Photo: Fabian Blank on Unsplash
College life can be financially taxing if you come from a low-income background, and even if you don’t, the burden of the cost of education may still arise. Many of us have known or heard of students at universities who are living out of their car, eating uncooked ramen for every meal, and showering in the University Rec Center once per month to avoid burdening themselves with student loans. While this is very much a reality on many campuses, going to these extremes may not always be necessary.
As a low-income student, you may have received scholarships, grants, or have taken out student loans to support yourself while you are in school. Depending on how much money you have been offered, you may be looking for ways to live comfortably, save money, and be able to truly focus on your education. Here are some tips on how to save money or reduce the costs of higher education as a low-income student:
Cook for yourself: Meal preppers know all about this one. Cooking for yourself saves a lot of money and has many overlooked benefits for you and the environment. By cooking for yourself while you’re in school, you’re creating benefits that span beyond saving money. You’re setting yourself up for the future by learning how to cook, you can make meals for a fraction of the price that you would spend at a restaurant, and you’re receiving the mental and physical health benefits of cooking. If you don’t know how to cook, this is the perfect time to learn. Never before have cooking tutorials been more readily available (and free) than now.
Limit eating out: Dining out is fine and dandy, but if you’re trying to save money while in college or are a low-income student, you already know about budgeting. That means limiting the amount of times you go out to eat weekly or monthly. Going out to eat with friends or a significant other is still very fun, but it’s not necessary to do that every day if you can help it. Sneaking candy and soda into movies is also always a viable option (and encouraged).
Use Food Stamps: Cafeteria packages can often be pricey at many schools, and so can some more decent food options on campuses. Depending on which state you live in, food stamps are often available, depending on your income. If you aren’t working while you are in school, you may qualify for food stamps. Although there can be some stigma associated with accepting government aid, food stamps can be very beneficial. You’ll be able to use your food stamps at most supermarkets, which means you’ll also be able to afford healthy food. This in turn will make you feel better, perform better, and hopefully retain more information (which should be one large reason that you’re pursuing higher education).
Buy in Bulk: Whether you have multiple roommates or live on your own, buying food or household items in bulk can save a tremendous amount of money if you do it right. If you have a lot of freezer, refrigerator, or storage space, this option is great. Costco memberships are roughly $60 for a year and the benefits are wonderful (I’m looking at you, free samples).
Explore Housing Options: Many campuses offer affordable housing options. However, these options are not necessarily the most affordable. If you are willing, it’s always a good idea to see if there are rooms for rent locally. Living in a room in a home and sharing common areas may be much more affordable than other options. If you have a group of friends or acquaintances who would all be comfortable living together, renting a house nearby is always a way to live comfortably and save some money. If you don’t mind sharing a room with someone, you’ll save even more money on housing.
These are just a few of the plentiful ways for low-income students to make their college years a little less financially taxing. There is some grit involved with utilizing these tips, which is yet another life lesson learned through your experiences in college. Trying even one of these tips may make college life easier if you are a low-income student, and you may find yourself happier and healthier as well!
Alec Mackenzie is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area and currently lives in the Greater Los Angeles Area. He has been writing creatively since high school and throughout his college career, with versatile experience in fiction, non-fiction, journalism, and screenwriting. When not working at his day job, he enjoys being outside, staying active, cooking, and writing.