With that in mind, Joan Jensen, president and CEO of The Central Credit Union of Illinois offers the following strategies for helping parents and students get the biggest bang for all their bucks.
Keep Tabs on Your Money
Avoid overdraft fees by utilizing online banking to monitor and balance accounts. Seek out free checking accounts and free ATM/Debit cards. As a safeguard, sign up checking and ATM/Debit cards for automatic overdraft protection.
Don't Pay for Money
Think of the card primarily as an emergency reserve. Find a card with the lowest interest rate possible; no annual fees; and keep the credit limit to a reasonable level and pay all bills on time to avoid racking up unnecessary late fees. Avoid temptation by making it a practice to not carrying the card at all times opting instead to leave it back in the dorm in a safe place. Many colleges and universities have community credit unions that can provide students with sound financial counseling and low-cost financial services.
Eat and Drink and Stay Merry
If your student doesn't eat breakfast or spend the weekends on campus, consider buying a scaled down school meal plan to save money. Depending on size a daily latte, cappuccino, or mocha can run between $2.50 and $3.50. Over a the course of a semester that will add up to around $280.00 and over $500 for the year. If the school allows it, make your own. If not, shop around for more reasonably priced java.
Lowering Entertainment Costs
Save money on entertainment cost by hitting the lower cost matinee showings or the free movies on campus. Rather stay in? Rent DVDs as a group passing it around before its due back. This way everyone gets to watch it for a fraction of the rental cost. Do this only with responsible friends.
When out shopping for essentials make sure you patronize only those stores that offer student discounts. Get a group of students together and shop your nearest discount/big box store to buy basic supplies like laundry detergent, snacks and other essentials in bulk.
Staying In Touch for Less
To keep the cell phone bill to a minimum, consider using an free internet phone calling service such as Skype (eBay's VoIP service which offers free incoming and outgoing calls in many areas), Google Talk (Google's voice-enabled instant messaging service which allows you to leave voicemails Gmails or IMs) or Facebook - the popular social networking site to stay in touch with family and friends.