by Zoey

Spend vs. Save: Surviving the Costs of College

Let’s face it, college is expensive! With tuition, room and board, books, and supplies, costs can add up quickly. But if you’re smart about your spending, you can cut your costs to a more manageable amount, making your college experience a little less stressful.

Save: Books. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your books and get them all fresh and new from the bookstore. Check out websites like Amazon, Chegg, and BookRenter to find books that are used or are available to rent. Chances are the books you need for class aren’t books you’ll need to own for the future, so save some money (and some paper!) by getting books that were previously used or that you can return when you’re done.


Spend: Backpack. Having a comfortable and sturdy backpack is definitely worth the investment. Hauling around a laptop and a bunch of books can get heavy, and if you have classes all around campus, you want to be able to walk in comfort. In addition, investing in a reliable backpack now will save you from having to replace it each year. I bought a North Face backpack way back in middle school (wow, remember those days??) and it’s still holding up in college! The initial price might seem daunting, but spending good money on it is worth it.


Save: Dorm decorations. Having your own little home is an exciting part about college, and it’s fun to personalize it to make it comfortable. But you don’t have to be a big spender to have a nice-looking room. There are so many DIY projects on Pinterest and other websites that make having a unique room really simple! You can also find great decorations at second hand stores and make them your own. Last year, I made my own bulletin board with some cork kitchen trivets, and old board I had, and a piece of burlap from Target!


Spend: Winter coat and boots. I know, I don’t like to talk about it either, but winter is a thing that happens in Iowa. Once October and November roll around, you’ll definitely want to have a coat that keeps you warm and boots that keep your feet dry. The trek across campus in a light jacket when the temperatures are below zero with the wind chill is absolutely miserable, trust me. But once I got a warmer coat and boots that kept out the snow, it was much more bearable. Plus, generally spending more on these things mean that they will last longer, so you won’t have to buy them new each year.


Save: Coffee. Yes, coffee. If you don’t already drink it, chances are you will start. But if you’re buying a large mocha from Caribou each day to keep you focused, your pockets will be empty in no time. If you’re a coffee person, try brewing your own coffee in your room or drinking the dining hall coffee! ISU serves Peace Coffee which is actually delicious! With all of your dining dollars, treating yourself to a fancy cafe coffee every once in awhile is totally great, but don’t overdo it and spend too much.


Spend: Outdoor Rec trips. Though I haven’t had a chance to go on an Outdoor Rec trip just yet, I’ve heard incredible things about them! For ISU students, they’re very affordable and can provide the trip of a lifetime. Whether you’re into rafting, biking, hiking, you name it, they have a trip for you! So grab a few friends or meet some new friends on the trip and enjoy a break from the classroom and a chance to enjoy the great outdoors.


These are just a few costs out of the many in college, but by thinking smart and managing your money, your college experience will run a lot smoother!

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