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5 savings tips from a starving student

A new college school year is right around the corner, and so are new tuition hikes and budget cutbacks.

By Stacy Johnson Jul 29, 2011 1:16PM

This post comes from Gideon Grudo at partner site Money Talks News.

A new school year begins next month at the nation's 4,400 colleges and universities, following a brutal summer of budget cuts and tuition hikes.

Last month, CNN reported that state universities in 25 states were facing budget cuts of $5 billion. Meanwhile, tuition is rising everywhere -- 7.5% at Pennsylvania's 14 state schools, 7.6% at tiny Kansas City Kansas Community College, and a whopping 18% in the University of California system.(How much should you be saving for college?)

For a little twist of the knife, USA Today reported last week that college presidents in several states -- California, Georgia and Kentucky -- are getting raises. "While the budget situation in most states hasn't changed," the paper reports, "administrators at some institutions say the market requires that they start paying presidents more."

At my state university, tuition is up 15%, or a little more than $400 a year. Here's what I'm doing to try to offset the hike. As you read these tips, note that many will work for anyone, student or otherwise.

Party smarter. Around every college campus are bars and nightclubs that survive almost solely by entertaining its (theoretically) legal-age student body. But at my school, we're going out less and staying in more. "Dorm parties" and "house parties" mean we can buy food and drinks much cheaper from Wal-Mart and liquor stores. (As an added bonus, it also means less drunken driving, since those who have had a little too much can just crash on the floor.)

When we do go out, we read our student newspaper -- not for the articles but for the ads from bars offering incredible deals on "college nights." And, of course, the word will spread like wildfire through Twitter and Facebook. Bottom line: If you aren't drinking at two-for-one prices, stay home.

Start smart. When I was looking for a college, comparing costs was almost impossible. Each school seemed to have its own way of breaking down the numbers. While it's too late for me (I'm a year from graduating), the government recently launched a new website called the College Affordability and Transparency Center, which shows you the least expensive universities in the country. All you need to do is type in what you're looking for: a two-year school? Private? Public? The site does the rest and returns objective, fact-laden info. Another site to try is The College Board's QuickFinder, which compares up to three colleges at a time. Post continues after video.

Eat right and cheap. My campus cafeteria has all the fast-food options: burgers, chicken, subs, tacos. But my friends and I stay away from it as much as possible. Not only is it unhealthy, it's really not that cheap anymore -- certainly not as cheap as doing the cooking ourselves. Indiana University came up with a great guide for college cooking (.pdf file), and USA Today published tips from a vegetarian student about what she does to stay full and healthy. Thankfully, our newer dorms and apartments have nice kitchens, which makes cooking much easier -- something to look for when you check out colleges.

Retro is in again. In my neck of the woods, the Salvation Army and Goodwill have totally overhauled their stores, making them brighter, cleaner, and hipper. My suggestion: Shop at thrift stores now, and you'll be cool because you were on the cutting edge of this returning trend. Here's a national directory of thrift stores.

Movies on campus -- and everything else. The Los Angeles Times reported last year that theater ticket prices were on the rise, and IMAX prices are even steeper. So college kids are always on the prowl for student discounts. Some theater chains give you a list of locations offering them. And "Netflix parties" are becoming more common, where movies are streamed on the largest flat-screen a friend or roommate has.

On my campus, we have an amazing movie theater that shows some current and foreign flicks for cheaper than the local multiplex if you have a student ID. And we have a theater department with a black-box theater and a music department that puts on classical music concerts. Now, that's not the kind of entertainment college kids prefer, but it makes for interesting and cheap college dating, especially if you want to be cultured and not seem cheap.

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Jul 29, 2011 8:56PM
Funny isn't it that the first way to save is "Party Smarter."  That should be the last one if even included.
Jul 30, 2011 1:33AM
The cost of cable TV is just too high. Another option is the TVDevo website it seems to run faster and it supports slower connections speeds. It's mostly for TV shows, TV Series, and some movies.
Jul 30, 2011 11:47AM
when i was in school at Auburn in alabama, we could get a student lone of i think back then which is over 40 years ago so its higher now im sure of about 100.00 an we had to pay back 101 dollars came in handy when you dont have much money an very low interest rate

Typical kid mentality
worrying about partying, movies, and fashion.
Here's an idea, how about focusing solely on the reason why you're there in the first place, your education and studies.

"Bottom line: If you aren't drinking at two-for-one prices, stay home"

How about this for a bottom line, stay home and study, instead of going out binge drinking and sleeping through your finals the next day.

#1 student savings tip: Get your priorities in order, and focus on your education and studies.
After you graduate, then take a big vacation and party your **** off.

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