The biggest expenses for college students is the college tuition, books and related college fees. Apart from this, the other major area of expense is the living expenses. The one thing to know about expenses is that even the smallest expenses add up to a lot more very quickly. However, there are a few top areas that we need to be careful about when creating a budget for college students.
To manage the college fees, some strategies we’ve recommended in our earlier posts is choosing a good, affordable and flexible college, and then applying for college scholarships if needed to further pay for college. As detailed in the article on College with Top 10 Online College Degrees, these are extremely affordable colleges which provide various means for students to earn college credits either for free or by spending very little money.
In this article, we will discuss how to reduce the rest of the major expenses for a college student, namely the living expenses.
The housing or accommodation makes up a bulk of the living expenses for a college student. Some students choose to live in a dorm on their college campus. For off-campus living, there are two resources I find that can provide student-friendly and affordable housing.
At Uloop, students can enter the name of their college to get a localized listing of all off-campus student accommodations and room rentals. Landlords and apartment managers typically list their student-friendly rentals at Uloop and are therefore open to roommates sharing an apartment. You can also get your parents to be guarantors for your rental if you are relying on them to pay your rent.
Rent.com has always been a place for affordable rental properties, but lately I’ve found them to be student-friendly too. Many of the student-friendly properties are located closer to major colleges and universities. You can search here for student rentals by first entering your college name.
My advice to students is to put off buying a car while in college. The best time to buy a car is when you are working and not single anymore as it is convenient for the whole family. But while in college or in the initial years at work, a car does not add much value when you consider how much it actually costs to buy and maintain a car.
Car is an expensive affair even if you decide to buy a compact or economy-sized car. First is the car loan payments which are an extra expenditure, then you would need a dedicated parking space, money for the gas/ fuel and then general maintenance and repair costs. These can quickly add up to a substantial amount quietly.
Instead, you are far better off just using public transportation for college and you can always rent a car during special holidays. There are many cheaper car rentals such as Student Universe which we will highlight further on in this post.
Groceries and Household Supplies
There are two options for groceries and household supplies. For extremely low prices and free shipping with next day delivery, Walmart is a great option. Their food and grocery supplies carry a lot of low-price items and the next day delivery is a convenient option.
Amazon is another great place for household supplies and groceries. And with monthly grocery subscriptions, you can save about 15% on your groceries order with them. Amazon Pantry offers lower prices than the regularly low Amazon prices on all groceries, snacks, beverages and all household essentials. For 15 or more items in a pantry order, you get an additional 15% discount on the entire order as well. Shipping is free for prime members and a low $5.99 shipping fee for pantry orders of non-prime members.
Furniture and Home Decor
For furniture, both Walmart and Amazon provide great products for highly affordable prices. Walmart offers free shipping for many of their furniture items. Amazon provides free shipping with prime, but the prime membership also has additional perks such as movie subscriptions, music and so on.
My recommendation would be to search in both Walmart and Amazon to find the style of sofas, beds or furniture accessories you are looking for. Then you can choose the one that best meets your needs. Both Walmart and Amazon have sofas and beds that are under US $200.
Furniture at Walmart.com also has optional protection plan or furniture assembly by Walmart for an additional cost.
Laptops and Electronics
Amazon is the best place for finding low cost electronic products. Take a look at this article for the best low-priced laptops and chromebooks on Amazon.
In terms of computer software, to save on cost, I would recommend setting up Linux/ Ubuntu instead of Windows. This will help save a lot on software cost. Plus there will be no need for anti-virus software, installations are a breeze and so on. Nowadays Ubuntu or other Linux variants have excellent interfaces which are comparable to that of Windows operating system.
In a future post, I will also discuss how to set up a low-cost computer with Linux and many powerful and free software.
There are a number of places such as Amazon, CampusBooks.com and so on for cheap textbooks. In this article, you will find our complete review on low-priced college textbooks.
StudentUniverse provides the lowest flight tickets, student-priced hotels, hostels and car rentals for students. They have partnered with over 70 airlines to provide the best deals and discounts specifically for students.
They specifically cater to the needs of students. To access many of the deals, you have to be a student at a degree- granting college or university. There are also some deals that anyone between the age of 18 to 25 is eligible. These are known as youth deals.
Though StudentUniverse is based in the UK, they allow students to avail of the discounts from many countries across the world. So you can purchase any of the tickets or rentals in US dollars or in your own local currency. To do so, just switch the language and currency in the top right hand of the website page.
Amazon Prime for Students
For students, Amazon Prime has a special and free 6 month trial subscription to the prime membership. Prime membership provides not only free shipping for most orders, but also free movies, access to many kindle books for free, exclusive student discounts on products, unlimited music subscription for a $0.99 per month fee and more.
One advantage of Amazon is the unlimited number of customer reviews for most products on the site. Walmart also provides product reviews from customers but it is not as vast as the Amazon reviews.
In case you live outside the United States but in a country with a localized Amazon site, then you are better off going with Amazon instead of Walmart. Walmart is great for the US and requires the student to live at a driving distance to a Walmart store. Since Walmart stores are everywhere in the US, this works out great for US deliveries.