Cutting the cost of college extras
Big tuitions are only the start of college costs. Here's how to get a handle on all the other little expenses that can add up to a big bill at the end of the semester.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- You've spent years pinching pennies to pay for Junior's college tuition. But now that he's heading off to campus, you're about to be hit with some other bills. You may expect to pay for textbooks, but watch out for the pizza bill and bar tab. Here's what you can do to cut these college costs.
1: Cut textbook costs
Students are estimated to spend between $700 and $1000 annually on textbooks, according to an Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.
But students don't have to shoulder all that cost. Check out abebooks.com, an online book site where you can get used and international books below bookstore prices.
Students will also want to check out eBay's (Charts, Fortune 500) half.com orCheapesttextbooks.com to do a bit of price comparison. Besides these on-line sites, more help may be on the way.
Some states are cracking down on overpriced books at campus bookstores. Some are waiving sales tax. Others are separating out CD-ROMs from textbook orders.
2: Get the discounts
College-age students spend almost $28 billion a year on food, clothing and entertainment according to Alloy College Explorer, a college marketing research program run by Harris Interactive. But don't despair, there are some deals and discounts out there specifically designed for college students.
Check out studentadvantage.com. Here you'll be able to buy a student advantage card that will give you discounts with Amtrak, Greyhound or Target (Charts, Fortune 500). And here are a few sites that will outline what other discounts students can get, from movies and international travel to computer software. Check out fatcampus.com.
3: Keep track of debts
With nights on the town, dinners out and financially strapped college kids get together, it can be a recipe for disaster figuring out the final tab. But there are some online budgeting tools to keep track of who owes what. Buxfer.com is an easy way to keep track of individual or group expenses.
You can then set up groups to divide expenses evenly or track your other monthly budget expenses. Billmonk.com is another free site that lets you track who's been borrowing your books or CDs. It also keeps track of who owes you money, and who you need to settle debts with.
4: Protect your biggest asset
A full-time student may be covered in the family's health plan until he or she graduates from college, but frequently, the student health service center doesn't accept outside insurance.
Find out if your insurance will be accepted by the campus health center before your kid heads to class. Colleges may charge you health clinic fees that can ranges from $1,000 to nearly $2,000 according to Jim Boyle of College Parents of America.
You can also check out student health insurance policies, which can be as cheap as $20 a month. Go to Stuhealth.com to see some options.
Plus, if your child is going to be living in a dorm or in off-campus housing, you'll want to look into insurance for all their stuff - from the TiVo to the laptop.
Check out renters insurance. Some colleges may not tell you to buy renters insurance, because they don't want to advertise that there could be theft or damage to property on their campus.
You may be able to get a deal if you sign up for renters insurance through the same company you have your own homeowner's policy with.
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