The school year is here. Now is the time to strategize, finalize your class schedule and make the most of your budget. Here are a few ways to stretch those dollars.
Research the best options for books
Before you head over to your school’s bookstore to buy all of the books for your classes, ask yourself—and maybe your professors–a few questions.
- Are all of the books needed? Perhaps, the book was once recommended but is no longer required. Your professor would be the best person to ask.
- Are any available electronically? E-books traditionally cost less, and some are available at no cost through websites like Project Gutenberg. On the flipside, it’s electronic, so you won’t have a hard copy to reference.
- Do you need new copies, or can you find them used? Finding a used book is environmentally friendly and can save you cash. Check online, your college’s bookstore and even upperclassmen to see if they have used, discounted copies available. Some workbooks or recently published books may not be available used, so you’ll have to purchase it new. You could also ask your professor if the most recent version is necessary. It could be that the subject matter is still covered but has some outdated photos and illustrations. You could also check if there are hardcover and softcover options and see if there are cost savings choosing one over the other.
- Are they available for rent? There are websites, like Chegg.com and Amazon.com, that rent books.
- What other outside of the bookstore ideas are there? According to Forbes.com, the Open Education Network is another source to check and offers a free library of textbooks that are openly licensed. Another idea is to share the books with classmates or friends.
Research meal plans, if you need one, and determine your best option.
More than likely, your school offers an assortment of meal plans. Depending on where you live and the cooking options available, you may need a five- or seven- day meal plan with unlimited access. Many plans include snack bar dollars. Check the amount and budget those dollars to last the entire semester. If you work off-campus, you may need a meal plan with more snack bar options since you can’t always make it to the scheduled mealtimes. Some schools offer the option to purchase a set number of meals and then you can purchase more when those have been used. Another idea is to see if the dining hall hires students and offers a discount to students who work there.
Take advantage of free activities offered on campus.
Your school campus is a hub of activities. You can stay on budget if you take advantage of some free amenities and events on-campus. In addition to costing nothing, you don’t even have to leave campus.
- Wellness center with exercise equipment
- Sporting events
- Academic events
- Concerts and musical performances
- Theater plays
- Campus newspaper
- Book and study clubs
- Student Services
- Computer labs
These are just a few things to consider as the school year kicks off. How many other ways can you think of to make the most of your budget?