3 Ways I’m Saving More This Semester (And You Can, Too)

The holidays are over and it’s back to the daily grind of classes, homework, and exams. I’m planning to make this semester a little different than others, though, by being extra smart with my cash. Here’s what I’m planning to do:

1. Take Transport Or Bike

There’s no way around it – having a car is just expensive. Besides the gas money, you also have to pay for insurance, parking, and the occasional repair. Not to mention parking tickets – I somehow attract them more than the average driver, which was one of the main reasons I decided to stop driving.

Full disclosure, I actually stopped driving last semester, but  I will keep it up this semester as well because the benefits really outweigh the inconvenience of not owning a car. Not only do I save all that money I would pay on insurance, gas, parking, and, in my case, parking tickets, I also avoid people asking for rides all the time or asking me to be D.D. Ever. Think about that.

If your university is like mine, you probably have a free university shuttle system and a student discount on your city’s public transit system. Even if you don’t get a discount, public transit will still be cheaper than driving your own car.

I also got a bike, and I would recommend biking to anyone and everyone. I get great exercise by biking to and from classes, and of course it’s my favorite price: free. I also like to think that biking ups my cool rating a little bit. All the cool kids bike, right?

(I know I’m not as cool as this guy, but I can try)

2. Buy Used Textbooks or Rent

With so many bargain book sites out there, there is no reason, I repeat, no reason to pay full price for textbooks. To be honest, last semester I got a little lazy and didn’t feel like searching hard enough, so I bought a couple of mine new. But not this semester!

For bigger textbooks (those big fat hardcover ones) I’ve found renting is the best option. CengageBrain.com and other textbook sites offer good deals on textbook rentals. You can save literally hundreds of dollars getting your books this way, and most textbook rental sites offer free return shipping on your rental. 

I like this method better than the ‘buy it and hope that when you sell it back you’ll get a decent amount of money back’ plan. I’ve bought books for $80ish and gotten only $10ish back in return, when I could have rented for only $30 or $40. And I’m not going to do it again!

If there is no rental option for the book you need, it’s a good idea to shop around a few different textbook sites and see which one if offering the lowest price on a used copy of the book. A search on BookFinder.com will show you the sites that are offering the best deal (new and used) on the book you need. From there, you can go to the site and buy it directly.

When it comes time to sell your books back, make sure you check out BookScouter.com before choosing where to sell them. This site lets you search for your book and see what different sites are paying for it, so that you can get the highest buyback value possible.

3. Pack Lunch or Choose the Right Meal Plan

I live a good distance away from my university, so I usually end up going to class in the morning and spending most of the day on campus, not returning home until the evening or night. Even my friends who live close to campus say that they usually would rather not go all the way home and come all the way back if they can avoid it. And with all of the food options on and around campus (Wendy’s, Quiznos, Taco Cabana, Which Wich, to name a few) it can get very tempting to just buy lunch every day.

If you think about it, even the cheapest lunch options are going to end up costing you about $5 when you consider sides and drinks. Other options will cost as much as $10 for lunch. If you buy lunch every day on campus, that can add up to be $50 per week of unnecessary spending.

The solution is easy – pack your lunch! What I’m going to do is this: first, when I’m grocery shopping, I’ll keep in mind the fact that I need foods that are easy to transport and quick to prepare. Things like mini carrots, cheese and crackers, sandwich ingredients, etc. 

Then, I’ll make my lunches in the evening and leave them in the fridge. That way when I’m rushing out the door in the morning, all I have to do is grab my lunch and I’m good to go.

If you live on campus, things are a little different for you because you probably have a meal plan. Do yourself a favor though, and explore all your meal plan options. My first semester of college, I paid a lot for a meal plan that was just too much for me – I probably only consumed about half of the meals I paid for! For the next semester, I opted for a much lighter meal plan and saved a couple hundred dollars as a result.

If you noticed that last semester you only ate in the dining hall once a day, then don’t sign up for the 3-meals-a-day plan. Take note of your habits, and sign up for the plan that’s right for you so that you don’t end up spending more than you need to.

Being smart with your money has its benefits – I’m planning to go to South America with my savings. What will you do?

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