Budgets & Cats: How To Save Money On College Expenses

I spent a lot of money on my college experience and now I'm in debt to prove it. Learn from my mistakes as I share tips to save big, cat lady style. #budget #budgets #personalfinance #savingmoney #money

I remember happily, but very naively, skipping down to the financial aid office my first semester of school. Why yes, I DO need extra money and will take out the maximum amount for my student loan. As someone who had only been making minimum wage, the idea of excess cash excited me. It was gone soon, don’t worry, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I was consistently trying to save money on college expenses.

Forbes has reported that the average college graduate belonging to the Class of 2016 has an estimated $37,172 of student loans. That’s pretty extreme but seeing how I just left Arizona State University, easily believable. Without books or any other expenses, my tuition was over $5,000 a semester. When my tuition increased, I knew it was time to see how I could save money on college expenses, anyway I realistically could. My cat was, of course, along for the ride so here are some tips we’ve collected to share with you.

Figure Out Tuition Basics

The top way to stay on top of being in the least amount of debt possible upon graduation is to figure out how your tuition works and how you can maximize it as much as possible. For instance, some colleges and universities have a flat semester fee if you take an x amount of credits. Let’s take Arizona State University for example. My tuition costs tapped out at $5,000 a semester, which was 9 credit hours.  This included free access to the technology labs, the student center, the gym, library including online periodical articles needed for research papers more.

But because my tuition was already tapped out, they couldn’t charge me any more for any additional credit hours I chose to take. This meant I was able to take up to 15 college credits a semester without paying any additional tuition and cut a semester off my timeline towards graduation. I was able to save $5,000 this way. I also highly recommend passing your classes.

Books, Books, Books

My first piece of advice when looking to save money on college expenses its to research what books your professor has listed on your syllabus. Sometimes, the book that is listed isn’t even required but instead, recommended reading. Recommend reading is to help you understand the class material but I’m a firm believer in Google. If the book is required, you have options.

First, find the ISBN located on the barcode on the book. Then check the first few pages inside the book to see what edition is listed.  Copy it into Google and see what options the search engine has provided. Nine out of ten times, the textbook is going to be cheaper on Amazon. Fellow students are looking to push their textbooks on someone else to help recoup some of their costs as well as declutter. Who really needs a copy of “The Pattern Of Flight For Eagles”? I mean, unless eagles really are your thing. Then go for it! Don’t forget to look at search engines and used book store websites.

Buying books secondhand is not only great for your pocketbook but better for the environment. I don’t mind secondhand books unless they have entire pages highlighted or the book is in horrible condition but I’ve had pretty good luck. The only time I would recommend using your college bookstore is if the professor has added material which can only be found there or if you can break even by renting. I’ve done this a few times because not even making a guaranteed $5 on Amazon at the end of the day was worth my time when I had finals.

Say No To The Parking Pass

Colleges will push you to pay for a parking pass. Don’t be afraid to say no, do research and then see if it may still apply. Chances are, you need to pay for parking. That’s a no brainer. But we’re trying to save money on college, so let’s evaluate this. Say your parking pass is $500 (yes, that’s a cheap one.) That allows you to park in a certain parking lot, as much as possible. But what if you aren’t attending class everyday? What if you were able to somehow park for $2 a day and you only attend class twice a week? Doesn’t paying $64 over the course of 16 weeks sound much better to you?

I’m not saying it will be this cheap all of the time but really evaluate your options before handing over your cold hard cash. You can always take public transportation, park off campus is it’s safe for both you and your car, or just pay by the hour. The parking pass may truly be your best option but you don’t know until you try.

Really Consider If Dorm Living Is For You

I never got to live in a dorm which is the one thing I regret about my college experience. And for some of us, we have no choice due to moving out of state to attend school. But, consider if living in the dorm is the cheapest option for your current stay. It can be up to several thousand dollars to live in a dorm while you share a bathroom with several other people and it might not even include a meal plan.

Look into alternative living arrangements like living with a roommate, getting an off site apartment or perhaps even attending school locally to still live at home. Sure, you may regret that living on your own experience (which I do) but you might not be like me and just be happy to not be paying a arm and a leg. You’ll have time to live on your own later in life without it causing you to take out loans.

Pay Attention To Small Details

Another hot tip to save money on college expenses? Pay attention to small details or what some call money leaks. I took a break from getting my associates degree and my bachelors, which required me to get into a new routine. This was especially true since during my first degree I only worked part-time. Not only did I start to treat myself to Starbucks more often because I was sleep deprived, I was also pulling through a drive through window 3-4 times a week for dinner. No wonder I started feeling so crummy.

