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Cutting College Costs | Saving Tips | July 2012

Cutting College Costs One Dollar at a Time

By Dean Tsouvalas | Editor-in-Chief,

Everywhere we go we hear it loud and clear: “college is expensive.” We agree.  However, there are dozens of ways to shave college costs - as long as you are willing to be flexible. Below are StudentAdvisor’s favorite tips to keep your lifestyle affordable while in college.


The College Board reports the average cost for books and supplies for the 2011–2012 school year was about $1200.  Buying a new text book should be a last resort. How do you reduce this?

  • Share textbook with friends
  • Research textbook online – Just shopping for textbooks online can help you save on average over 40%. 
  • Rent a textbook, through your school or a textbook rental website. You’ll pay about half the listing price of a new textbook; most sites offer free delivery. The rental fee depends on the length of your rental (so summer-school students will pay less than students studying for a quarter or semester). When your rental period is up, you simply return your books on their dime. You can’t write in the textbook but you can usually highlight. Make sure your rental’s due date is after your finals. Otherwise, if you miss your deadline, you will automatically charge you a 15-day extension fee.
  • Buy used, maintain the book in good condition, and sell it back when you’re done. This is risky because the bookstore may not need the book the following semester, but the most cost-effective.

Dorm Room:

Many college students spend most of their money preparing and decorating their dorm room. Take this advice for keeping your dorm room costs low!

  • Make sure to contact your roommate and make a list of what each of you should bring. If you don’t, you may waste money buying the same things.
  • Contact your school about their rental services. A lot of the time you can rent anything including TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, and even storage shelving units and bed risers for the year
  • Buy a coffee maker if you’re a daily coffee drinker – over the course of 4 years it can save you over $2000 of spending at coffee shops.
  • Don’t buy a printer and print everything in the library.  Most schools have free printing or charge a very low fee.  Printers can be cheap, but buying ink and paper is expensive. Additionally, most assignments are now submitted electronically via email.


College is a big change: suddenly you have to buy all of your own food! Be smart and spend wisely when buying groceries and spending at restaurants.

  • Freshman and sophomore students should definitely take advantage of the dining plans, as it's the best place to socialize and meet people. Junior and senior year, the dining plan may not be as necessary.
  • Also, bring bottles to the dining hall to bring milk and water back up to your room.
  • “Home brew” your own soda or, if of age, home brew your own beer
  • Ask every store if they have a student discount- most locations near colleges will!


Working a full-time job while being a student is pretty difficult. Take advantage of these other ways to make money during college.

  • Get an on-campus job, like book store, research assistant or school restaurant. 
  • Become an RA, which helps lower the cost of room and board. The more years you are an RA the more room and board can go down.
  • One-time on-campus jobs are great – take advantage of them! My niece at Boston University helped clean up the hockey arena after a game and made $70. Other options include event staff for big occasions or painting dorms over the summer. Our Art Director at StudentAdvisor earned her room and board at Endicott College by joining the summer paint crew.
  • Sell your hobby: Paint nails or do hair in your dorm and charge a few dollars. Try graphic design for student events, tutoring, playing music on campus, or babysitting professors’ kids.
  • Take advantage of psychology experiments that need students. Your school website usually has a link on available jobs or volunteering gigs that don’t require long commitments. Recently, my niece went for two hours and answered questions for a grad student’s experiment. She made $100. Perfect for a busy college student.

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