Top Tips to Reduce the Cost of College

By Flora Richards Gustafson

Lesson Plan Guide

Girl and piggy bankOne of the sweet things about being in high school is that life is still somewhat inexpensive -- and maybe you’re still getting an allowance. But are you ready for the funds to stop flowing once you graduate? Being an adult means having the ability to fend for yourself financially. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, it’s never too early -- or too late -- to start saving money and spending smarter.

These tips will help put your finances on the right track as you make your way through high school, college and beyond.

  1. Learn to budget. A financial plan that lists the money you earn and your expenses, a budget helps you see the big picture regarding the amount of money you have, your spending habits and savings goals. Your high school budget is pretty simple. The money coming in is usually from your allowance and/or part-time job. The money you spend goes toward socializing, buying gas (if you drive), music, and other fun things. When you set up a budget, you know exactly how much you need to save to help you reach financial goals, such as buying a car, an outfit for prom or college textbooks.
  2. Spend less than you have, and carry less cash. Smart money management requires spending only the cash you have so you don’t go into debt, which will cost you big in the future. And if you make a habit of carrying less cash when you go out, you won’t be able to give in to impulse-buy temptations.
  3. Get a job – or create one. While this seems obvious, it can be hard for a high school student to find work. Some jobs to consider include babysitting, yard care, pet-sitting, tutoring and helping people move. If you’re not able to find odd jobs around town, consider volunteering so you get the work experience to make your job application look stellar.
  4. Avoid credit cards at all costs. Once you turn 18, you’ll see offers for them everywhere. There’s something so alluring and adult-like about having a credit card. But what credit card companies don’t tell you is that people between the ages of 18 and 22 with credit cards owe an average of $3,173, according to Don’t start your adult life in a financial hole.
  5. Make and stick to a savings plan. Having a savings plan will make you financially savvy. Consider opening a teen or student savings account. Then regularly deposit a certain amount of your allowance or paycheck and watch it grow.
  6. Take advantage of student status. When you’re in high school and college, a lot of things are cheaper. Never be afraid to ask a business if they offer a student discount. The money you save getting free tickets into museums and discounted movie theater admission will add up fast.
  7. Cut out unnecessary expenses, BYO. The little things add up quickly. The snacks you buy in the cafeteria: How much do they cost every week? How much would you save if you brought the same snack from home? If you spend $1.50 on a soda every day at school, you’re spending $7.50 per week, $32.50 per month or about $292 every school year. Likewise, snacks at movie theaters and events are very expensive. When possible, bring your own.
  8. Buy used, sell used. From cars and clothes to books and music, when buying you’ll have the same things as those who pay the price for new, but you’ll have extra cash in your wallet. Turning that around, your unwanted items are a source of revenue: Consign them, have a yard sale, or sell them online.
  9. Shop smart. Scour the newspaper and Internet for coupons. Wait for sales. Dollar stores offer much of the same merchandise as discount and drug stores – snacks and drinks, toiletries, school supplies and novelties -- but often for a fraction of the price.
  10. Take high school classes that give you college credit and/or take CLEP exams. Take AP classes that give you college credits. Or, if you really rock at a subject, take a CLEP exam, pass it and get the college credit without setting foot in a college classroom.


About the Author

Flora Richards Gustafson