Frugal college living: Readers' best tips

Budgeting for college living can be a challenge, especially the first year. Here are readers' best tips for sending your freshman off to college prepared – without breaking the bank. 

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File
Prospective students tour Georgetown University's campus in Washington last month. Simple Dollar readers recommend sticking to a daily food budget and skipping the dryer when doing laundry as a few ways to cut down on the costs of college living.

As a freshman in college, you’re never quite sure exactly how much of everything you’re going to need to get through that first year away from home. As we’ve said many times, shopping for our kids without a strategy in mind is a surefire way to break the bank. And while college students can be notoriously careless when it comes to managing budgets and student credit lines, most of the overspending (and the overpacking) that takes place that first semester can be blamed on parents.

We mean well! We just want to fully prepare our kids for the rigors and challenges of college life that lay ahead. But even in the name of preparedness, there is no need to go overboard dropping hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on stylish dorm accessories, brand new textbooks or deluxe meal plans. Remember: you aren’t sending them to Mars. There will be grocery stores, office supply stores, secondhand shops (and yes, probably even a Bed Bath & Beyond) somewhere near campus. If you forgot something and they really need it, they’ll go out and get it.

That said, surviving as a college student (or their tapped-out parent) is going to take some creative budgeting. That’s why we thought we’d ask our readers for their very best frugal student living tips for this week’s Reader Tip Tuesday discussion on our Facebook page. As usual, Simple Dollar readers had plenty of great new tips to share.

Here are some of our favorite responses with minor edits!

  • “Know that all your transactions made as credit do NOT show up immediately in your online checking. Keep a check register and KNOW YOUR BALANCE. Don’t rely on checking the balance online. Or you’ll end up calling your parents all frantic about overdraft fees. Or so I’ve heard.” -Jan M.
  • “Live at home, eat vegetarian, go to a state school in your own state (or live in Canada where the tuition fees are affordable). And don’t waste time in college. Get your degree fast–each extra term is wasted in tuition and not earning a living.” –Anne Caroline D.
  • “Use a drying rack for your laundry. Oh, and don’t launder it if it isn’t dirty.” –Denise H.
  • “Make as much of your own food as possible, but know your limits. If you never have time to make “real” food, then stock up on the cheap-but-healthier options like canned soup or chili. And make sure you always have a Pyrex measuring cup. Try to keep your daily food budget at about $5, which is enough for plenty of food that is fast and easy. If you can do lower because you have time to cook, that’s even better, but $5 is perfectly reasonable for even the most time-pressed of people.” –Amanda A.
  • “Take your education seriously! You are not there for the experience or the social life, but to learn and get a degree. Failing and retaking classes, dropping classes too late, taking classes that don’t fulfill the credits you need, missing out on scholarships because of a low GPA, or dropping out and not graduating are all very costly. Also, try to test of your general education classes or take them at a community college.” -Amy J.

A huge thank you for the readers that shared their ideas! Every Tuesday we’ll post a new question on our Facebook page.  We look forward to hearing and sharing your tips.

The post Reader Tip Tuesday #6 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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