The cost of college is something many teens and parents worry about. Tuition is only one component of the equation and doesn’t factor in books, room and board, transportation, and other expenses that can sneak up during the college years. There are some steps you can take to make college a bit less expensive and easier on your wallet, plus you might not have to take out as many loans. Follow these five tips to keep the cost of your college education down. 

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  1. Start with Community College 

Community college is an excellent starting point for your higher education journey. You can get your general education requirements and core classes out of the way, and then transfer to a four-year university after. Verify that your credits will transfer to your chosen four-year school. The tuition for in-state community colleges is drastically cheaper than one at a four-year school. It’s even pricier to attend a school out-of-state or complete your degree at a private university. Staying local also cuts down on room and board. You’ll save thousands of dollars by living at home or in an apartment instead of living on campus with an overpriced mandatory meal plan. 

  1. Get your Degree Faster

Every year that you’re in school costs money. If you can get your four-year degree without spending eight semesters of tuition and expenses, you’ll save thousands of dollars. It’s something you’ll need to plan for ahead of time and very carefully to ensure you obtain all necessary credits. Ways to cut down on how long you’ll need to be in school for include: 

– Taking advanced placement (AP) classes in school to earn college credit, eliminating the need to take some general education classes. Some high schools work with local community colleges to allow students to take classes in high school. Tuition is typically cheaper and allows you to start your higher education journey sooner. 

– Take tests through the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), which offers to test in approximately 35 different subjects. Each test you pass gives you college credits. If you’re a self-motivated learner, you can teach yourself the material with resources from your library and save time and money. 

– Take an extra class or two during your freshman and sophomore years.

– Select classes that fulfill multiple degree requirements to cut down on the overall number of classes you need to finish your program. 

  1. Save on Textbooks

Textbooks are easy to overlook as a college expense until you head to the bookstore and get sticker shock looking at the exorbitant prices publishers can charge. The average student buying brand new books every semester is expected to spend more than $1,000. Here are some tips for cutting costs. 

– Request a list of books from your professor as soon as possible so you can shop around. Ask if you can use an older version since the newest one may only have a few minor differences but cost twice as much. 

– Browse around the Internet to find the best price on used textbooks. Start your search early so your books will arrive before classes officially start for the semester. 

– Check with the university library to see if you can borrow it. This is especially useful for books you might only need for a week or two of classes. 

-Rent your books instead of buying them. Pay a fee to borrow the book and return it and the end of the semester. 

  1. Find Free or Cheap Entertainment and Services

Your tuition includes mandatory student activity fees, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of these free activities your school might have: 

– Movie nights

– Exercise and workout facilities

– Transportation services to and from the school and local businesses 

– Guest speakers and “student only” events

Ask around to find out if you can obtain student discounts at local businesses. You could be paying full price when by simply being enrolled in college you can save money, especially on software. Every penny you save adds up. 

  1. Get a Part-Time Job

A part-time job can supplement your grant and loan money. You’ll also spend less time calling or texting your parents asking for money. Look on campus for jobs that work with your interests. You’ll gain valuable knowledge and have money to occasionally go out to eat or spend the night on the town.

Avoid exiting college with a mountain of student loan debt. Implement these tips into your overall strategy and keep your spending under control. With careful planning and smart budgeting, you’ll leave school reassured that won’t be haunted for years by student loans.