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Unexpected ways to save a little money in college ?


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#1 teachermom2834

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 08:14 AM

My ds is a sophomore at a small private school. We have found a few ways to save some money on campus that some families might not even be aware of:

1)cheaper dorm- this one was huge for my ds. The typical "freshman dorm" that is shown on the tours and cost used to calucate COA and FA offers is not the least expensive dorm on campus. There is actually a small, older dorm that is available. If you look carefully through the housing options it is there but if you just requested the standard dorm you saw on the tour you would be paying so much more. The difference is $6000!!! It is the smallest room on campus and has a common hall bathroom instead of suite style but not $6000 worth of smaller. This has been an easy one for ds. None of the dorms are that nice. Definitely not worth that much extra.

2)incentives for on time payment- this school offers a bookstore gift card for on time full payment. The earlier you pay the larger the gift card. Ds has gotten $200 gift cards for early payment. He can buy his books cheaper elsewhere but can use the bookstore gift card to buy a VISA gift card.

3)used books- of course we all know to shop around on books but at this school the kids sell amongst themselves through the school app. Students sell cheap. There seems to be a spirit of trying to help each other out while making $20 rather than charging market value. Ds is good about getting on the app early before classes start and has scored some good deals. He pays it forward by selling cheap too. (Most of the kids probably had their parents buy the books so aren't thinking of market value)

4)sample dorm room- there is a gift card offered (bookstore or maybe campus Starbucks?) for allowing access to your dorm room on tours. The ones we toured were not particularly clean so it didn't look like a hard way to make money for some students. It is a small school so I doubt tours would be constant.

Ds also tries to hit any function offering free food. LOL. He has an unlimited meal plan but he grabs a water bottle and snacks at any functions with giveaways and has a stash in his room.

My ds has been paying his way with hard earned cash from summer jobs and is definitely on the thrifty side. I suspect there are families that are not even aware of some of these ways to make a little cash. It's not a ton of money (except the dorm) but for my kid and our family the savings really help.

Any ways you have found to save a few bucks in college or access a few perks?

Oh- one more that isn't widely applicable. My ds is a D3 athlete so he does not have athletic scholarship money but the access to healthcare he has from the team staff has been valuable. He had a pretty hard fall down a flight of stairs resulting in a severe ankle sprain. He's had that managed by the team staff and gets treatment a couple times a day, OTC medications, a boot, crutches, etc. That has been a benefit as well. He gets fed and clothed by the team to some degree too. Not enough to compensate for the hours he dedicates but a few perks even for the non-scholarship athlete.
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#2 elegantlion

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 08:33 AM

If you're a coffee drinker, either buy coffee bags and/or carry a refillable mug. Hot water is free if you have your own mug and tea/coffee bag. I paid $10 for 36 bags. At $1.18 per refill that's a significant savings. Even by bringing the mug and buying coffee, I save nearly a dollar, plus I have a travel size mug and get more coffee. 

 

The activities with free food is a big thing. We take advantage of those. Also watch for other food specials and discounts from local restaurants. Papa Johns always has a weekend special for students. 

 

Our bookstore will do price matching on books now. 

 

Buy toiletries off campus - even things like cough drops or gum is nearly double on campus. 

 

If your campus has a food bank, check into the qualifications. Ours does and any student is allowed to use it. We have in the past, most items were better for those with kitchen, but they did have cereals and snacks and hygiene items. 

 

Use the campus wi-fi for your phone. I have a 1gb data plan that I never exceed (even though I use way more data than that) because I stay logged into the wifi at home or at school. 

 

Invest into a decent backpack that will last the duration of your university time. 


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#3 kiana

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 08:50 AM

If you don't have public transit, see if they have a shuttle or try to organize a carpool to get to off-campus stores. We have a shuttle bus that runs to the local supermarkets twice a week and a lot of students still buy stuff on-campus. 

Stay away from Starbucks omg. That adds up so fast. Use it as a treat, not a daily "I need caffeine". If you need to buy fresh coffee, there's almost always a gas station near campus to get it at. Similarly, hoard your own snacks instead of buying them from vending machines/on-campus shops. 

Check with your professors to see if older editions of textbooks are ok. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. If your class requires an online access code, a LOT of times those include access to an online version of the text and so in most cases you won't need a physical textbook. 

