If you are a college student you already know how tight finances can get. After tuition, fees, books and other expenses related to your education are met, you likely find yourself limited in cash. This is, if you aren't already living off negative balances in your bank account.

The good news is there are many ways you can try to counter your money struggles to put yourself in a better financial position. To reduce your financial burdens it takes some proactive planning and a little work, but with this effort you can aim to ease the burden of some of your money struggles, keep a positive balance in your bank account and not end up carrying too much debt.

IOU/Student Debt
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Top 10 Tips for Financially Struggling Students

1. Apply for financial aid and work study programs

This is a smart move even if you think you won't qualify due to your parents' income, or if you are working, your own salary. Many students pass up the opportunity to file for financial aid for various reasons and this is one of the biggest oversights students make. Even if you don't qualify for full tuition, you might be granted some money which may at least cover partial tuition or even some books, but you'll never know unless you apply.

If you are denied financial aid, by at least filing you are also usually eligible for low interest loans which will save you in the long run. Many students are also offered work study opportunities which also relieve financial distress because you are given a job (often right on campus) without having to pound the pavement looking for one.

2. Apply for Scholarships

Many corporations and foundations generously give away thousands each year, but a large number of students aren't aware these wonderful opportunities exist. If you take the time to ask your school's financial office about scholarships and do some additional research on the web, it is probable you will find many scholarships you can apply to. It's a lot of work, but worth the effort.

There are many good websites dedicated to scholarship searches. Most will ask you to register first, but stay away from sites which ask you for any sort of payment as most reputable scholarship search engines will never ask for money. Check out FastWeb and CollegeNET - I had success with both. CollegeNET also offers its own ongoing scholarship program as well and anyone is eligible to participate. Over the years scholarships were awarded monthly, then weekly - check the site for the most current opportunities. [1]

3. Buy used text books

The required books for classes can result in severe sticker shock if you buy your books at the college book store, but you can easily cut these costs in half if you buy used textbooks. Many students are very happy to sell their used books to you at a fraction of what you'd pay for new. Another good avenue is to search online; the Internet is a wonderful opportunity to comparison shop and find good prices for used text books. You can often find great deals at Amazon and Half.com. 

4. Sell your text books

Once you're finished up for the semester, place your books up for sale while they still have some value before new editions come out. Place flyers at your school, network with other students and organize book swaps, or put them up for sale on Amazon or another website which facilitates used book sales. I used to break out at least even most of the time by buying used and then selling back for close to what I paid for it, especially if you can keep your books in good condition. 

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5. Eat on the cheap

Food is a huge area many people spend money on and if you aren't playing it smart, you're probably throwing money away. Take-out, vending machines and pre-made foods are more expensive than if you were to just make it yourself. If you live in the dorm, stick to your meal plan and/or create a small pantry area (or see if there is a common area on your floor) to keep food; preparing your own foods and snacks is cheaper and more nutritious too.

Students who live at home or are a returning non-traditional student with a family, it is easier to prepare your own foods from home. One trick is to reserve a few hours a week to cook several meals and stock up in the freezer; this makes homemade meals a snap on those pressure-filled days where you are tempted to order-in or go out to eat. By avoiding purchasing take-out, this will save bucket loads of money. It's healthier for you too.

6. Don't shop on credit and pay cash wherever possible

It is common for students to get stuck in the abyss of credit cards when so many are offer tempting low introductory rates and free gifts. Don't fall for these ads! Many students find themselves severely in debt once they start opening multiple accounts because it's much harder to keep track of spending when you use plastic. Instead, keep one card for emergency use only and make every effort to pay it off monthly when the bill arrives.

7. Live within your means

Maintain a running balance of what you're spending money on and how much, even for the small things you normally wouldn't account for like a bag of chips, a bottle of your favorite beverage or some gum. You'd be surprised how much you spend and if you keep careful track of your money, you'll quickly discover where your limitations are. This is where you can cut out wasteful spending. Once you see where your money is actually going, you can create a budget which will help you keep better track of unnecessary spending and then you can put that money back in your pocket.

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8. Keep an eye on your monthly expenses

Do you really need those extras on your mobile plan? If you have your own account, do you need all those cable channels which cost extra per month? Gas can be a huge expense, are you making trips with your car when you can walk or combine multiple errands into one trip? Can you take campus transportation instead? By examining where your money goes each month for regular necessary expenses, you can easily pinpoint ways you can cut back and save some money.

9. Shop at thrift stores

You can find some really awesome clothing in great condition at thrift shops. Many items often still have tags on them and you can put together a great wardrobe at basement bargain prices. Secondhand clothing is lot cheaper than buying new clothes at the mall or even the outlet centers. Plus it's better for the environment to recycle and reuse. 

10. Research student discounts

Many programs and/or companies offer student discounts on computers, books, electronics, travel accommodations and even movie tickets for the occasional night out. Look for shops that offer student discounts. Most of the time all you'll need is to have your student ID on you for verification.

Money struggles are tough when you're in college, but by taking a proactive approach to money and plan your expenses, it'll be a lot easier to manage your money and avoid coming out of college in massive debt for unnecessary expenses. Some of these top 10 tips for financially struggling students should increase your cash flow, at least a bit.