Back to College on a Budget

Sending kids in primary school back to school can cost some money buying clothes and notebooks, but nothing has the ability to break the bank quite like sending a kid off to college.

Is it even possible to send a kid to college on a budget?  Yes, but it might be a large budget. The key here is going to be pre-planning.  If you haven’t already planned and you have a kid going this year, it may be a bit of a stretch, but all is not lost.  Some planning is better than no planning.

There is a bit of a difference between a first year student and a returning student.  The first year there will be the expense of furnishing a dorm room or apartment, but the rest of these expenses will likely recur year after year.  

The Basics:

Books – I found this great article that offers suggestions for several different ways to save money on books.  The key here, unless you find a great deal on a used copy, is that it pays to wait until after class starts to find out for sure if you really need the book.

Transportation – This is different in every case, but what remains the same is this – do your research.  If your student has a car, are there parking fees? Certain places where they will get towed?  If they don’t have a car, are they using public transportation? What is the cheapest way to buy a pass?  If they are using ride-share, have them use Lyft instead of Uber. Why? By launching the Lyft app through the Rakuten app, there is a $20 rebate for first time users and $.25 per ride for every ride after.  

Dorm or Apartment furnishings – Shop on Facebook marketplace first, and if that fails, use a rebate app.  My favorite right now that seems to have the highest rebate percentage is TopCashBack.  This is a website – you create an account, then search for the stores where you want to shop.  If there is a rebate available, it takes you to that retailer’s website and you shop as normal, with one exception: When you are done you get a cash back rebate on whatever you purchased. A quick check shows me they currently have cash back offers at Target, WalMart, and Amazon, among hundreds of others.  You do have to shop online, but you can shop online then pick up in the store if you prefer.

Medical care – Make sure you student knows what to do and where to go when they get sick.  I hear the college freshman year can be similar to kindergarten with the number of colds and flu.  Send your student with a stockpile of basic medicines.

Specialty equipment – I’ve got a nephew who went to college to be a pilot.  He had to buy special flight equipment for some of his classes.  If your student is pursuing a specialized degree, find out if there will be additional recurring expenses so you can plan for it.

This is in no way a comprehensive list, but it is a good start.  The basic premise is do your research and be as prepared as possible.  And you know what? There is no reason why you have to foot this bill on your own.  Want your student to have a flexible side hustle? Sign them up for my list of favorite side hustles and they’ll get budget tips emailed to them from me as a bonus!  Sign them up right here.  

Have other great tricks for saving money on college expenses?  Let’s hear them!

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