Save on college costs
Tuition is bad enough. At least you can keep a lid on the extras.
(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.
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.