How to Live Cheaply When Getting Your Degree

College is a time when your budget's going to be stretched pretty tight, but never fear: there are experts before you who've made it work and are happy to share their tips so you don't have to feel such a pinch.

Learn to Cook

Getting a meal plan card can be easy and hassle-free, but it also works out to costing you a lot more over the long run. That $7 meal you just swiped your card for can be made for probably about a dollar. For example, Florida State University's most basic 7-day meal plan comes in at just under $1,999, working out to about $250/month for eight school months. You don't have to suddenly become Wolfgang Puck overnight, either, but just look up a few recipes and stick to them. Something as simple as pasta salads and Sloppy Joes are cheap, easy to make, and leave you plenty of time for focusing on getting through your four years.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

When you're in college or university, organizations like banks, travel agencies and performing arts venues are tripping over themselves to offer majorly discounted prices to students. The benefit is twofold: you get to enjoy perks and benefits at sharply reduced rates, and because the organizations want to secure you for the future, they'll be putting their best feet forward in terms of services offered. Check out Carrington College's site for just some of the dozens of discounts your student card can get you.

Pick Your Sleeping Places Carefully

This is especially true if you're in a high-pressure program like engineering, law or medicine. Living in a dorm with other students, while cheap, might not be the best option for you. Instead, look for roommates to share off-campus housing with, as most schools have blocks of housing set aside for students and rent them out for less than you'd typically find in an apartment. If you do go for off-campus housing or your own apartment, look for places that are unfurnished. Their rent is usually cheaper each month, and with a bit of sleuthing around, you can find used furniture that'll still work out to less than had you rented a furnished apartment.

Keep a Good Balance

At first glance, this tip doesn't seem to fall as neatly into the "ways to live cheaply at college" category as the others, but it does form the crux of everything else. But if you examine it more closely, maintaining balance will help you keep healthy (saving on healthcare costs), eating your awesome, home-cooked meals (saving on overpriced takeout), joining clubs (maybe leading to making contacts who can refer you to a great job), and finishing your degree on time (saving on more tuition and apartment rent).