Every campus bookstore I've been in has had "optional" laminated review sheets by the math texts. For pete's sake, don't buy those, they're something the bookstore throws in to trick you into spending money, and if you really want them they're a lot cheaper at an off-campus store -- but frankly, you're better off making your own. This is an enormous pet peeve of mine. I mean yeah, they're not THAT expensive, but it's just one more way to nickel and dime people. The same with the calculators by the books -- ask the professor if that specific calculator is required or if they just need a calculator that adheres to the following standards (for example, students can use any non-graphing calculator in my classes, but if it's not a TI I can't help you figure out how to work it). 

 

Amazon student!

 

Make sure you have extras of things like printer cartridges (if you have your own printer), batteries, etc. for anything where you might need them in an emergency so that you don't end up paying through the nose at the campus bookstore. Also, this isn't a money-saving but rather a grade-saving tip -- make sure you know where an on-campus printing option is so that if your printer breaks right before a big paper's due, you can run over and get it printed rather than just hoping the professor will take it late. 


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#4 happypamama

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 08:59 AM

Our dining halls were all you can eat, but they encouraged students to take an ice cream cone or piece of fruit on their way out. See if that’s allowed; obviously ice cream wouldn’t keep, but the fruit would.
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#5 G5052

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 09:28 AM

Mine is a commuter but has a meal plan because he works out there and does martial arts. I told him to really fill up because it's all-you-can eat. And it's made a difference in my overall budget.

 

We got a parking pass because he has a very early class. He takes the commuter bus sometimes and also rides with a friend one day a week, but we figured that we still made out on the parking pass because the daily rate is extremely expensive. He got the least expensive one.

 

We bought his computer at the college. The price was competitive, the warranty was better, and they provide a free or discounted loaner.


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#6 justasque

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 09:41 AM

Waive the campus health insurance fee - every semester - if the student already has coverage.  That's $800 per semester for us, but we have to remember to re-do it every semester.



#7 happysmileylady

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:03 AM

My oldest found that actually living in an off campus apartment with room mates was way less expensive than living in a dorm and paying for the campus meal plan.  By like half.  And she gets more space.

 

This semester, she had one class that the book was an online access code instead of an actual book.  The class doesn't even use the book but she said they need the access code to turn in the homework (not quite sure exactly how that works, I didn't ask.)  Well the code was like $100!  That was the most expensive book she had for the semester.  Well, she found out that through the book company rather than through the school, she could do a "free trial."  So she signed up for that.  THEN, at the end of the free trial she could pay for the code at a $20 discount.  Not a super huge savings but little things like that can add up. 

 

Also, she doesn't drink coffee.  Like, at all.  That alone saves money compared to even what we spend on coffee just for DH lol


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#8 shawthorne44

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:13 AM

With the all-you-eat plans, check if they allow to-go options.   My University allows you to fill up one to-go container and two drink cups.   The second cup was for soup or ice cream.   I'd get three meals out of one.  Lunch would be the ice cream and the soda.  Then I could get two more meals out of what I could fit in the to-go-container.  



#9 Milknhoney

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:25 AM

Become an RA. Most universities offer free room and board to RA's. At the university I work for, SGA members also get a tuition stipend. My university also offers free software downloads. We tell incoming students not to pay extra for Office when they buy their computer because they can download it for free. Also there is free printing on campus including color printing. A lot of students save their work on a thumb drive and then print their stuff in the labs or library.

 

When I was in college I elected not to buy a meal plan after my freshman year. I cooked in my room using my little microwave, and there was a stove down the hall. I saved a ton of money that way, although there was a social trade-off. My friends all went off to the dining hall together and I stayed behind in my room by myself.

 

Maybe this seems obvious, but... stay on track with your degree requirements and take a full load of courses each semester. Graduate in four years or even three.


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#10 kiana

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:37 AM

Maybe this seems obvious, but... stay on track with your degree requirements and take a full load of courses each semester. Graduate in four years or even three.

 

Oh yeah. 

And -- don't let work impact your grades if you can help it. Working can earn you money, but if you need to stay an extra semester/year because you had to drop classes/not pass classes, or if it causes you to miss out on post-graduate opportunities because your GPA is lower, it will cost you more money in the long run. 


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#11 J-rap

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:38 AM

My dd is on a campus where most dorms consist of 2-4 bedroom units plus a shared kitchen.  Her schedule is so busy this year, often over scheduled meal times, that she found it works better for her to just cook her food herself.  (And by cook I don't mean anything fancy!  Just basic.)  I think she saves several thousand/year doing that.

 

It was nice to have the cafeteria option at first when she was just getting to know people, but this seems to work out well for her now.



