Ready to start college? Tips to save money for this semester and beyond

This upcoming week is a pretty big week for my area. I live close by two large universities with more than 30,000 students each. To say I live in a college town is an understatement.

And both of these universities start school this Monday. And it has become a family affair because both of my sisters (one older and one younger) start school on Monday, one starting her master’s program and the other her first day of college, respectively.

As I was thinking about how this is another year that I am free from college (I am a graduate, thank you), I thought it would be pertinent to pass along my knowledge of what you do need and do NOT need for college. There are a million things you can buy to prepare for college, but most likely you do not need them. And since I am all about saving money here, this is a big thing to pay attention to.

  • Go to school for free. Yes, free. And not with mom and dad’s help. College is pricey. Even in my state where one semester can put you back only $5,000, it can stack up pretty high after a few years. But wise students figure out a way to go to college for free. Enter grants and scholarships. Federal grants are a great way to get free college money. Awarded to you by need, federal grants are perfect because you never have to pay them back. It is free money. But the money gets directly applied to school’s tuition and rarely nothing else. Scholarships are another great way to go to school for free. Each university will have scholarships to apply for, as well as local businesses and other independent scholarships. Some might require an essay or other requirements, but it is worth it to have free money to pay for school.
  • Shop around for school supplies. Not all school supplies are created equal, and often times that really does not matter. If you are looking to save some extra dough, go generic all the way. Do you really need a Hello Kitty homework folder or name brand Trapper Keeper? (Let’s be honest. You are in college now. Having either of those things will get you mercilessly mocked.) No! Generic paper and folders are only a fraction of the cost, saving you a bundle. Avoid your university bookstore and opt for a big box supply store. The sales are incredible this time of year and you won’t have to pay extra for any college insignia designed supplies.
  • Get discounts with your school idea. Many local establishments will have a student discount just for showing your I.D. In my town this gets you discounts at restaurants, movies and more. But being a student also gets you a sweet discount on student health insurance. While health insurance is the last thing most students think about, it is one of the most important things. College is a germy place, so it is best to be protected.

I also wanted give some tips on being safe and healthy while saving some money at the same time.

1.Flu shots

Get your flu shots or sprays (they do have sprays out there for the squeamish like me, they are just more expensive) you can’t be too careful coming into contact with some many people at school. Another simple but very effective way to not get sick is to use hand sanitizer regularly. I would just get a little bottle that fits into a back pack and make sure you (or your kids) use it.

2. Stay at home if you are sick.

You should especially not go to class. It is not fair to go out when you are sick because first it usually takes you longer to get better and will probably get someone else sick when you do go. Just stay home get some rest email the teacher or a buddy from class.

3. Dress warm.

I know that summer was just behind us but it can get pretty cool at night or in the early morning depending on where you live. Not being properly dressed can give you the chills which makes you sniffly and more likely to transfer germs. The reason we get flu season is because of air born bacteria that dries and dies in the air during the warmer months but lives longer in the cooler air of this season.

4. Make a plan and do not stress out.

Making a plan helps overcome stress especially with the new school year and many people get in over their head because of poor planning. Plot out the classes you have with a schedule then your work schedule and do not forget to schedule time each week when you will (or help your kids) do homework. And remember to take time to have fun. It is all about balancing your schedule to reduce stress, stay healthy and do well at school.

5. Cheap Student Health Insurance

Another important tip to stay healthy and also save some money for college students is to look in to cheap student health insurance. Students get a low deductible that can last the entire school term. This gives you the opportunity to visit a doctor and it will not cost you an arm and a leg to do it and it gives parents peace and mind that their college student is going to the doctor when they need to instead of skipping out due to expense.