Start packing coffee or your energy drinks (bought in bulk of course!) to class instead of rolling through Starbucks. Pack yourself plenty of snacks to help stay full throughout the day. And pack your own water bottle instead of relying on the vending machine. You’ll stay hydrated, full of energy and can concentrate on that lecture since you won’t be hangry.

Take Advantage Of Anything Free!

My last tip I want to share is to take advantage of anything free. Well, within reason. You don’t need to help yourself to a million pens. But there is a ton of stuff at your convenience to help lessen your costs.

Student unions and clubs offer free meals and give advance notice of when it will be taking place. Save on a dinner or lunch and check it out. Perfect your resume and practice your interview skills with your school’s job placement center. Visit career fairs even if you’re not looking and collect swag while seeing what opportunities may pop up. Score free entertainment from the library or attend free film and show viewings.

Some Final Thoughts

College is expensive, there is no doubt about it. But the investment in your education will pay off in spades later. No one can ever take away your education and along with it, your earning potential. And while you may not be able to escape free and clear, there are ways to save money on college. Keep this guide on hand and reference when needed!

What are some of the ways you’ve been able to cut costs on college? Share below!

The Latina’s Guide To Self Care

Self care is important for everyone but espcially important for Latinas. Take a break while I share with you what got me through a hard time or two. #selfcare #latina #mentalhealth #latinx

Last week, I sat in on  a suicide prevention training. People from all walks of life sat with me as we learned warning signs, questions to ask and approaches to make it easier on both parties involved. None of it really preached on self care but it was definitely hinted at. A few people I know personally didn’t care for the training and I could see why. For them, suicide was more personal. They’ve lost someone. While I myself haven’t lost anyone to suicide, I sadly know what it’s like to be so down in the depths of darkness, you wouldn’t care to wake up the next day.

The Stats Are Shocking

July has officially been declared Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. With one look at the statistics, it’s no wonder why. People of color are less likely to receive access to mental health services and quality care, yet more likely to use emergency medical attention when dealing with an episode. 25% of adolescents with a major depressive episode were Latino/ Hispanic and Latinos in grades 9-12 are more likely to attempt and actually die by suicide than other minorities and non-Hispanic whites. This is major, especially for a community who may not have access to the help they need, for whatever reason. Self-care, or whatever you want to call it, is often not something considered when you are trying to just make it.

So Why Share?

As someone with a mood disorder who only recently figured out the right med combo, I’ve spent plenty of nights feeling helpless or numb. I’ve lost days of my life to sleeping and have slipped into psychosis. I’ve spent money I didn’t have, let my apartment go to shit and did things I quickly hated myself for the next day. Despite my behavior, it was hard for me to be taken seriously by a health provider. Deemed high functioning by more than one, it took several tries before I found my current doctor who was able to help me. And I’m not alone.

I wanted to take a minute to not only share some stats but to share ways I’ve coped on my own mental health journey. These are not all but a few of the self-care tips I’ve practiced when I was having a rough day or as a way to keep the rough days at bay.  I’m not perfect, and I’m definitely not a therapist. I still have bad days. And by no means am I licensed to give any kind of advice. But, I’m sharing regardless because I know what it’s like to feel down and out. It’s okay to not be okay. And you’re not alone.

Learn How To Self Soothe

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had learn was how to self soothe. Self-soothing could be self-regulation (when you learn how to relax in the moment before you react) or it could be something as simple as telling yourself you’re okay. As a matter of fact, that’s my go to. When I’m feeling particularly stressed, I cry out of frustration. While crying, I remind myself I’m okay and that I’m safe. As a sufferer from PTSD, I usually go into a fight or flight complex instead of actually dealing with a situation. Only recently have I learned to let myself feel what I’m feeling and remind myself it’s okay to do so.

Write It Out

I joke that doing therapy online was a way for me to not pay someone to watch me cry in person. And that is absolutely true. When I did therapy in person, I spent a god awful amount of time having someone watch me cry. A friend who’s a counselor said sometimes it could be a good thing but for me, it was the opposite. I also prefer therapy online is because I love writing it out.

