5 Ways to Survive College on a Low Budget

Growing up, I always wanted to go to college. It has been a vital part of every plan that I came up with, even if at times I didn't exactly have a plan. But I was always afraid that I wouldn't be able to afford it. Even with financial aid, costs of going to college and living on your own are high. So, to help make the idea of going to college a bit easier, I've gathered a list of things to do to save money. 

1. Apply for financial aid immediately. 

The minute you find out that you've been accepted into college, you must apply for financial aid. Unless you can afford college on your own, filling out the FAFSA will make things so much easier. Financial aid that is given to you ranges from scholarships and grants to unsubsidized loans, so when accepting each type, make sure you know what you're accepting and whether or not you will need to pay the money back eventually. 

2. If you plan to live on campus, skip out on the meal plan. 

At many universities, meal plans are mandatory for students living on campus for the first time. After your first year, you then can choose whether or not you want it. With the financial aid given to me, I decided to opt out of it because a.) the food is not worth the money, and b.) the dorms on campus provide kitchens. So instead of wasting money on food you don't want to eat, just buy your own food. (Unless you like the cafeteria food of course). 

Now, you don't have to sink to the level of ramen noodles every day. Yes, they are cheap, but so are vegetables and a 10lbs of chicken. Although cooking the same meals every day might become bland, it's just something you have to do. Eateries on campus cost a fortune, so if you're going to buy food, buy food that is cheap and is going to last. 

3. Don't buy your books from the bookstore (unless you absolutely have to). 

The bookstores on campus are just places to avoid. You can find the same texbooks for the right classes on Amazon, Chegg, and/or other textbook sellers for a more affordable price. Our library even has a textbook reserve program in which you can rent a textbook for 2 hours, so that there is no need to even buy one. However, if you must buy the textbook, then try renting it instead of buying it, and if you have to purchase it, then try to get used. These options are so much cheaper than buying a brand new textbook at the campus bookstore. 

4. You don't need a car if you plan on living on campus.

This tip is hard — really hard to follow through on. I don't have a car. And because I don't have a car, I don't pay for insurance, gas, or a parking permit. And it saves so much money. The downside to this is that it's really hard to get around, espeically if you don't live in a place that has a lot of public transit. But if you do, then use it. And if walking is an issue, then just get a bike. Like I said, it saves so much money. 

5. Work on campus. 

There are a multitude of opportunities to work on campus. You can be tour guide, work in the library, work at any of the on-campus eateries. All you have to do is go on the campus's website for job opportunites as a student, and you could be surprised by what you find. It's convenient because you come for class anyway, so it saves money on gas. 

Don't spend money when you don't have to, keep a budget, and make sure you know where your money is going. 

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