7 easy ways to cut college costs - Movement Mortgage Blog

College is expensive. Like, really expensive. Trust me, I would know.

This summer, I interned with the communications department at Movement Mortgage, but the rest of the year I attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go, Tar Heels!). As summer slips away, I’m reminded that I’ll be back at school soon, which means I need to shop for college supplies and purchase my textbooks ASAP. I should also buy dorm insurance and check my meal plan, so if you see me scurrying to Chapel Hill a few days before classes start, you’ll know what I’m up to.

But don’t worry, Mom and Dad. Sending your scholars to college doesn’t mean you need to spend all of your money. Instead, use these seven out-of-the-box tips to help your college-aged kids cut back on nonessential costs while they’re away from home.

Use two wheels or two feet

On-campus parking spaces and gas are pricey, so looking for alternative transportation, such as walking or biking, is wise. In reality, college campuses are easily navigable, so your son can probably walk straight to class from his dorm. This means he can avoid having his own car unless he wants to work off-campus.

Also, if your student plans to come home on the weekends, it will be cheaper to grab a ride with a friend instead of driving home alone. Riding with a car buddy only costs about five to ten dollars for gas money so your son or daughter will save lots of money by not purchasing their own gas.

Keep a roomie

Freshmen are usually required to have roommates, but after their first year, students may have the option to live alone. Although living in a room by yourself might be tempting, having a roommate every year is an easy way to cut costs on living expenses. Your daughter may be able to save up to 50 percent on housing bills by simply sharing a room, so make sure she plans to keep a roommate while in college.  

Eat more chicken…in the cafeteria, that is

Constantly eating out sounds enticing, at least at first. It’s fun to have a night out on the town with friends while getting away from the cafeteria, but eating out quickly racks up the charges on your credit card. Advise your collegiate to limit eating out to once or twice a week. Some meal plans include visits to restaurants on campus, such as Subway or Chick-fil-A, so your student already has a scrumptious variety of prepared options.

Living in a material world

When shopping for dorm accessories and school supplies with your son or daughter, think long-term. For example, don’t buy a comforter for your son’s bed only to get a different one the next year. Instead, reutilize the same comforter every year in order to reduce exorbitant college-related bills.

Similarly, does your daughter live on coffee? Consider buying a Keurig for her dorm room, rather than funding multiple trips to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts every day. By making smart purchases at the onset of your scholar’s academic career, you and your student will save quite a bit of money.

Show me the savings

Paying for college upfront is expensive, but once your student arrives he’ll have a myriad of “free” resources (aka resources you’ve already paid for). So why not utilize on-campus opportunities? For example, does your son like working out? He’ll probably have access to an on-campus gym. Does your daughter want to practice playing an instrument? Check for free rehearsal rooms in the music department.

Is your student looking for extra help in a challenging class? Oftentimes, professors and TA’s, or teaching assistants, hold office hours for students to get one-on-one tutoring. Your scholar can even receive assistance from his peers, so look for free tutoring options before paying for expensive one-on-one sessions.

Also, do some research before shopping with your son or daughter. Some college dorms automatically include free or rentable laundry machines, printers and refrigerators. You’ll definitely want to know what’s free before you buy your student these expensive amenities.

Spring break for less

Instead of going on expensive spring break trips, your daughter could travel the world through her college study abroad office. Students can receive reduced tuition or scholarship money to use while studying abroad, making traveling with their peers less expensive than going solo. Make sure your student talks to her school’s study abroad office or admissions department for more information on programs and pricing.

Break open the binding

Thomas Jefferson claimed, “I cannot live without books.” Well, neither can your college kid. Although textbooks are extremely expensive, they’re a necessity for any college student. But don’t fret. Cheaper textbook options are available.

Begin the textbook buying process by price checking across vendors. Although buying textbooks through the campus bookstore may seem like the easiest option, other vendors, such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon, often have reduced prices. Also, check the school’s library to see whether it reserves textbooks for students. Some professors won’t make students buy textbooks if they can access them at the campus library, and who doesn’t love free books?

Don’t stress. College will be a great experience for your student. But it can be a good experience for you too, Mom and Dad — even when it comes to the price tag. By saving money where you can, you and your scholar will greatly reduce those hefty college bills so everyone in your family has more financial peace of mind.

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About the Author:

Adam O'Daniel

Adam O'Daniel is Movement's Communications Director. He leads corporate communication and public relations efforts across the organization. Email him at adam.odaniel@movement.com.