How to Tame College Costs - Not Just Tuition

Tame College Costs

By Anna Prior
03/04/2015
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Emilee Wuebben talks with students at the University of Texas at Austin about saving money in college.

Logan Abrams is the author of "Debt U: How Higher Education Breeds a Lifestyle of Debt."

BE POOR! No seriously….be poor. College was long regarded as a time for new experiences, good times, and little extravagance. Yet over the past 15 years most college students have elevated their lifestyle to that of equal or higher standards than they had while living at home. It’s simple - the easiest way to cut college costs is to revert back to the way college life was supposed to be.

College is the best opportunity you will have in your adult life to be poor and really enjoy it. In Debt U I discuss the debt my generation faces. While a large part of that debt is the rise in tuition costs, an alarming increase has come from the spending habits of my young adult peers.

Turning cheap into the new college chic is more fun than it sounds. Here are several ways college students can substantially reduce their spending and debt:

-Live off campus in the cheapest house with as many people as possible. After freshman year there shouldn’t be any excuse besides being a RA for living on campus. Off campus housing can be 30-40% cheaper when you add the cost savings gained by splitting utilities and essentials with roommates. Finding the biggest cheapest place can be a great experience. Decorate how you wish, throw parties, and meet friends you will have for life, all for much less than dealing with dorm room showering and fire alarms at 4:00 a.m. Save even more by sharing everything with your roommates, from milk to toilet paper to beer to textbooks.

-Take advantage of free lunches. Go home once a month, or even better, go home with a friend, just for the free meals. Most friends’ parents would be more than happy to have you for the weekend and will usually spoil you with great cooking and perhaps a meal out. It’s worth the drive.

-Only drink and eat the specials. Do some quick research to see which bars/restaurants have the best food/drink specials and only go there. Then, ONLY drink what’s on special. Like nickel pitcher night, dollar beer, dirt cheap rail drinks, two for one specials etc. Turn a normal $30-$50 bar tab into 10 bucks. For a cheap date, look for ½ price appetizers and make a tapas night out of it.

-Bike it. Cars are expensive, gas only goes up, insurance companies legally discriminate based on age, and parking can be expensive. So grab your ten speed and head to campus. You will be surprised by the benefits, such as parking ten feet from the door, cruising with friends, and not having to drive anyone else anywhere. Plus you’re saving the planet!

So be poor and love it. It’s a lot of fun, just ask your parents about when they went to college. I know it is hard to believe, but they had as much, if not more fun, than college students do today. Do anything for a free t-shirt, give blood for a piece of pizza, and live like The “cheap” Real World. You will be in a much better financial position after graduation and for the start of your adult life than you would ever believe.

You can read more from Logan Abrams in his book Debt U: How Higher Education Breeds a Lifestyle of Debt.

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