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Going to College on a Budget – How to Remain Financially Independent While You Live Alone

Written by CB Community

From school fees to textbooks and dorm rent to living expenses, attending college isn’t cheap.

Many students don’t have financial support from family to help them get by, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a great education.

Here are three key tips for remaining financially independent and living alone at college:

1. Consider Living off Campus

There’s ongoing debate as to whether it’s cheaper to live in college dorms or to rent a private apartment, but for many students living off campus is a great way to save money.

Dorms tend to be more expensive to rent than private accommodation, and a big reason for this is that rent includes utilities like electricity and internet.

When you live in private accommodation you can shop around for the best deals and curb your use of utilities to keep bills low.

Bear in mind that for some colleges, particularly those in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., private rentals tend to be very expensive, and it could be cheaper to choose dorms.

Consider rents and living costs in your location, and don’t forget about expenses such as traveling onto campus and furnishing your place when weighing up whether a private rental is cheaper than college dorms.

2. Get a Part-Time Job

Around 43% of full-time students are in employment, showing that it’s incredibly common to work while attending college.

It can be tough juggling work and studies at the same time, but having a job can help you cut down on the size of your student loan or take the pressure off a tight budget by giving you extra spending money.

It’s also a good way to gain valuable work experience that will make you an appealing candidate when you apply for graduate jobs.

Some colleges offer discounts on tuition for employees, so consider an on-campus job to cut down on your college fees and earn an income at the same time.

3. Create a Realistic Budget

With textbooks, class supplies, and socializing all demanding money, it’s easy for spending to quickly get out of control for new college students who fail to budget properly.

Some figures go as far as to suggest textbooks alone can cost between $628 and $1,471 per year.

Creating a budget is a brilliant way to stay on top of outgoings, so do this before college starts and once you know what your income is set to look like.

Factor in funds for emergencies or unexpected expenses, such as your car breaking down, and be realistic about your lifestyle.

You might hope to save money by never dining out, but socializing with new friends is important, and it’s better to put money aside for these occasions than to spend it impulsively.

Be sure to check your bank statements regularly to see if you’re sticking to your budget and make adjustments where necessary.


Financial independence is within reach as a college student, provided that you plan carefully and keep a close eye on your spending throughout your studies.

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.