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Don't let college be a big waste of money

With the rising cost of tuition, it’s becoming harder for students to afford college. The average college graduate has about $37,000 in student loan debt, hindering their ability to move out of their parents’ homes or buy cars. Although there are some educational expenses that you cannot shave off your overall bill, there are some things that are a big waste of money. Here area few places you can save.

Meal plans

Many schools require freshmen to live on campus and purchase a meal plan during their first year. This is a good idea for freshmen who may not know what to expect but it can be optional for upperclassmen.

The average meal plan can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 a semester. Do the math and your meal plan can add between $8,000 and $24,000 to your overall tuition bill.

There are more affordable ways to get your three meals – like splitting groceries with your roommate, for one. If you each contribute $50 a week and make a trip to your local (off campus) grocery store, you’re almost guaranteed to get more bang for your buck. Even if you just live with one other person, that’s $100 a week you can both spend on food and only $800 each for the duration of the 16-week semester.

Also, never be shy about asking for a student discount. College towns thrive off the money their students spend and local businesses commonly offer special student deals. Maybe you can score a free taco Tuesday or 2-for-1 appetizers at a restaurant.

Cutting class

The average college student skips 13 classes a semester and 104 classes in their entire college career. We get it: 100% perfect attendance to every class for (or more) years is sort of an unreasonable expectation. But when you break down how much money you’re wasting every time you skip a class, you might reconsider hitting the snooze button.

Based on a typical full-time student’s class load of five classes a semester, each for three credits, a student attending a private college wastes $7,072 on missed classes during the time they’re in school. The number for a student attending a public college is slightly less, at $5,200.

The most common reason students give for not making it to class is that they just can’t get out of bed. So here’s some advice: if you have a hard time getting up in the morning, don’t register for early classes. It’s understandable that as a freshman you may not have much of a choice, but reach out to your advisor and explain your situation. If you stress that this a big deal for you, they might try to help you out.

There are ways to give yourself a break in the middle of the week. That two-hour long lecture you dread? Well, it’s most likely that it’s two hours long because you only meet once or twice a week instead of three. Try to schedule your classes in a way where you take more classes on some days and less – or none – on other days. During my junior year at Hofstra University, I was able to go to class from 8 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I had Monday, Wednesday and Friday off for my internship. It’s possible, you just have to play around with your schedule.

Books

The cost of textbooks have soared 1,041% since 1977 and students spend an average $1,100 on textbooks each semester. Give yourself a break and instead of going to your school’s bookstore, check out  BigWords, Abebooks, Amazon or Chegg.com. You can either rent or buy used books for up to 90% off.

Ask your friends if they’ve taken any of the classes you are enrolled in. There might be a way for you guys to share books or make a trade. Don’t forget, you aren’t the only one trying to save money. So chances are you might be able to bargain with your classmates on ways you can all save money on books.

These tips can save you tons of money but there are always going to be necessary expenses that you can’t get away from. For those things, check out your school’s career center. Oftentimes they’ll help students get an on-campus or local job. Regardless of your financial situation, always remember that your struggle with money in college is only temporary.  

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