Economic times are changing, and so are the costs of a college degree. Sure, the stereotype of the starving college student who lives on ramen noodles and free pizza has long embodied a universal financial struggle of young adults who are paying university tuition and working entry-level jobs. Nonetheless, the current state of inflation and cost of living are making these challenges nigh on impossible to continue to make ends meet. Even hard-working, dedicated students accept more loans and debt than intended. Instead of cutting costs on your necessities, consider these student strategies for saving money despite inflation and other challenges.
For almost every college class, you’ll be assigned reading. The sources of these reading assignments vary, but often include academic journals, textbooks, or primary sources. Here are a few things about textbooks and other class materials you should know as a student striking out on your own.
- Ask for your college library card, as soon as you can. This will unlock many physical and digital resources for you to borrow at no cost (provided you return the materials when due). Keep in mind that multiple copies of a popular book may be checked out according to the assignment timeline—just plan to be early based on your syllabus to get a jump start on the competition.
- You can even use your library number to log into educational accounts for popular journals, magazines, or newspapers (and occasionally, video or streaming databases). Check the library website or ask a librarian for more on which information networks are yours to use for free.
- If you can read on screens or are willing to print each section, the internet will help you out. Use archive websites like Project Gutenberg <https://www.gutenberg.org/> to find copies of books that are in the public domain.
- For other readings you can’t find, check the local public library. These community centers welcome college students using their materials as well. Plus, other students might not go the extra step, leaving more copies for you.
- Before you purchase, check whether renting your textbook from the store is an option. The student store on campus often allows students to pay a smaller fee to borrow common textbooks. If that service isn’t available, you can go through an external business like Chegg. Saving money on textbooks comes down to doing research on what combination of options works best for you.
Food uncertainty is prevalent for college students. When times are tough, getting nutritional support is critical. These places may be able to help you focus on your studies again and start saving money.
- Find out whether your campus or local community has a Food Bank. These open pantries stock staples for students or community members to collect free of charge. While these resources may also be facing shortages, students can investigate what supplies may be available.
- As an undergraduate student, you may qualify for a federal or state food benefits program (like SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Not only that, but someone in the student guidance center at your school may be able to help you fill out the application and verification forms.
- If you decide to eat at a restaurant near campus, pay attention to whether they offer a student discount—through word of mouth, or posted on the menu or signs. No matter the extent, you might as well make the most of your student status.
- For laptops and other big-ticket digital devices, plan to browse Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals a year or so in advance. At this time of year, you can likely score a functional model at a more reasonable price, and planning far ahead gives you time to save up your funds.
- If you prefer traditional writing methods, you can attend club-sponsored info sessions for new students. In-person interest fairs with branded swag tend to offer free ballpoint pens and other tools, and you can store up plenty for a semester. Keep the simple flyers and handouts with a blank side for note-taking.
- Thrift stores often collect binders, folders, and other nicer office supplies into one section. Though your local thrift or second-hand store might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re searching for school items, you might be surprised by the low prices and deals.
As a student, your college or university may be able to provide you with more support than it seems at first glance. It’s worth investigating all your options to cover the bases when it comes to saving money.
While the economic crunch affects everyone, students face the difficult burden to venture out and manage new responsibilities. At this critical time of growth and education, these strategies can help ensure your students’ needs are met. Then, we can focus on the things that matter most.
For more personal advice on how to navigate the journey to college and beyond, reach out to Empowerly to learn about our phenomenal counseling services.