Save on college costs

Tuition is bad enough. At least you can keep a lid on the extras.

By Andrea Bartz, Money Magazine

(Money Magazine) -- You've just sent an enormous check to your kid's college - the least he could do is minimize the ongoing burn. Set him on a cost-conscious track, and you might have enough left in the bank to pay the next tuition bill.

Pick plastic in advance

Help your kid choose a credit card before she gets to campus and is hit with tons of offers. Shop student cards that have limits under $1,000, rates under 19% and no fees.

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Best pick: Citi's mtvU (citi.com), which rewards timely payments and good grades.

Secured cards, which allow users to borrow up to the amount of a deposit, are also an option, says Curtis Arnold of CardRatings.com; these build in a safety net should your child fall behind.

Dine on a dime

Universities usually start students with a default meal plan, often costing $1,600-plus per semester. But most kids don't eat 21 square meals a week from the cafeteria.

Brown University students use only 80% of what they've paid for, confirms the school's director of dining services. Ask about flexible options, like a mix of meals and "dining dollars." And identify the window for switching plans.

Check out online checking

The on- or near-campus bank is only worth the convenience if you can get an account sans service fees and minimum balances, says Greg McBride of Bankrate.com.

If not, an online-only bank might be better; ING Direct (ingdirect.com) has no fees or balance requirements and offers free withdrawals at 32,000 ATMs.

Troll for textbooks

Freshmen spend an average of $900 on books. Pare that by having your kid shop online. Campus bookstores can't match the discounts or used-book selection.

The latest Organic Chemistry by L.G. Wade lists for $175, but aggregator Campusbooks.com found a new copy for $57 on TextbooksRus.com.  Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.