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5 money-saving tips every student should know
Between classes, books and the occasional night out, college can be an expensive time, especially without a full-time salary to fall back on. That makes it even more vital to take advantage of cost-saving opportunities when they present themselves. Here are five tips that you can use to stay afloat during university, even when money gets a little bit tight:
1. Create a budget
Just like you have a calendar to manage all of your classes and activities, and a syllabus to help guide you through each course, your money should be organized into a budget. That doesn't mean that you have to track every cup of coffee you buy or song you download, but rather that you should have a broad idea of where your funds are going each month. You should know about how much you are spending on food, boarding and entertainment, and ensure that your expenditure is within your means. There are a number of free services, such as Mint, that let you track all of your finances. Without some kind of system, it's easy to overspend on things that are not important.
2. Rent textbooks rather than buying
If you are going to read and re-read that Introduction to Psychology textbook for years to come, it makes a lot of sense to buy it. Otherwise, you're fine renting it. Alternately, you can buy the book used and sell it back to the store at the end of the semester, to recoup some of the money you spent. If you are assigned the newest version of a book, check to see if older editions are available - they will in many cases be much cheaper, while providing virtually the same value.
3. Choose your meal plan carefully
Not every meal plan is priced the same, so make sure that you are on one that fits your lifestyle. If you find yourself failing to use your allotted number of cafeteria meals every week, it's a good sign that you should step down to a cheaper plan. If you're looking to save even more money, consider getting off of a meal plan altogether, and learning to cook some basic meals at home. It takes a little bit more time, but you'll have more control over what you eat, and can get some pretty hearty savings. Buying staples, like rice, beans and pasta, in bulk will ensure that you always have something to eat without having to make the trek to the dining hall.
4. Skip expensive spring break and summer trips
The costs associated with travel can add up quickly, especially when it comes to busy times like summer vacation and spring break. It might be tempting to spend a week at a resort or a couple of months traveling through Europe, but it is by no means necessary for having a fulfilling time. If you're strapped for cash, use your downtime to check out the many experiences that are available locally.
These breaks are also great times to nab internships, do some volunteering or take on extra part-time work. Not only will you be potentially earning money to use during the year - and not spending as much - you will also be padding your resume so you're ready to jump right into the job market after graduation. A summer of hard work can set you up for a full year of success.
5. Take paid surveys
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If you have a little bit of time and an internet connection, you can start making money by taking paid online surveys. Manufacturers are always interested in feedback, particularly when it comes to the ways that they can make their products easier to use and more appealing to buy. By providing your opinion, you are performing a valuable service, and one that they are willing to pay for. The best part about it is that you don't need any kind of special expertise - all you need to know is how you feel. It is one of the easiest ways to make money online from home without cutting too deeply into the time reserved for studying.