Does college seem like it may financially be impossible to do? You’re not alone. Many forgo the idea of higher education because of the price tag. Some universities may go upwards into the high double digits per year for tuition alone.

Even if tuition is taken care of with grants, scholarships or student loans, everything else may seem overwhelming. As someone with two college degrees myself, I know firsthand how it adds up. One of the greatest financial lessons you can practice while in college is to get creative and be prepared. Our actionable advice below can help you do just that. Read on for tips on how not to be a broke college student.


Dependent on where you attend school, consider your options to ensure you are taking care of one of the bigger financial costs you may have – housing. If you are attending a local university or community college, does it make sense for you to live on campus?

There are plenty of options to have still a traditional college experience that does not include paying to live in a dorm room. Living at home with mom and dad may seem lame, but if this option is available, you could save a few thousand dollars per semester.

If you are moving out of state to attend school, living at home is probably not an option, so consider if it’s cheaper to live on campus or off. Some schools have a strict policy about letting you live off campus if you are a freshman. The first year of college is hard, and you may find resources better equipped to help serve you on campus, especially if you’ve never lived on your own before.

students near campusSuch resources include access to health care, a residential advisor to help assist you with any issues with roommates and counseling if you experience a mental health issue. You will also have additional benefits, such as access to a dining hall and not having to worry about transportation to and from class.

Living off campus may be cheaper, but there may be more responsibilities tied to it that you are not ready for, such as living alone or with a stranger. You will also have to worry about utilities, food and getting to and from class every day. Living on your own, while is an excellent experience, may be too stressful for someone just starting out. There will be plenty of time to live by yourself so try to see the right option for you.

>> READ: Lifestyle Inflation – How It Happens and How to Stop It


If you get anything out of this article, let it be this: Do not buy brand new textbooks unless you have to. Textbooks are expensive and quickly add up. Think about it. You are taking at least four classes a semester. Each class has a brand new textbook that ranges anywhere from $50 to $120. And this is at a local community college level. Some universities have textbooks that are upwards of $200 a pop. No thank you! Examine the following alternatives:

  • Amazon. You can buy anything in the world on Amazon, and that includes textbooks also. When you receive the syllabus for your class, the book’s title and the UPC should be listed. UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is the same with every copy of the textbook that is the same edition. If you do not have the syllabus, go to the campus bookstore and copy it from there. Textbooks have various publications, so it is important to type in the UPC when searching for a textbook on Amazon. Usually it takes time for shipping so make sure to order your book early on.
  • Local library. My freshman year of college I thought I heard a blogger lie online. The blogger said that they were able to check out copies of their textbooks through the library. As a library advocate, I had to see myself if it was true and it was. The only problem for me was that not all copies were up to date with what the classes themselves were requesting. The local library may be an option for you so don’t forget to check it out and then just consistently renew.
  • Craigslist or other online forums. No one likes keeping their textbooks. They collect dust, take up space and remind you of money you couldn’t spend on other things, like pizza. Because of this, people often sell their textbooks at the end of the semester. People may not prefer to sell on Amazon for a variety of reasons, so when selling, they will list textbooks on websites such as Craigslist or Facebook. Craigslist and Facebook both allow you to buy and sell locally so if you find a seller, make sure you are meeting in a public well-lit place with the exact amount of cash in hand. Do not expect them to have change. And always make sure you see the item before you give them the money.
  • College bookstore. If all else fails and you have to go to the college bookstore, do not buy a new copy! Look for a used one or consider renting a textbook. You specifically have to return a book by a due date but renting a book is still cheaper than buying one.

>> READ: How to Actually Slash Your Spendings and Save Money


If you aren’t able to live on campus, you will have to make sure you have adequate transportation to and from school. Depending on where you are attending class, you may have a variety of options to consider for transportation. Along with housing, this may be one of the bigger expenses you have.

student with bicycleWhen parking at school, weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a parking pass. Parking passes may be a flat rate for the semester or academic year, and may also vary in price depending on where it is on campus.

At Arizona State University, a parking pass didn’t seem feasible to me since I only attended one class there in person and the cheapest pass was over $400. Instead, I chose to get to campus early and pre pay for a parking spot. Yes, I did have to do a little extra work with arriving early and walking across campus, but I ended up only spending a hundred dollars.

Another option you may be able to utilize is public transportation. Consider a monthly bus pass if it is cheaper to buy in bulk or to ride the train in if it saves you the high cost of parking your car. Besides parking, cars do cost money to maintain so you may be saving extra when you factor in maintenance costs and gas. If you live close, get some exercise and walk or bike.

>> READ: How to Save Money without Eating Ramen

Credit cards  

Financial institutions know this is an exciting time in your life and you may be building credit for the first time. It may be hard to apply for a traditional credit card, but some lenders have specific ones that are for students attending college. Credit cards are an excellent way to start building your credit, which is going to be essential for starting your adult life.

Consider a student credit card that has a lower income requirement and a lower APR. Student credit cards may also have additional benefits such as cash back, earning points when you travel for a break from school or options to get discounts to different stores.

Students with credit cardsIf you are having trouble applying for a credit card, consider a secured one instead to aid you on your financial journey. Secured credit cards require a deposit that to be used as your credit limit. If you can pay it off and on time during a trial period, usually a year, you are eligible to have your deposit returned.

Secured credit cards are a great alternative to getting your credit started off on the right foot if you do not qualify for the others previously listed above. This cards could also help you stay on track with your financial goals.

>> READ: Top Credit Cards for Students

The bottom line

Like most, college may be your first time away from home and out on your own. It can be expensive and stressful. As a matter of fact, not everyone who attends college is successful. But by studying hard, attending class and following our advice, you can be. When that college diploma is in your hand the possibilities and your earning potential are endless.

College is expensive, but college life doesn’t have to be. Be open minded and decide what tips we have suggested can work for you. After graduation, your finances will change, but utilizing frugality doesn’t have to.