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Can you believe the average cost of a bachelor’s degree across the United States is almost five figures?

Kicker: That is only if you are a resident of the state.  Considering a degree from the prestigious Harvard University?  That will cost you over $45,000 each year.  That does not even include a place to sleep or food to eat.

College prices continue to trend upward and show no sign of slowing.

What is even more painful is that many students are unable to finish their degree in four years due to changing majors, retaking classes, not planning semesters properly, and other unforeseeable issues.

So is it even worth it?

As somebody who went to college, I can without a doubt say that it has made certain aspects of my life easier.  In fact, my current position requires a bachelor’s degree.

That is not to say that you cannot be successful without a degree.  Many young adults are choosing the route of technical degrees, certifications, and apprenticeships as their preparation to starting their careers.

However, there’s something to be said about opening up options to yourself in life.  I have the job I have now because of my investment in my education.  I have the many professional contacts that I have now because of my involvement in extracurricular activities.  I have developed my problem solving and time management skills way beyond their initial level because of my determination to finish my degree.  All of these experiences open up available paths for me to take that I would not have had if not for my education.  Heck! I would not have met Mrs. Millenniaire if not for college!

The challenge then is how can you ease the burden of the colossal costs of college?  Here are a few of the things Mrs. Millenniaire and I did to get through without either of us owing a dime!

           Talk to your family

First off, I don’t want you to think that I got through my college experience without help.  My parents played an enormous role in the completion of my degree.  Without their help financially and emotionally, I would not have been able to do it.

If your parents are not in a position to help, reach out to extended family to see if they are able and willing to help.  Don’t be offended if nobody can help, but don’t be afraid to better yourself, even if it means asking for help.

            Look for scholarships

Outside of applying for the FAFSA, which every single person should fill out, there are literally millions of different scholarships available to students.  Check with your local businesses, churches, and social groups to see if they have any scholarship funds for local residents.

You may have heard other people say, “Don’t waste your time filling out the FAFSA… You need to basically be at poverty levels to get any help.”  This is simply not true.  Even if you don’t qualify for financial aid through the FAFSA, many financial aid offices will not even consider you in the event of a financial hardship during your education if you don’t have one on file.

Establish your budget

I preach about having a budget in just about every single article on this site.  Why?  Because it is the single most important step in understanding your financial situation.  There are even tools like Personal Capital that make this even easier.  Simply connect your checking account to the app and it helps you track your income and expenses each month FREE.

Budgeting properly is even more important while you’re going to school for the simple fact that you may or may not have income during this time.  Making sure every dollar has a spot and purposefully spending will put you ahead of the curve come graduation time.

            Ask for student discounts & use coupons

Mrs. Millenniare is the queen of discounts.  On top of using coupons for about 60% of all of her purchases, she is consistently seeking ways to save money on her everyday purchases.  If you’re living in a college town, there are likely student discounts that a lot of restaurants and businesses will offer to build business.

The important thing to do is to ASK.  Many times, students don’t realize that student discounts even exist and they end up paying full price.  Gyms, movie theatres, restaurants, and even grocery stores are common places where student discounts exist.  This doesn’t stop at brick and mortar shops either.  Many online retailers have student discounts even though it isn’t completely obvious from their front page (LOOKING AT YOU SPOTIFY!).  Best suggestion would be to do a search in Google for anything that you’re looking to buy and add “+ student discount” to the end of the search.

            Look for on campus jobs

“But… Mr. Millenniaire… I have my whole life to work.  College is my last chance to relax and just focus on school!”  I get it!  I’m not saying work harder, just smarter!   If you’re going to be studying anyway, why not find a job tutoring or working in a library?  Often times, you can find on campus jobs that allow you to study in the downtime of the job.

My absolute favorite on campus job is a Residential Assistant.  Not only is this where Mrs. Millenniaire and I met, but this also paid for about 50% of my college costs.  Additionally, it gave me dedicated study time when I had to have in office hours, introduced me to a ton of people, and provided me with lots of extra benefits.  Even better, some colleges will offer a cash stipend in addition to paying for your room and board.  There are some time commitments, but in my opinion there is no better way to offset the costs of college than to be an RA.

Other campus jobs include working in the library, serving other students in the cafeteria, or assisting as a Teaching Assistant.  If the school itself doesn’t have any positions available, consider tutoring or finding an off campus part-time job at a local restaurant or retail store.

            Buy used text books

The markup on books is ridiculous.  Buying used from your campus bookstore or from Amazon can save you a lot of money throughout your college experience.  You can also resell your books either on Amazon, the campus bookstore, or other marketplaces (like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and OfferUp).

           Plan your meals properly

Eating healthy in college is extremely difficult sometimes, especially considering the hours that many college students keep.  Planning your meals out early will not only help you stay on track for a healthier diet, but can also help you save money.  Print out your cafeteria hours and maximize your use of any meal plan that you pay for.   Your cafeteria may also allow you to take food to go.  Stock up on what you’re allowed to take for those times that you don’t make it during normal hours.

           Use campus benefits

One of the best parts about college is all of the events and amenities that are available to you.  If you take a moment to look at your bursar, you’ll likely see that you are paying for services that you may not even know are available.  At my campus, there was an onsite medical staff that would see students for minor illnesses rather than paying normal doctor office visit fees.  This can save you a TON of money during your time on campus.

You may also have athletic centers, libraries, computer labs, activity centers, concert halls, museums, and other campus amenities available to you.  Being active on campus is a great way to find out about the different features available to you.

Enjoy your time – It goes quick!

Making the most of your college experience without breaking the bank is something a lot of times people wish they would have done better when looking back.  Start with this list of ways to maximize your benefits and saving your money and you’ll be on the right track.

Do you have any other ideas for saving money during college?  Be sure to share with us on Twitter or Facebook so others can benefit!

Until next time,