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Is Your Teenager Starting College?
10 Tips to Cut Back Costs Big Time



Paying for college tuition is one of the biggest expenses that many parents encounter. About 56 percent of students attend four-year colleges or universities that charge tuition and fees of $9,000 a year or less, 38 percent attend institutions that charge between $3,000 and $6,000 in tuition and fees, and about 9 percent attend colleges with fees totaling $33,000 or more per year.


While 56% of students attend four-year colleges or universities that charge tuition of less than $9,000 a year, 9 percent attend colleges with tuition of $33,000 or more a year.

And this year, despite the economy, many families are footing the bill for their child’s education. A survey conducted by the Gallup organization for Sallie Mae (the largest U.S. student loan provider) found that 58 percent of families paid for college for the 2008-2009 school year without loans.

This is a large expense to come out of your income and savings … and as any parent of a college student already knows, the costs do not end there. There will still be money needed for books, living expenses, food, and supplies that go far beyond notebooks and pencils.

Your teenager may also be out on his or her own for the first time, and may require a mini-apartments’ worth of “stuff” ranging from dishware and toiletries to bedding and a computer.

This can get quite expensive, and considering many parents have already dished out plenty of money on tuition, it’s time you learned some tips that can actually help you keep some of your money in your pocket.

Of course, these tips also apply to any of you college students who are footing the bill on your own!

  1. college student books

    Families of college students will spend over $600 on back-to-college spending in 2009, according to the National Retail Federation.

    Communicate with your roommate. Since many college freshmen share a dorm room, be sure you contact yours ahead of time, make a list of shared items you will need and work out who will bring what.

  1. Figure out what you need, then cut your list down by at least 20%. Remember, most dorm rooms are small and you probably don’t need as much as you think you do.

  1. Find out your college rules. Some schools do not allow coffee makers, toasters, candles or other potentially flammable objects, so find out ahead of time what you can and can’t bring.

  1. Look for used items. For the items you will want or need (a mini fridge, computer, lamps, etc.) ask friends or family if they have old items to donate to you. Also check out Web sites like Craigslist and Freecycle, and ask the college whether they have appliances that can be rented or purchased for a low cost.

  1. Save money on a computer. Owning a computer is no longer a luxury for college students. If you don’t have an old laptop you can “donate” to your child, check computer manufacturer web sites for student discounts (many are available). Computer costs can often also be added to financial aid, or you may be able to find a decent refurbished computer on Ebay.

  1. college student

    Be creative in dressing up your dorm room without breaking the bank. For instance, an inexpensive, brightly colored sheet can dress up an old easy chair.

    Buy used textbooks. There’s no need to pay more for shiny new versions. You can find used books at your college bookstore or online at sites like, and At you can even rent textbooks for the semester, but you’ll have to comparison shop to find out if it’s less expensive than buying.

Also resist the urge to buy books before the class begins, as some professors may change the book or take one or two off the syllabus.

  1. Shop discount stores for items you need new. Bedding, picture frames, throw pillows and the like can all be found for less if you shop smart during back-to-school sales going on now.

    student books

    Be creative in dressing up your dorm room without breaking the bank. For instance, an inexpensive, brightly colored sheet can dress up an old easy chair.

  2. Leave the car at home. Most college freshmen do not need a car. When one is necessary, most colleges have ride-sharing boards to carpool or if you already have a bicycle, bring it with you to school and use it.

  3. Consider making some meals on your own. College meal plans can be expensive, and although most freshmen will want to get some of their meals at the cafeteria or café, you may be able to get by with a smaller, lower cost meal plan. Most dorms have kitchens available for students to use, and you may be able to plan several meals a week together with some of your dorm-room buddies. You can also keep inexpensive, healthy snacks in your room in a mini-fridge.

College meals are often not thought of as tasting good, healthy, or nutritious ... especially if it’s fast food.

Here's a unique “fast food” book with tasty good food in 5 minutes: Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes. It's a quick inexpensive guide on how to buy and throw together delicious healthy meals in 5 minutes to keep up that much-needed stamina.

  1. Avoid the campus store. Campus bookstores are like the convenience shops in most airports and hotel lobbies -- they’re incredibly expensive. You’ll save money by buying pens, notebooks, toiletries and other living essentials off campus.

While the start of college may put a strain on your finances, remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The College Board points out that people with a bachelor’s degree earn over 60 percent more than those with only a high school diploma … which adds up to more than $800,000 over the course of a lifetime.

Recommended Reading

Nine Low-Cost Colleges and Universities in an Age of Sky-High Tuitions

$120,000 for a Diploma! Why IS College So Darned Expensive and What Can You Do About It?

Sources August 24, 2009

The College Board August 24, 2009 July 16, 2009

National Retail Federation

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