Starting college is an exciting and sometimes daunting experience for new students and their parents. One of the many factors students have to consider during that important first year is how to maintain a viable budget. Whether the family has saved for college or has taken out student loans, every dollar counts! If your son or daughter is heading to college soon, there are several ways you can help them save money and set them on the right path to managing their budget on their own. Check out these 4 ways to save money during the first year of college so that you don’t break the bank!
1. Shop Conservatively for the Dorm Room
While your new college student might get excited about dorm room décor they see on Pinterest or in store ads, you might want to remind them that as a freshman, he or she will not have a private room and may even be sharing one with two other people. As a result, personal space will be quite limited and will not be able to accommodate a lot of furniture or appliances. Limit dorm supplies to a few sets of bedsheets, some desk supplies, and a few small decorative items to save money and space during your freshman’s first year.
2. Review Meal Plans
Most large colleges offer incoming freshmen a meal plan where they can pay for their meals on a monthly basis or use a debit card that you can reload when necessary. While a meal plan may sound like a viable way to save money, the savings are contingent on how often your child actually eats in the school cafeteria.
Many students find that they are on the go much more than they anticipated and do not have time to visit the cafeteria. Review your coed’s schedule and project the cost of a meal plan versus giving him or her a monthly food allotment on a pre-paid debit card. If your student’s schedule is packed with classes and activities, a debit card may be the better option. I know for me, I wasted a small fortune on meal plans when I was a freshman. You think you’ll go to the cafeteria 17 times a week and only end up going 3 – doh!
3. Encourage Carpooling
Many larger colleges have every convenience within walking distance, so there is little need for the added expense of a car. If your student does decide to bring there car, there are still ways to save. If your freshman is taking his or her own car to college, you might want to encourage carpooling. Not only will this help save money on gas, it may also qualify your young driver for a few discounts, depending on who your insurance carrier is. Just as a random example, if your freshman is attending college in Colorado, check with your Denver auto insurance representative. You can ask if your child can qualify for a low mileage discount if they drive less often or if they will need any kind of additional insurance if they drive others around campus on a daily basis.
4. Minimize Student Loan Debt Early
One of the most common causes of student debt is the accumulation of student loans. While you may not be able to avoid taking advantage of them in order to pay for tuition, it is important to use them wisely and only borrow what you need. While a monetary windfall each year might be fun for your freshman, student loan debt can mount up quickly and turn into a big problem once graduation has come and gone!
4 Ways to Save Money During the First Year of College – Final Thoughts
Planning ahead, careful budgeting, and knowing exactly what your co-ed will require for his or her first year of college can help you avoid wasting money and financial stress. The sooner he or she learns how to maintain a budget, the more it will benefit your child in the long term.