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How to Save Money on College Costs

College tuition is pricey enough without spending a fortune getting settled at school. A few smart strategies can help corral expenses.


  • Step 1: Shave a year off college Save up to a year of college tuition by graduating early. Take community college classes and advanced placement tests while you're still in high school. Once in college, take community college courses during summer that will count towards your degree; they are usually cheaper than the ones offered at four-year schools.
  • Step 2: Buy used books Search online for used textbooks as soon as class syllabi are posted on the university's web site; good deals go fast. At the end of the semester, sell them back to the highest bidder.
  • TIP: Shop around: Some sites rent textbooks; others allow you to download them for about half the price of a new book.
  • Step 3: Consider a netbook Buy a computer that meets your academic needs -- and nothing more. For many students, a netbook does the job more cheaply than a laptop.
  • TIP: Don't bother with a printer; it's usually cheaper to use the ones in the campus computer lab.
  • Step 4: Invest in used appliances Before you invest in a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffeemaker for your dorm room, contact your roommate to see if you can divvy up an appliance list. Then find used ones online or in thrift stores.
  • Step 5: Buy bedding in bulk Buy a bed and bath set that includes a comforter, a single bed sheet set, one pillow, and a towel set all for one price. Some even throw in a hamper.
  • Step 6: Limit college to four years If you don't graduate early, do your best to graduate in four years. Some schools make this difficult by limiting the number of credits students can take per semester. But they'll usually make an exception for a student with a good scholastic record if you ask.
  • Step 7: Be careful with credit cards Be careful with credit cards. If you sign up for one, read the fine print first and make sure you understand the penalties for paying late and carrying a balance. Don't charge more than you can pay off each month. And check your statement online every couple of days so you don't lose track of your spending.
  • FACT: U.S. college students spend more than $5 billion a year on alcohol, more than they spend on textbooks, soft drinks, tea, milk, juice and coffee combined.

You Will Need

  • Community college or advanced placement credits
  • Used textbooks
  • A netbook
  • Appliances
  • Bulk bedding
  • A four-year plan
  • Gift cards
  • Rented and downloaded textbooks (optional)

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