#12 jdahlquist

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:39 AM

Stay away from Starbucks omg. That adds up so fast. Use it as a treat, not a daily "I need caffeine". If you need to buy fresh coffee, there's almost always a gas station near campus to get it at. Similarly, hoard your own snacks instead of buying them from vending machines/on-campus shops. 

Check with your professors to see if older editions of textbooks are ok. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. If your class requires an online access code, a LOT of times those include access to an online version of the text and so in most cases you won't need a physical textbook. 
 

In my finance class, I have students calculate how much money they would have at the end of college if instead of visiting Starbucks everyday they put the money they would spend on a latte in a savings account.  They are amazed to see how much that is costing them.  At some universities, Starbucks is also a great time sinkhole.  I have seen universities have a 30 minute line at Starbucks almost daily.  The faculty joke about how going to Starbucks is a luxury for the faculty--but a daily event for students.   The same students who stand in line for 30 minutes for a Starbucks tell me they don't have time to make coffee in their dorm room--then I realize they don't know how to make a pot of coffee.  


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#13 justasque

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:40 AM

Find a job or internship related to your major every summer.  While it won't always pay off in the short term, when you graduate you'll be a much more desirable candidate if you have that experience on your resume instead of a generic lifeguard/fast-food/babysitting job.  If that's not feasible economically, find a serious volunteer position you can juggle with your for-the-money job.  And every job paves the way for the next one, so those first few summers may lead to better-paying summer jobs even before graduation.  

NOW is the time to start researching summer internships, putting together a resume, and in some cases even submitting applications.  Aim high, but have a backup plan, just like you did with college apps.


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#14 jdahlquist

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:43 AM

Check out what your parking options are.  On some campuses you can save a significant amount of money by parking in a remote lot.  For some reason, I had students who thought paying $125 a year was too much for a parking permit; so they would pay $5 (sometimes more) each day for parking thinking they were saving money.  



#15 jdahlquist

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:52 AM

Attend free entertainment events on campus.  Check out savings with local merchants.  Often students can get reduced admission to movie theaters and other events through the student center.  Locally, many merchants offer 10% off if you wear the university colors on Friday.  The local grocery store even gives students 5% discount off their grocery bill.

 

Magazine subscriptions often have student rates.  Also, check out the library and read for free.  The library probably even has movies that can be checked out.  



#16 plansrme

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 10:52 AM

 

 

The activities with free food is a big thing. We take advantage of those. 

 

 

My daughter was at a super-serious math conference a while back, and the math department faculty always introduce her to the visiting mathematicians, who quickly learn she will be applying to their own super-serious Ph.D. programs.  One of these famous (relatively) professional math types pulled her aside to offer her some advice, which was, "Any time your department wants to feed you, let them."    


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#17 DawnM

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 04:19 PM

My ds is a sophomore at a small private school. We have found a few ways to save some money on campus that some families might not even be aware of:

1)cheaper dorm- this one was huge for my ds. The typical "freshman dorm" that is shown on the tours and cost used to calucate COA and FA offers is not the least expensive dorm on campus. There is actually a small, older dorm that is available. If you look carefully through the housing options it is there but if you just requested the standard dorm you saw on the tour you would be paying so much more. The difference is $6000!!! It is the smallest room on campus and has a common hall bathroom instead of suite style but not $6000 worth of smaller. This has been an easy one for ds. None of the dorms are that nice. Definitely not worth that much extra.

 

 

Wow!  I wish this were the case at DS's school!  The difference between dorm options is around $1000/year.  

 

However, he may move off campus after his first year, we will see.  He is a 2nd year transfer student right now.

 

We are waiting for his room assignment for January.  We have requested the apartment style on-campus housing, which would mean he has a kitchen, AND doesn't have to get the meal plan.  We will still get him a plan, but it will be a lower amount than if he is assigned the suite style where a full meal plan is required.  That will save about $3K.


Edited by DawnM, 13 November 2017 - 04:22 PM.


#18 Margaret in CO

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 05:55 PM

If you're on campus over the summer, consider living in your car! My ds did that one summer--he could shower at work and would occasionally couch surf  at a friend's to do laundry. It wasn't ideal, but he couldn't find housing and he was gone part of the summer for AF commitments. He figured he saved $1000 that summer. And he lived in an absolute HOLE for two years. He cooked at a friend's and showered at the rec center as he only had a toilet down the hall. One dd lived in her car up Boulder Canyon one summer. She fished for her protein and brought other food from home. Yeah, rather radical, but it worked for both of them. 


