Cutting Costs in College

Most college students can’t afford to have the standard of living of an adult with a good paying professional job. With college costs rising, it is more important than ever for your student to learn to live on budget. Even if you model living frugally  at home your teen may need explicit instruction in how to manage money in college. Here are a few money saving tips for your homeschooler headed off to college:

Use Free Campus Entertainment

Most colleges and universities offer plentiful free and low cost entertainment options on campus including music performances, sporting events, recreation facilities, art exhibits, and lectures.  There are more free opportunities than any student could possibly take advantage of. Often campus events will tie in with what you are learning in your classes. Instead of traveling off campus to spend $10 on the latest blockbuster, check out the free movies offered at the campus student center. College is a great time to explore new interests – maybe you’ll end up loving that free Indian music performance that you attend.

Buy A Water Bottle and a Coffee Pot

As I visit college campuses I’m stunned to see how many students are hitting campus coffee shops and plopping down $2-5 on lattes, sodas, and even water. Investing a few dollars in a quality non-leaking water bottle and a well made travel coffee mug can save your students hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

Know Your Scholarship Requirements

A surprisingly large number of students who earn merit scholarships end up losing them. For example, the HOPE scholarship in Georgia is lost by more than half of students who earn it.  Students with challenging STEM majors should be especially careful.  Pay attention to GPA and minimum course-load requirements.  Many colleges require students maintain a certain GPA to keep the scholarship but requirements for that GPA vary widely.  3.0 is a common cut off but some scholarships go higher such as Baylor’s Gold Scholarship which requires students maintain a GPA of 3.5.  Encourage your student to meet early, and often, with academic advisers. If grades are slipping take action quickly.

Watch Food Costs Carefully

If your student eats on campus select the food plan carefully.  This is an individual decision that needs to be made based on your student’s eating habits and needs. Buying too small of a meal plan may have your student overspending on pizza and fast-food. As any parent who has paid grocery bills knows, older teens and young adults can still have really high nutrition requirements. As one way to keep food costs down is to make sure the student has a good supply of nutrient dense snack options. Stocking up at the grocery store and sending care packages can help a student stay on budget.

Find Friends On Similar Budgets

If your child need to live modestly and keep an eye on costs encourage them to try to make some friends who are on similar budgets. The temptation of $150 concert tickets or expensive spring break trips can result in excess student loan debt or overspending.

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