You don’t need to be doing therapy online to write out your thoughts. Grab a notebook or open a Google word doc and start writing whatever comes to mind. Find a list of writing prompts, talk about what you had for lunch or if you’re feeling particularly angry at someone. Lately, I’ve tried to write out my frustration via venting to someone else through text or just simply writing it out on a piece of paper if I don’t have my journal right in front of me. I would be careful to grab that and put it somewhere safe though as you don’t need anyone reading your private thoughts if you don’t want them to.

Writing can be therapeutic and help you realize certain things about yourself or about others. Case in point, today alone I thought I was mad at something someone said to me but in reality, I was mad about how I perceived a situation. Writing can help you analyze what you are really feeling and why.

Read About It

A friend and I joke one can never have too many books. We also know that when we don’t understand something or want to learn more, we can find a book to read about it. There are a ton of books on self-care and self-development which can be accessed for free through your local library. The reason there are so many books on self-help and personal development is that many are consistently trying to improve themselves for the better. Some people argue about what personal development is or isn’t needed but at the end of the day, who cares? People are unhappy in their lives and feel threatened when others take action. If you are reading this, chances are you are the one taking action so pay them no mind. Easier said than done, trust me, but it’s worth it.

By reading self-development books, you may realize why you do certain things, feel a certain way or acknowledge how you feel to be totally okay. A few of the self-help books I’ve found value in are CoDependency No More by Pia Melody, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and most recently, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. My boss actually recommended 7 Habits to me after I received a promotion and I can’t stop raving about it, months later. And whenever I have a bad day, I read a page by Pia Melody.

But I also love reading just to read. It’s calming and allows you to focus on something else for a minute that isn’t, well, you. Two of the most difficult times in my life were both the slow death of my mom who was terminally ill and my cancer treatment. Both required hospital stays and long hours where I simply didn’t feel good, was anxious or needed to escape my mind if even for a second. Reading, especially books by my favorite author, is what got me through it.

Learn Something New

A great way to feel empowered and in control of your situation is to learn something new. When I haven’t felt in control of my life or feelings, I’ve often tried to control others who are close to me. This is unhealthy. But what I can control is learning something new and then trying to implement it. It’s empowering to learn a new skill or more about a new subject, let’s you be more well rounded as a person and gives you confidence.

If there is a hobby you’ve always wanted to try, now might be the time to do so. Join a knitting circle, a book club or a running group. Pick up a guitar or some needlepoint. Try out coding. Get your brain moving.

Talk To A Friend

The best support network I have is my friends. I’ve been so insanely blessed in the friend department and I’m not oblivious of that. Between having friends all over the country to having my own tight-knit circle in Phoenix, I’m blessed. And I know I have quite a few that I can open up and talk to if I need it.

It’s way too easy to feel like you are a burden or someone doesn’t really care. I don’t really have that problem (I’m a chronic over sharer) but I get it. Take that person up on the cup of coffee or phone call. Make a date to get out of the house and go to a movie. Ask someone to meet for a hike or walk. If you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to. But you’ll probably feel better by default, just by getting some fresh air and friend time in.

Use An App

I swear by therapy online. But there are a ton of free apps to get started or help you if you aren’t there.

  • Headspace & Calm: Both apps are free to download and readily available with content to get started on meditation. Since I’m not an expert on it, I don’t feel like I can fully write about it but both of these apps have helped me with breathing and managing to get out of my head. Premier content including 30 day challenges, workshops and more meditations are available for a monthly or yearly membership. (The yearly memberships have significant savings so if those apps end up being your thing, I would highly recommend the yearly purchase to get the most bang for your buck.)
  • SuperBetter Are games more your speed? I know they’re mine, especially with how busy my mind tends to be with my anxiety and personality style. SupperBetter is a game styled app to help you with your personal growth as well as be able to cope better with challenges you may face. I love playing games on my phone so why not play games and overcome a challenge in your life at the same time?
  • Happify Maybe meditation seems to woo-woo for you and games seem not as likely to help you. Happify, which is a science based created app maybe just your speed instead. This app states that through CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) proven concepts, you can break negative patterns in your life and start to move forward with new results. I love CBT therapy so I may have to check this one out myself. Designed by actual experts in the field of psychology, psychiatry and self development, it may be worth giving a shot.

Some Final Thoughts

None of the tips I’ve spoken about above can replace therapy or medication. If you feel you are going to hurt yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. This is just what has helped me in my own personal journey and I felt called to share it with others. It may not replace therapy or medication but it may help keep the clouds at bay, if just for another day.

 

Sending You Light,

Athena