Winter break is the perfect time for college students to relax, spend time with family, and catch up with friends from high school. Despite the fact that the holiday season has a tendency to be one of the most expensive times of the year, winter break really does provide a chance for you to save up.
If you received cash in any of your Christmas cards from relatives, resist the urge to blow it all on a new wardrobe or the latest and greatest gadgets. Sock it away for the upcoming semester, and take advantage of these 10 ways to save money for college while you’re home for the holidays:
1. Get a temporary part-time job. If you had a summer job (or have one lined up for next summer) see if you can put in a few hours while you’re home on break. Most retail establishments hire temporary workers during the holiday season anyway, and since you already know the drill, you will save the company the time and hassle of training.
2. Baby-sit or pet-sit. Working as a cashier or server not your thing? Baby-sitting and pet-sitting (or even dog walking) are other options that can help you make some extra cash for college while you’re at home for a few weeks.
3. Use Mom’s kitchen! One of the best aspects of coming home for the holidays—in addition to the holidays themselves, of course—is the fact that you can eat all of your meals at home for free! Better yet if your parents let you sneak some non-perishable goodies for your dorm into your suitcases before you head back to school.
4. Go to the doctor. Winter break is also the perfect time to schedule regular checkups like annual physicals, well woman exams, dentist’s appointments and eye exams. Most large colleges and universities have limited health services on campus, but the quality of care you receive may or may not be as spectacular as your regular doctors provide. You may also have trouble finding doctors near campus that accept your parents’ health insurance.
5. Do your laundry at home. It can be tough to decide which clothes to bring home from college, but if at all possible cram as many as your dirty clothes into your luggage as possible. Doing laundry at home is much cheaper—free, for you!—than it is in the dorms. You’ll save quarters and go back to school with clean, fresh clothes.
6. Buy in bulk. If your parents live close enough to campus that you’re able to drive home from school rather than fly, you have the advantage of trunk space. If your parents have a membership to a warehouse club like Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club, stock up on items that you use regularly and take them back to school with you. The substantial savings can help you spend far less during the upcoming semester.
7. Clean out your closet. Go through your closet and remove things you haven’t worn in the last year or so. Take everything to a consignment shop or a used clothing chain like Plato’s Closet, which buys and sells used clothes and accessories. You could very likely get some cash for things you no longer wear. If the stores aren’t interested, donate the clothes to charity or see if a local friend would like them.
8. Clean out your piggy bank. Even though we’re living in a debit and credit card society, most of us still manage to accumulate spare change. Go through your room and collect spare change from your banks, purses, and jeans pockets. Head to a coin counting machine—they’re located in most supermarkets—and trade your coins for cash without the hassle of wrapping them and going to the bank.
9. Have a garage sale or sell things on eBay. Most likely, clothes aren’t the only things you have and never use. Go through the things you didn’t bother to take to school with you, such as DVDs, CDs, video games, and anything else you may have collected over the years. List them on eBay or have a garage sale—weather permitting, of course, since it is winter!
10. Locate used textbooks for your upcoming classes now.Used textbooks will be tougher to locate and possibly a bit more expensive once everyone is back to school in a few weeks. If you can secure at least a few of them now, you can get more bang for your buck.
And while you’re on your money saving kick, don’t forget to file your FAFSA as soon as possible. Financial aid for the upcoming school year is often awarded on a first come, first served basis so the sooner, the better. You don’t want to miss out on scholarships and grants that you would have been eligible for simply because you waited until the last minute.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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