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Budget For College: Limit The Cost Of Your Education

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Forge Your Wealth is meant for education and entertainment and should not be used for financial advice.

College is expensive, nothing will change that in the near future. However, there are many ways to budget for college. In fact there are even ways to minimize the cost of college and live off just $15/day despite the statistics shown below.

Tuition & Fees – Shoot For Early Graduation

Many see tuition and fees as something no one can cut back on. That hurts, I am not no one. There is a way to cut back on tuition, and that is by graduating early. I graduated a semester early by taking AP classes, and some summer courses which all together added up to enough credits for an early graduation. However, this will also require course planning. Normally there are a number of required courses in which is set up for you to finish in four years. They do not always plan for early graduates. To graduate early I had to take a quantum physics class (was not easy at all) to finish in Fall 2014 instead of Spring 2015. Though that sounds small, it saved me over ten thousand.

Aside from this there are not many ways to lower the cost of tuition aside from scholarships.

Room And Board & Transportation


The college and university you go to will most likely provide an option for housing. In my experience, these are usually the less expensive options. Whatever you do, make sure you have a roommate. That will not only be the least expensive option, but it will teach you how to tolerate others.


Another option is to commute which is why I included transportation here. However, transportation could offset any savings you have from room and board. Buying a vehicle is one of the largest liabilities you could purchase. Make sure everything from fuel to maintenance must be included in your budget for college. Furthermore, you will have limited options for food and may have to hire people to cook your meals instead of cooking them yourself (will cost four times as much).


Speaking of food, you may have to choose whether you want to deal with the horrors of college food and save time to party, I mean study, or prepare you own meals. Personally, I see it that you can have both. Instead of having to pay others for three meals I purchased Greek yogurts which I had for breakfast and sometimes lunch. These cost less than a buck each and are surprisingly filling and healthful. Eating Greek yogurts is a great habit that the Mrs. and I carry this habit to our adulthood those alone will add $2/day for 2/3 of your meals.


Never buy bottled water. I walk around campus and it appears that every other student has some cheap plastic container full of water someone pulled from a tap and at least makes it out to have come from a natural spring. Don’t believe me, ask what Poland Spring is being sued for. Unfortunately, the average American drinks over thirty gallons of bottled water each year and I believe college students lean more towards the above average side. Nalgenes and other bottles are available for at most four times the price of those disposable waters and they can be reused more than four hundred times unless they are run over by a truck.

To all of my fellow caffeine addicts, the same rule goes for coffee. I knew many students who purchased sleeves of coffee cups or sometimes even stole them from the cafeteria. Seriously, are reusable containers one of humanity’s best kept secrets that most people do not know about? However, I have experienced many reusable mugs in which could not hold heat (and sometimes coffee). That was until my wife discovered Contigo.

These are very versatile mugs and convenient for use. On top of that, I have made coffee at 7 in the morning and the coffee was still hot by 4 in the afternoon, these things hold heat better than some state of the art insulation systems I know. In fact, it holds the heat so well it has become an issue. Now, they recommend you let your coffee cool for at least a few minutes before closing the cup otherwise you may have a very hot surprise a few hours later when you try to sip your coffee. Also they are very tough. I have dropped mine a few times (has the scars to prove it) and it is still not leaking at all. One day I may test if these things can survive being run over by a truck (I am a scientist and therefore I am curious).

Books And Supplies

One of the sneakiest ways you could err from your budget for college is with books. This is incredibly easy to cut by 50%. Amazon, has amazing deals for used books at up to 90% off. If Amazon is not your preference there are many other options to buy books for cheap. This includes ThriftBooks, which is almost exactly what it sounds like, a thrift store for books. They sell books cheap, in good condition, and they will offer 15% off for first time customers in the link below.


There is no such thing as a college student who does not need a computer. However, they can cost a pretty cent over a thousand. There are many ways to save on computers, hands down my favorite way is to buy refurbished. There are many myths about buying refurbished and rest assured practically all the negatives you have heard are lies. I have purchased refurbished computers and other equipment, some of which I have all but bet my career on them and they have not failed.

Refurbished computers are available at many companies including Amazon.

Other Expenses

Phones and Other Electronics

How many of you have seen a college student without a smart phone? If you met me my fresh man year or early sophomore year I would be among the few who did not have one. When it was finally time to throw away the sidekick I had for a smartphone (to those younger than me it was essentially the step up from a flip phone). My recommendation is to buy one of the oldest models possible. After my mail-in rebate I have never purchased a smartphone for more than $70 and I just upgraded this year. I know there are smartphones worth over a thousand so I consider that a good save.

Regardless of how much you spent on your phones I would reckon that they were not free. You should protect your phone like you spent hard earned money on it. Make sure they have protective cases and screens. Without both of these I probably would have to replace my phone 7 times over before an upgrade. And I have seen many people walk around with broken screens saying they are waiting for their upgrade I know I am not the only one. It is best not to factor in broken phones in your budget for college.

Spring Break

For practically every university, you will have a week or so off. What do most people do for that? According to the Chicago Tribune, hit the road to a beach or casino. I have never really understood how so many students can waste money on such trips. If you are fiscally sound, you should not. You will have to spend at least $50 for a flight, $25/day for food, and $125/day for a hotel. Over a week it is easy to spend over $1,000 for a spring break trip and that is assuming you do not fall for consumerism during a spring break trip. This should not be factored into a budget for college.

There are alternatives to spending over a thousand for a spring break trip. Every spring break I volunteered to build houses at Habitat for Humanity. You can volunteer at many places throughout the nation and at the cost of $30. You get to volunteer and do construction. I went to Florida three times and had fun with many people. For those who are afraid they will not have the same spring break experience, there are still beaches depending on where you go.

Final Thoughts

You are going to college to learn and to use your brain for good. Use that brain to save money in creative ways. In addition to what I have posted, you should find easy ways to budget for college. Use these methods to help start out in life with more to forge your wealth.

Author: Papa Foxtrot

Most of my life I was careful with money and learned where I should invest it. I was very lucky to have parents who taught me financial literacy when I was young. Unfortunately, I am very lucky because many people lack the financial literacy I know. The purpose of Forge Your Wealth is to teach people who are just starting out in life how to obtain their wealth or anyone who just realized they may need to learn more to handle their finances. I currently have a PhD in biochemistry, just started a job in industry (will not disclose where exactly for personal and professional reasons) and am currently married to the love of my life. I am one of the lucky few people in America who graduated with no student debts, my wife was not. Over the series of a little over 3 years we paid for our wedding with no debt and paid off her federal student loans.

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