Benjamin Franklin once said nothing is certain but death and taxes. We’d like to amend that list by adding a modern certainty: college costs will always go up. But that doesn’t mean getting an education results in going broke. Stay smart, spend less, and start budgeting. Here’s how:
- Calculate your costs. There’s nothing worse for your financial future than not knowing how much money you have or how much money you’re spending. Avoid catastrophe by budgeting for the entire semester. Don’t only include the obvious expenses like tuition and textbooks. Include living expenses like food, utilities, cell phone bills, and transportation. And perhaps more importantly, know where your money is coming from before you need it. That’ll help you avoid borrowing money last minute at high interest rates.
- Practice self-restraint. College is an expensive experience in large part due to the cost of staying entertained — going out to eat, drink, going to movies, concerts, buying video games, and a myriad of other distractions. Try having free fun instead. Start by checking out your college’s event schedule.
- Shop for function, not status. Why buy new when you can buy refurbished or used? This is especially true for things like clothes, appliances, and furniture, and can even save you bundles on electronics.
- Make lists and stick to them. Whether you’re going to the grocery store or the shopping mall, write down what you need ahead of time so you don’t end up buying everything you want. There’s a big difference between the two.
- Borrow less. If you’re funding your education with student loans, remember the following mantra: every dollar you don’t spend is a dollar you don’t have to borrow. In light of that, only borrow for necessities like tuition and textbooks instead of borrowing money for extras like a new computer (when an old one will do) or a spring break vacation.
Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy you an education. And a house. And a really nice vacation. That’s why we think spending less and saving more throughout college is an integral part of doing life the right way: affordably. However, when high college costs and poor financial planning combine, money becomes a barrier between students and their future–a barrier we’re committed to busting down. Thankfully SimpleTuition can help you:
SimpleTuition’s award-winning student loan comparison tool often saves students like you–and their families–several thousand dollars per year in borrowing costs by displaying the cost differences among private lenders. We reveal the nitty-gritty so you don’t have to sift through the fine print all on your own. SimpleTuition can also help you evaluate the costs and benefits of consolidating your student debt, saving you even more.
- Typical savings: as much as $5,000 per year (or more)
- For all you graduating seniors out there, or post-grads who still have mountains of student check, check out PayBackSmarter, a free-to-use website that helps you harness the power of interest to pay your loans back faster. Learn about payment plans, consolidation, and the power of extra payments to get out of debt and on with life.
These are estimates. We are confident in our ability to help you save at these levels, but individual experiences will vary. And if a penny saved is a penny earned, what does that mean about the value of a dollar? Simple. Every one you don’t have to borrow is one you don’t have to pay back later with interest.
While most scholarships are based on academic merit and well-written personal statements, some reward students for more…non-traditional qualities or skills. Like being able to design a tuxedo out of duct tape. Check out that and more crazy scholarships below:
- The Duck Tape® Stuck at Prom Contest: Their website describes this contest plainly enough: “The Stuck at Prom® Scholarship Contest challenges students to create and accessorize their prom outfits with duct tape, then wear them to prom for a chance to win scholarship cash prizes.” At least you won’t have to wear a proper tuxedo or spend hundreds of dollars on a dress you’ll only wear once.
- The Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest: High School seniors may compete for college scholarships totaling $4,250. What do they have to do? You guessed it: impersonate a duck.
- Klingon Language Institute: The Kor Memorial Scholarship: According to their website: “The purpose of the Kor Memorial Scholarship is to recognize and encourage scholarship in fields of language study. Familiarity with Klingon or other constructed languages is not required, however creative and innovative applicants are preferred.” You’ll probably have better luck if you’re a Star Trek fan, too.
- Tall Clubs International Scholarship for Tall People: While being tall can make it uncomfortable to sit in economy class on crowded airplanes, it will also help you qualify for a $1000 scholarship. Women who are 5’10” or taller, and men who are at least 6’2″, and are both under 21 and attending their first year of college can apply.
- Collegiate Inventors Competition: Invent something cool? Win up to $25,000 for college. This isn’t about grades. It’s about turning good ideas into brilliant products.
It’s early August and, even though the beach isn’t ready to let you go just yet, stores have started their back-to-school sales. In order to snag the best deals, and make sure you get everything you need, start shopping early and follow these tips for smart spending:
- Make a list before you hit the stores. No matter how strong your willpower, it’s easy to get drawn into impulsive buys. Writing out everything you need first will help you cut back on unnecessary spending.
- Get in touch with your roommate. No one needs two refrigerators or an extra microwave. Shoot your roommate a text or Facebook message so you can establish who’s bringing what.
- Take taxes into account. Tax rates range depending on the city. If you’re traveling across the country for college, research if taxes are higher at school than at home and plan your shopping trip accordingly.
- Know your budget. And stick to it! No matter how good you look with that new backpack, over-spending is an ugly habit and a dangerous way to start the semester.
- Use your student loans to pay for tuition first. If you don’t pay your tuition bill, you won’t have any classes to back-to-school shop for. And, while student loans can help cover expenses like textbooks, and even a laptop, they’re not really meant for that new Marc Jacobs tote.
Stick to these tips and you’ll look as stylish as you are spending-savvy.
Check out this infographic from Socrato on back-to-school shopping:
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education’s new College Affordability and Transparency Center, you now have access to all the information the costly schools didn’t want you to know: who has the priciest tuition, who has the highest net cost, and which schools are increasing their tuition rates the fastest. Although we’re glad someone finally consolidated all this information, after realizing how much some people pay for school we felt a bit like this guy:
However, the website also helps you identify the least expensive schools in the country, which will hopefully smooth some of those ruffled feathers. What we got out of browsing the site: confirmation that a lot of schools are beyond expensive and they’re only getting more so, but deals still exist. And thanks to the Department of Education, you can find them.