5 Biggest Money Wasters for College Students (and How to Avoid Them)

To graduate college with minimal debt and healthy spending habits, watch out for these textbook errors in overspending.

Kallee Feuz Oct 10, 2018

College is a time of transformation and important life lessons. But too many students learn financial lessons the hard way as they break out on their own for the first time.

Overspending, combined with the already-high cost of tuition, means more students are graduating with a diploma and a mountain of debt. By graduation, the average student loan borrower has $37,172 in student loans, according to Make Lemonade.

To graduate college with minimal debt and healthy spending habits, watch out for these textbook errors in overspending.

College Money Waster No. 1: Buying your books new

During the 2017-18 school year, students at four-year public colleges and universities spent an average of $1,250 on books and supplies, according to The College Board. Paying sticker price on new books is not only a blow to the budget, it is often unnecessary.

The school bookstore shouldn’t be your only stop for textbooks and other school supplies. Find discounted or used books from online retailers and second-hand sellers. Rental services through companies like Chegg and Amazon let you rent books for a semester at a fraction of the purchase price.

College Money Waster No. 2: Paying too much for rent

Living large as a student may mean living like a student long after you get your diploma. While you can't control the rising cost of tuition, you can control where you live. In some cases, staying on campus may be the cheapest option, while in other cases, choosing a shared room or older, less updated apartment off-campus can reduce housing costs.

College Money Waster No. 3: Indulging every fast food craving

Greasy late-night food is synonymous with college students, but all those pizza deliveries and chicken wing orders can quickly eat away at your budget. Save by cooking the majority of your meals at home or by making the most of your school meal plan. Stock up on snacks at the grocery store to keep late night cravings at bay.

College Money Waster No. 4: Burning rubber

A car is a convenience many college students can do without, particularly if you live and work near campus. Most colleges and universities offer student pass programs that let you take public transit for free or at a discounted rate.

Opting for a bus pass instead of your own set of wheels will not only save you hundreds of dollars in vehicle payments, maintenance, gas, insurance and possible parking fees, you may be less likely to make unnecessary shopping trips. If you must have a car, buy an affordable one, and rideshare and carpool when possible.

College Money Waster No. 5: Forking over cash for nonessentials

Forgo spending on fashion, fads and luxury items that will be forgotten long before you finish paying for them. For example, a high-end $2,000 laptop far exceeds the research-paper-writing needs of most college students. Other splurges like concert tickets and spring break trips should be the exception rather than the rule.

Avoid these five big college money wasters by creating a student budget and sticking to it. Set up a Zions Bank Anytime Checking account to manage and track your money from your phone, tablet or computer.  Get cash when you need it with no charges at any Zions Bank ATM and receive up to 50 percent cash back at participating merchants when you use your Zions Bank Visa debit card.

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