How Frugal Moves Can Help You Manage Your College Costs

frugal moves

Higher education represents one of the most substantial financial commitments shared by families of college-age teens. And although it looms for years, as kids move through the paces, many students are underfunded approaching post-secondary education, scrambling to cement needed resources for tuition, books and ancillary college costs.

Several go-to funding sources help students navigate the financial pressures of earning post-secondary degrees and other advanced credentials. Government loans, for example, serve countless students, offering low-interest borrowing alternatives with flexible repayment options. The loans require a certain level of participation from students, remaining enrolled and making progress toward degrees and certificates. After school, as graduates enter the workforce, a grace period enables them to get established, before student loan payback kicks in.

Not only does government-backed financial aid protect graduates during repayment, but the vital resource also gives young people access to college funding – even when an insufficient credit history works against them. Low-interest student loans aren’t always enough, however, so private loans, grants, and scholarships round-out financial resources used to pay for higher education.

Affordable Living on Campus

If you are intimidated by the cost of college, model your approach after those who’ve come before you, successfully balancing education expenses with a cost-conscious lifestyle.

School Choice

Where you enroll has a major impact on the ultimate cost of your education. Attending a private college, for example, can set you back much more than matriculating to a public university. But each campus administers its own forms of financial aid, so opportunities must be evaluated individually, before counting out a particular school. As you identify worthy programs and plot your educational course, evaluate alternatives with an eye toward value and consistent job placement success, following graduation.

Housing

Campus housing is designed to create an economy of scale, spreading housing costs across the student body. As a result, dorm life often presents one of the most affordable housing options on campus. For a single semester fee, your room and utility costs are covered, typically pairing you with a roommate(s). Facilities vary, so you may have options such as suites, containing private bedrooms and shared common spaces. Older dorms may be outdated but reasonably priced.

Off-campus living costs can be reduced by sharing rent, energy, food, and transportation expenses with college roommates.

Course Schedule

College can be overwhelming for many students, so choosing a major is often left undone, during the first semesters of post-secondary education. As long as you make direct progress toward a degree or certification, earning general education credits, delaying the commitment makes financial sense. But if you end-up paying tuition unnecessarily, taking classes you don’t need, you’re leaving precious resources on the table. To keep spending in line, declare your course of study early and take a linear path to scholastic success, earning your degree as efficiently as possible.

Tuition and fees are based upon your course schedule, achieving full-time status when a certain number of credits are enrolled each semester. In practice, many institutions cap full-time tuition, allowing students to enroll in additional courses, without paying more money. Not only does a full schedule accelerate your graduation time, but completing an extra course or two each semester saves thousands in tuition payments, over the course of your education.

Meal Plan

Although college dining options have a reputation for being uninspiring, your school’s cafeteria and food service stations furnish frugal access to sustenance. To get the most bang for your buck, evaluate your eating habits and align a meal plan with your dietary requirements. If you live off-campus, work with your roommates to keep food costs as low as possible, stocking up on bulk supplies and sharing economical meals.

Education spending reflects more than just the cost of tuition. Transportation, housing, and general costs of living also place demands on college budgets. Like many who’ve successfully completed the journey, you too can manage the financial impact of higher education, using frugal strategies to stay one step ahead of college costs.

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Alex founded SmartMoneySmartLiving.com in 2015 to empower millennials to take control of their financial future and guide them along their journey towards financial freedom.