Paying for college -- even with help from mom and dad or a giant scholarship -- demands some serious frugality from students. How is it possible to spend less on books, housing, and everything else that goes along with college life? One word: Craigslist. The idea of using the free classified advertising site won't come as much of a revelation to students used to turning to the web for what they need. But the mammoth site covers so much ground that students may not realize all that's available. Here are some tips for finding everything from an apartment to a part-time job on Craigslist.
This is Craigslist 101: Craigslist has local listings for more than 700 cities and 70 countries, so instead of ordering something online and paying for shipping, do a local search for what you need. Students already on campus should be redirected from Craigslist.com to the local Craigslist for their college town.
Hunting for housing, whether it's an apartment, a house, a sublet, or just a room for rent, is a classic way to use Craigslist for college. Landlords have plenty of space online to give detailed information in their ads and include pictures. No matter how complete a listing seems, though, it's wise to view a potential apartment or house and meet the landlord in person, if at all possible, before signing on the dotted line.
While you're at it, find a roommate to share the cost of that apartment you just snagged. Check out postings on Craigslist from people who want to rent rooms, or place an ad seeking a roommate.
Shop on Craigslist for furniture, kitchen gadgets, or a bike to get back and forth to class. Used college textbooks sell for less than they would cost at the bookstore. Another tip: Make sure to negotiate. Yes, most sellers list prices, but they usually allow for wiggle room. It doesn't hurt to try, and it may save a buck or two.
Textbooks still hanging around from last semester can be sold directly to other students on Craigslist. You might earn more than you would by selling them back to the bookstore. Earn a little more cash by cleaning out your apartment or your room at your parents' house (they'll appreciate it!) and selling things you no longer need. It's easy and free to set up an ad, write a description, and upload a few pictures. Just make sure to price everything fairly. If no one bites, you may be asking too much.
Part-time work can help pay for college and all it entails. Craigslist separates jobs by industry and allows searches specifically for part-time gigs. Internships for college students also appear among the listings.
Certainly there are those who try to take advantage of honest Craigslist users. Remember that if a deal or offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be suspicious of strangely worded ads or responses to your ads.
Bring a friend when you meet with someone from Craigslist. Never give out your address or too much information about yourself, even if the other party does.
Before money changes hands, check over any item you plan to buy to make sure it's exactly what the ad represented.
The many Craigslist alternatives include Freecycle, Recycler, and eBay Classifieds, and the popularity of Facebook has led to the creation of local buy, sell, trade groups. Search for one in your college town or join a hometown group to sell and buy stuff before leaving for college. You can also put the word out to Facebook friends that you are searching for a job, roommate, or place to live.