $20 bills...and a really low bank account balance. Make it a habit not to visit them. Take money out of the bank and live off that cash. Limit yourself to it and avoid the lure the cash walls. It's one of the best ways to ensure the safety of your bank account.


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