The new semester is approaching fast and as tuition rates are starting to climb all over the country, there is a constant need to save every penny you’ve got. There are dozens of ways that you can save some money and make more out of a semester. Here are 5 of the easiest ways to save money at school

Use Free Software

Licensed software can kill your wallet. After you drop anywhere from $250 on a netbook to $3500 on a MacPro, you still need to load it with the software that you need to keep up with your classes at school. Microsoft Office costs upwards of $120 for their student package. Your options? Use free software instead.

Open source software is often as good (and sometimes better) than their licensed, proprietary cousins. Open Office is a great alternative to the Microsoft suite, and Google Docs will even host all of your documents on the cloud. That way nothing short of a nuclear bomb can cause you to lose a project that you’ve been working on all semester. The best part is that both of these suites will let you save to a .doc, .xls or .ppt so that your professors can view it on their machines.

What if you’re into graphic design or need other specific software? The open source community has developed several options from Gimp (a photoshop type app) to Inkscape (an Illustrator clone) to Kino (an iMovie style video editor). All for free.

If you want to go the extra mile, you could even download Ubuntu– a free operating system that runs of either Macs or PCs. Most computer manufacturers will even give you a discount for a computer without Windows installed, saving you and extra $50-$100.

Check out your textbook from the library

Most university libraries are required to provide the textbooks that professors are using every semester. If you head to the library while everyone else heads to the bookstore, you can often check out your textbooks for free at the library. Depending on how steep the late fee is at your university, you can often “rent” your book from the library for less than half what the used book would cost. And even though you can’t sell it back at the end of the semester, you’ll still probably be ahead of the other students who paid full price for one.

If you weren’t fast enough to get to the library, you should always try an off-campus bookstore or online through Amazon or eBay before going to the university bookstore. Craigslist in college towns is usually packed with textbook options.

Ride a Bike

One of the biggest costs on university campuses is transportation. Getting from point a to point b can be one of the most costly expenditures at school. Between gas, insurance, parking lot fees and potential tickets, owning a vehicle can be a real nuisance (with the obvious exception of moving in and out of town). Getting a bike will help you get to class quickly and cheaply. And if you get your bike at a second-hand store or from a desperate student on Craigslist, you can literally acquire transportation for the semester for less than $50. Add in the obvious benefits of the aerobic exercise that you’ll get and it’s a win-win.

But what if you want to hit the town with your roommates? Most college towns have excellent public transport that people often don’t even utilize. And more than likely, one of your roommates will have a car. Why not mooch off of them for once?

Join a volunteer group

This is a strange thing to put on a list of ways to save money, but joining a volunteer group (especially one that is directly connected to the university) can be a huge asset to a student that’s trying to save money. Aside from the obvious benefits of giving back to the community, networking with professionals, meeting new people and building your resume, volunteer groups often will provide food at meetings and service projects. That will help you lower the overall cost burden on your grocery bill.

Volunteering is a great way to build a professional network and build real world experience, and the free pizza doesn’t hurt either.

Make friends in high places

College, if nothing else, is about networking. So while your at school, network as much as you can with professionals in the industry you’re considering attending. But almost as important as networking for the future, is networking for the present.
‚Ä®Students always take whatever jobs they can get, and that means you’ll have a neighbor or a roommate or a classmate or a girl/boyfriend that works at a restaurant, movie theater, gas station or bakery. Be outgoing and friendly, and reap what you sow. People come home from work with free pizza or bagels, can get you into free movies or hook you up with other goodies pro bono. It’s a perfect opportunity to save some cash and keep yourself fed.

There are dozens of other ways to save money at school. What are some of the ways that you have hacked school?

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