When I got accepted to the University of Florida, I was thrilled. I jumped up and down and did backflips and wrote many letters to the school and thanked them for my acceptance. By the end of the day, that thrill turned into sadness. I thought it was amazing that I got accepted, however, I didn’t know how I would be able to pay for it.
The University of Florida is one of the most expensive schools in the nation. My parents are farm workers. Their income level is below $10,000 a year. They certainly couldn’t help me pay for school. I couldn’t make up my mind of whether I should go or attend the local community college.
After many days of deep thinking and countless visits to my high school counselor, I decided to attend the University of Florida. Since I didn’t have a way to support myself freshman year, I quickly learned how to save money instead. Below are 10 money-saving tips I learned in college.
#1 – Federal Work Study
To begin with, getting a federal work study part-time job on campus is very important and amazing. One, because you’re a student they work around your school schedule. They value your education as much as you do. They understand that your education is a priority so they work with you. If you have an exam on a day you’re supposed to work they give you that time off if you ask in advance.
In addition, working on campus is so convenient and safe. Since I lived in a dorm on campus, it was convenient for me to walk to work. I didn’t have to worry about transportation or being late or walking home alone at night. Because it was a student job they allowed me to work a bearable amount of hours. Between 10 to 20 hours a week so I could have time to study. I worked the evening shifts as a student clerk at the front desk at a Student Residential Hall because during this time students were not as active, so I got a lot of free time to study.
Federal work study was a way for me to make money while studying, hence saving the little bit of money that I did have.
#2 – Food Stamps
In addition, I applied for food stamps. Due to the fact that I was a student and was working, I was qualified for food stamps. Food stamps are a certain amount of money the government provides to people each month depending on income level to help them purchase groceries. This had helped me a lot in college.
Before I applied for food stamps I would eat raman noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This was unhealthy and would cause me to lose energy and focus in class. Once I received food stamps I was able to purchase fresh groceries for the month until I applied again. Not being able to afford groceries made me more conscious of budgeting and couponing so that the government assistance I received could last me through the month.
Receiving food stamps made me realize the importance of an education so I wouldn’t have to depend on it and also taught me the benefits meal prepping.
#3 – Purchasing Food on Campus
To continue, I went grocery shopping instead of purchasing food on campus. The food on campus sometimes almost double the price of food at the grocery store. I quickly learned to not purchase food on campus when one day I bought a small bag of peanuts for $3. I could have purchased the entire pack for that same price at WalMart. The prices were magnified on campus to balance out the convenience of having food on campus.
#4 – Cooking
I learned to cook. Cooking helped me save a lot of money. The first few days on campus I would eat at the student dining halls and at the restaurants on campus. After sitting down calculating how much money I spent during the week I realized that a $7 dollar meal 3 times a day for 7 days really adds up. I realized I could get 3 meals for that same price if I cooked it myself. For example, I would buy a box of pasta, and a pack of ground beef for that price and would have 3 small meals.
#5 – Work
I would use my abilities that I already have to make money. I speak Haitian Creole fluently and had the opportunity to tutor people in Creole or would look over their essays for them. There is a Haitian Creole class taught at the University and it was a very popular class. Many non-Haitian students took this class. Due to the fact that mostly only Haitians speak Haitian-Creole, Creole tutoring was at high demand. Therefore I set my own prices.
#6 – Public Transport
I used the university bus system for transportation instead of by car. The bus system was very convenient for students. It transported students to and off campus as well as major grocery stores and around town. It was absolutely free for students as long as we showed the student ID. Also, the bus ran all night until 2:50 am. Even students who owned cars relied on the bus system.
Finding parking on campus was extremely difficult and paying for gas and insurance added to the financial burdens. I also shopped at thrift stores, such as goodwill. The local goodwill sold good quality clothing, housing appliances and furniture for a lot less than retail stores.
#7 – Applying for Scholarships
I applied for scholarships. There were scholarships online for students who were already in college but due to not finding the time to apply students missed out on these opportunities. I made sure to search for scholarships on the school website as well as other sources. I have received some scholarships which definitely decreased my financial burden.
#8 – Working for the School
I worked for the school and the school, in turn, waived my fees for some of my courses. After working for the school for a certain amount of hours they paid for some of my credits. A lot of students don’t know this and may not seek that opportunity. After researching I learned this and took advantage of it.
#9 – Eating Lunch on Campus
I ate Krishna lunch on campus. Sometimes as a student, I didn’t have time to cook but I didn’t want to spend so much money purchasing food on campus and I also didn’t have time to go off campus to buy either. Therefore, I would buy Krishna lunch on campus.
Krishna is a religious group that would come on campus every day at lunch time to serve organic fresh vegetarian food, for 5 bucks all you could eat. You could even take some home for dinner. If you didn’t catch them on time you could go over to their Krishna House just 5 minutes off campus to buy some. They also served free lunch if you didn’t have money.
#10 – Staying up to Date With Students Events and Offers
I took advantage of the many organizations and events that served food on campus. For example, once a month the school website would post announcements of when they’re having an organization fair or housing fair or career fair or health fair. During these events, they always served food and drinks and free giveaways to students. If I was already on campus I would stop by to get a free meal.
Sometimes student clubs like the Hispanic Student Association would serve pizza after their meetings. Or the bible study group on campus and the Catholic Church next to campus would offer free dinner to students every Sunday. When I used to live on campus I would enjoy the spiritual education and get dinner after.
There were many ways to save money in college. Sometimes it just took a little time and strategies to do so. These 10 tips worked for me and I still use them to this day. I hope they work for someone else.