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How to Cut College Expenses: Tuition and Textbook Tips

Here at No-Credit-Credit-Check, I try to talk about cutting living expenses all the time. Cutting the money you spend comes in all different forms: saving for university, getting more deductions, attaining better grades, and spending less on books.

A certain part of the university experience is a racket. The charges on university tuition and class materials have gotten out of control, exceeded only by the bill padding found in the insurance, medical, and health industries.

I’ll discuss those outrages some other time, but today, I want to show you how to cut expenses on your continuing scholastic pursuits. Learning a few tips and tricks about the higher education system can lower your expenses significantly. This is more than avoiding Ramen noodles or affording cover charges for campus bars–it’s about preparing for life after school.

Your studies shouldn’t leave you a well-educated debtor. They should empower you to seize control of your life and become a future leader of this great nation of ours.

These tips should help you become educated and debt-free, which are two of the prerequisites to having total liberty in this life.

Don’t Transfer Money to Your Kid’s College Funds

University of Washington Campus

Your Ideal College Experience Shouldn’t Place You in Debt the First Half of Your Career.

Parents often transfer money into their child’s college fund, either because it means lower taxes or because they want to earmark the money for a post-secondary education. They want the funds off-limits to any shenanigans, from themselves or their child.

This backfires huge when it comes time to apply for financial aid. Most college funding requires that the student pay most or all of their wealth before they get student aid.

If you put money into a college-earmarked bank account in your little student’s name, that money is going to be eaten before any financial aid is used. If you keep this money in your name, your child looks needier on their financial aid applications. When you keep that money in your name, only half of the money in this college fund must be used for tuition.

Do the math and see which process saves you the most money over the course of your life (or your child’s education career).

Ask for Itemized Health Care Charges on Tuition Bills

When you get a tuition bill from a university’s Bursars Department, that bill usually isn’t itemized. That means you never see how much of the cost comes from health care charges, which can be a substantial hidden cost at advanced learning institutions.

When you have the bill itemized, you can take the money charged to you and add it to your yearly health care costs on your tax return. This might well give your family a tax deduction.

Maintain a “B” Average or Better

Maintain good grades. Besides keeping the old folks happy, getting good grades provides a whole suite of benefits for you. First of all, if you’re on your parents’ insurance plan (and most students are), you’ll probably get a good student discount from your insurance company–this usually comes from a B-average or better. Second, you might qualify for merit-based grants and scholarships.

Finally, getting good grades cannot hurt when it comes time to go job-hunting. I know you’ve probably read a lot of cynical things about how college isn’t worth the trouble anymore (because of student loans) and career fields are blocked from entrance after years of postsecondary excellence.

It’s a bad time to get into the macro-economy; I won’t lie to you. Still, the best way to get ahead is to get a university diploma, get excellent grades, and use that combination to make your way in the economic field. This current financial mess the USA is facing can make it all seem a big scam, but your education will pay off in the end. Dot your “i’s” and cross you “t’s” and it’s going to pay off for you in the end. It’s a far sight better than the alternative.

Buy Used Textbooks

It’s crazy how much new textbooks cost these days. Frankly, it’s insane how much used textbooks cost at the campus stores and off-campus stores. Recently, I was talking to my parents recently about the cost of college and I mentioned that textbooks were more out-of-whack than tuition was back in my day. I mentioned the $100 books that many classes had, only to find out that a nephew of mine was paying $250 for a textbook. His outraged professor had even suggested ways to read the textbook online, instead of paying for it over-the-counter.

$250 is a ridiculous price for any book known to man. Think about that.

Is there any reason in the world why a book should cost $250?

The answer is “No“.

Name any subject known to man and you can buy books off Amazon for a little bit of nothing. If you don’t mind waiting on the shipping, you can buy books off eBay for even less. I refuse to believe that a whole bunch of extra research went into basic college textbooks (my nephew is a sophomore).

Are the pictures that expensive?

The price of university textbooks make no sense, except that rampant graft and corruption is taking place. It’s a monopoly, or so they think. Students must buy a book, because it’s assigned reading. So the publisher bilk college students out of their cash because they think they can. Well, you don’t have to pay that much for a book.

Buy a used book directly from another student, without the markup. See if used books are available online through Amazon or ebay. If none of those remedies help, use one of the book buy-back websites online like Textbooks-R-Us, Skyo Book Rentals, or Chegg eTextbooks. The markup might still be too much, but I bet you won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for your college reading materials.

If the system is set up to take advantage of your situation and general naivete, find some legal way to thwart the system. Going to a website where a bunch of other students just want a fair deal sounds like a way to do just that. Back in my day, you had to buy the books near campus, because nowhere else had the books you needed. With the Internet, you’re no longer a victim of circumstance.

That isn’t to say this is fool-proof. That’s the only reason books are in their 7th, 8th, and 9th editions. They publishers make a few minor, even cosmetic changes, and call it a new edition. With a new edition, you won’t have used copies to buy. These websites should help you a lot of the time, though.

An Ultra Low-Cost College Degree by Shai Reshef

If none of the options above are enough, always look for other educational options. In this 11-minute TED Talks lecture, Shai Reshef discusses a low-cost online college degree using the University of the People.

I’m not suggesting this should be your first option. One advantage of the college experience is networking. University is a chance to meet people who’ll be pivotal in your career for the remainder of your life.

Whether it’s professors, mentors, friends, colleagues, fraternity and sorority connections, or spouses, these are some of the most important people you’ll meet in your life. The world is not only about what you know, but who you know. Use college as a chance to meet people who’ll help in the years to come.

Also, a campus degree is likely to be more impressive to a job interviewer than an online degree. Until that changes, getting a brick-and-mortar education is still the best option. Failing that, you should always attain a degree, if possible. The Internet makes that possible for almost anybody, if you have the smarts and the willpower to make it happen.

College Is Too Expensive

College in the United States is too expensive; we all know that. Two-hundred and fifty dollars for a book is just outrageous. I still haven’t gotten over that one. Find ways to cut university expenses every step of the way and you’ll be better off.

I’ve touched on this subject several times over the months, but the less you spend on advanced learning, the more you can pay as you go. The more you pay as you go, the fewer debts you’ll have to pay off once you reach graduation and start making money in the “real world”.

Launch yourself into life with as few strings attached as possible. Once you’re debt-free, you’re one step to being free in a wider sense.


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