As traditional college students and adults who are going back to school know, higher education can be really expensive. Although there are many scholarships, grants and financial aid opportunities, there are still many expenses that may not be covered. From textbooks to supplies, back to school isn't cheap and for some, the price of all of the extras can take a huge chunk out of a budget.
However, there are ways that you can save money or in some cases, avoid them completely. You can learn from sites like Freshersfields and articles like this one at the Independent, which offer a variety of tips to help you. If you're struggling to afford college, here are 3 college expenses that aren't necessary:
Textbooks -- You've gotta have them, but you don't have to pay full price for them. Typically, a college bookstore will stock all of the required textbooks for the courses they offer. It's really convenient, but what they don't tell you is that they charge full price, and in some cases, a higher price for the books. It's sort of like buying milk at 7-11, it's not as cheap as buying it at the grocery store, but if you just need milk, it's easier than going to another store. There are many websites that can help you find low cost, or used copies of textbooks. For instance, Amazon has a huge selection of used textbooks, some at a significant savings over a brand new copy. Also, you may be able to find low cost eBook versions of your textbooks as well. Companies like CourseSmart make it easy to find the textbooks you need and even if you don't have an eReader, Amazon Kindle is available as an app in your web browser so that you can read the book right on your computer screen. However, if you are looking for a super cheap alternative, check your local library. If they don't have your textbook on their shelves, they may be able to reserve a copy for you from another library. It's worth a shot!
Computer Software -- This one is a biggie. Almost every course, especially the online courses, require students to have a current copy of Microsoft Word. They require it because they want to be sure that all of their students are using a good word processing program and that the file formats will be compatible across the board. However, you don't have to shell out all of that money just to use Microsoft Word. Don't tell Bill Gates that I told you this, but Open Office, offered by Apache, is an open source, free alternative to MS Word. It's completely compatible with Word and you can still use, edit and create .doc files. As an added plus, Open Office allows you to create and edit .PDF files as well. As if that wasn't enough, Open Office includes an open source alternative for all of the Microsoft Office products.
A Top-of-the-Line Laptop -- You don't have to shell out big bucks to get the technology that you need. Even if you are taking courses online, you don't need the very best laptop. In fact, a used or years-old laptop can do the job just as well. Of course, using it isn't as fun as using a brand-new, super-fast computer, but it's certainly easier on the bank account. If you have some computer skills, you can really transform an old laptop by wiping the drive and installing an open source operating system like Linux or Ubuntu. Using a Linux version like the new Fedora 15 isn't nearly as scary as you'd think. I made the switch to Linux a couple of years ago and I would never go back to Windows. At first, I was afraid that it would be hard to learn, but it was surprisingly simple to get the hang of. As an added plus, Linux doesn't get infected with spyware or viruses, so you don't have to buy anti-virus software.
Higher education is expensive, but it doesn't have to break your budget. Look for other ways that you can save while you're training for your new career.
What other things do you think aren't necessary? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Photo credit: MorgueFile
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