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#19 DawnM

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 05:58 PM

If you're on campus over the summer, consider living in your car! My ds did that one summer--he could shower at work and would occasionally couch surf  at a friend's to do laundry. It wasn't ideal, but he couldn't find housing and he was gone part of the summer for AF commitments. He figured he saved $1000 that summer. And he lived in an absolute HOLE for two years. He cooked at a friend's and showered at the rec center as he only had a toilet down the hall. One dd lived in her car up Boulder Canyon one summer. She fished for her protein and brought other food from home. Yeah, rather radical, but it worked for both of them. 

 

Well, that would require my son to actually have a car I assume!   :lol:



#20 Diana P.

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 08:21 PM

Free food. At my ds's school each local church had a college student social function on different night. DS went to them all. He found the Methodists to have the best food. DS is not religious and did not feel pressured that way.

#21 MarkT

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Posted 13 November 2017 - 09:24 PM

If you're on campus over the summer, consider living in your car! My ds did that one summer--he could shower at work and would occasionally couch surf  at a friend's to do laundry. It wasn't ideal, but he couldn't find housing and he was gone part of the summer for AF commitments. He figured he saved $1000 that summer. And he lived in an absolute HOLE for two years. He cooked at a friend's and showered at the rec center as he only had a toilet down the hall. One dd lived in her car up Boulder Canyon one summer. She fished for her protein and brought other food from home. Yeah, rather radical, but it worked for both of them. 

You couldn't do that in southern AZ!  :coolgleamA:



#22 Hilltopmom

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 07:39 AM

Campus job over the summer- included free room and board plus decent pay & was lots of fun working orientation and events planning. I had a second job at the hospital on my off hours and no expenses since I was working on campus. Raked in a lot of cash.
My parents were overseas the first year and then when they were back in the states I knew no one there and had no urge to “move home” during the summer. Besides my hospital job was a great gig.

Edited by Hilltopmom, 14 November 2017 - 07:40 AM.


#23 Heigh Ho

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 08:59 AM

sublease your apt over the summer to people who are taking classes or doing an internship in town (must do background check of course)

 

add another roommate - each person on lease can add one off per state law here, use hot bunk system

 

save time by showering after your gym workout, bonus you don't have to clean it like you do your apt shower...

 

find a graduating senior your size and make arrangements to acquire the garb

 

 

I knew guys who slept in vehicles, tents, or on couches in labs too.  The shower in the gym strategy is so common that people now buy $10 gym memberships for road trips. Also saw it as a strategy on the TV show The Middle for the dd and her friend. 

 

Also get together and hire a cook or make an arrangement with an off campus mom & pop restaurant for dinner take-away.

 

 


Edited by Heigh Ho, 14 November 2017 - 09:08 AM.


#24 Vida Winter

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 11:15 AM

Don't give up the search for scholarships just because you're in college -- many are available to enrolled students. The hard part is finding time to seek them out and apply but it can be worth it.


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#25 Margaret in CO

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 12:18 PM

Well, that would require my son to actually have a car I assume!   :lol:

 

 

Well, both kids had to have cars for their jobs--one to get to ROTC and the other to all her music gigs. 


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#26 elegantlion

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 08:48 PM

Don't give up the search for scholarships just because you're in college -- many are available to enrolled students. The hard part is finding time to seek them out and apply but it can be worth it.

 

This is so true. I saw a state scholarship advertised on our financial aid office's twitter over the summer. I'd never heard of it because it's administered outside the school. The deadline was less than a week later. I hurried and applied and received a very generous amount, one that lessened my loans to a minimal amount this year.  


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#27 stephensgirls

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 10:41 PM

In my finance class, I have students calculate how much money they would have at the end of college if instead of visiting Starbucks everyday they put the money they would spend on a latte in a savings account.  They are amazed to see how much that is costing them.  At some universities, Starbucks is also a great time sinkhole.  I have seen universities have a 30 minute line at Starbucks almost daily.  The faculty joke about how going to Starbucks is a luxury for the faculty--but a daily event for students.   The same students who stand in line for 30 minutes for a Starbucks tell me they don't have time to make coffee in their dorm room--then I realize they don't know how to make a pot of coffee.  

 

This is when you get a Keurig and some Chinet "Comfort Cups"! lol Idiot proof coffee to go--for much less than Starbucks! Assuming there are no rules against having a coffee maker in a dorm room.

 

 My 2 kids in college aren't coffee drinkers thankfully. 

 

Our biggest savings has been that --having twins in college-- plus a third starting in 2019--then a 4th dd down the road-- our biggest savings has been the decision to live off campus. We bought a modestly priced condo. It's 30 + years old but renovated. Buying a condo is not for everyone, but we're managing so far.  We did a cash out refi on our primary residence and paid for the condo in full. The difference in our newly refinanced mortgage payment plus COA fees plus insurance plus taxes is still considerably less than we would be paying for them both to live on campus in a dorm. As is true with any investment, there is some risk involved--and maintenance expenses (we just had to replace the heat pump. ouch). Once our twins graduate, we'll have 1 bedroom that we can earn rental income from. Eventually we can sell and help pay off any debt our kids accrue while they are in school. 


Edited by stephensgirls, 14 November 2017 - 10:52 PM.


#28 jdahlquist

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 11:17 PM

Know how your university charges for tuition.  Some charge a flat rate for full-time and others charge a per hour rate.  That can greatly impact the decision of how many classes to take each semester and whether the attend summer school.  Also, consider any fees.  If your school charges a flat rate from 12-18 hours, it doesn't make financial sense to take only 12 hours so that you can work and then go to summer school and pay additional tuition and fees.  You would be better off financially taking 18 hours during the semester and concentrate on working during the summer.  


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#29 DawnM

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 06:05 AM

This is when you get a Keurig and some Chinet "Comfort Cups"! lol Idiot proof coffee to go--for much less than Starbucks! Assuming there are no rules against having a coffee maker in a dorm room.

 

 My 2 kids in college aren't coffee drinkers thankfully. 

 

Our biggest savings has been that --having twins in college-- plus a third starting in 2019--then a 4th dd down the road-- our biggest savings has been the decision to live off campus. We bought a modestly priced condo. It's 30 + years old but renovated. Buying a condo is not for everyone, but we're managing so far.  We did a cash out refi on our primary residence and paid for the condo in full. The difference in our newly refinanced mortgage payment plus COA fees plus insurance plus taxes is still considerably less than we would be paying for them both to live on campus in a dorm. As is true with any investment, there is some risk involved--and maintenance expenses (we just had to replace the heat pump. ouch). Once our twins graduate, we'll have 1 bedroom that we can earn rental income from. Eventually we can sell and help pay off any debt our kids accrue while they are in school. 

 

 

We actually looked into this for our local 4 year school (still 35 miles from our home), and may still consider it for younger two, but oldest can't go there as they don't have what he wants, and the other two won't go to his school as it doesn't have what they need.

 

Dh even mentioned buying a townhouse where oldest is going to school, but ultimately it doesn't make sense since the other two aren't going there.

 

We are hoping oldest makes some friends to move off campus next year, but he doesn't drive, and doesn't have good access to get to the grocery store and get what he needs, and has some special needs, so we will pay for now.


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#30 DawnM

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 06:06 AM

Well, both kids had to have cars for their jobs--one to get to ROTC and the other to all her music gigs. 

 

My son doesn't even drive, so he can't need a car.



#31 DawnM

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 06:11 AM

Check out what your parking options are.  On some campuses you can save a significant amount of money by parking in a remote lot.  For some reason, I had students who thought paying $125 a year was too much for a parking permit; so they would pay $5 (sometimes more) each day for parking thinking they were saving money.  

 

I was SHOCKED when my friend said that our local 4 year college had parking fees of $450 per semester.  It is known as a commuter college, so I get why they are doing it, but WOW!  I have been reading about the parking issues at the school online.  

 

However, I do see on their site that there are carpooling options, reduced bus and train fares, and a few other options besides parking on campus.



#32 DawnM

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 06:17 AM

I donated plasma some in college!  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but I did it.  

 

And we would also hit church pot luck dinners in the summer.  We did eat in the dining hall some for the summer session, and I don't remember the details now, but they must not have offered a full meal plan because I remember eating a lot of oatmeal and going out to get cheap food off campus and trying to find the pot luck dinners on the weekends.



#33 Pegasus

Pegasus

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 06:59 PM

Check with your professors to see if older editions of textbooks are ok. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. 

 

This. And sometimes the older edition is ok even when the instructor insists you need the new edition.  DD had one instructor insist that she needed the newest edition and we chose to disregard this recommendation since she already had the previous edition.  They haven't used the book . . .at all.

 

I also recommend students have a nice reusable water bottle.  It is much more appealing, IMHO, to drink water from a glass bottle, and reduces the need to purchase drinks.

 

Another tip, if your child is away at school without a car, check with your car insurance agent if this will reduce the coverage costs. While you are at it, find out if your student is eligible for a good student discount.


Edited by Pegasus, 19 November 2017 - 07:02 PM.

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