Hey, college students: Here are 5 ways you can afford that next trip

College can be a cruel time for would-be globe-trotters: It’s often the time when you most want to travel– whether it’s Spring Break in Mexico or a month in Europe– but it’s also one of the times you’re least able to. Why?

No money. Sure, it might be easy to take out tens of thousands of dollars of student loans to fund your trip, but you will pay for this, with compound interest, later. Better to find some creative ways to scrape together some cash so you can turn your dream trip into reality.

Here are five non-traditional tips that’ll save you some real dough:

1. Your campus bookstore is ripping you off big time. Please don’t tell me that you still buy and sell your textbooks at the campus bookstore. Why not just take your money and flush it directly down the toilet? (Or, hell, I’ll take it.)

Buying and selling your books online can save you hundreds of dollars per semester. (Half.com works best for me.) Another tip: As soon as you figure out what books you need for the semester, see if they’re available at your university’s library. Often you can check out textbooks for an entire semester and return them when the course is over.

Finally, if a course “requires” a textbook’s new 12th edition (cost $140), buy the book’s 11th edition (cost $2.99). The book’s page numbers will be different, but the content will probably be very similar.

2. Suckle at the government teat. If you work at least 20 hours per week and make less than $1,200 per month– the exact requirements depend on your state– you might be eligible for food stamps, a form of federal assistance that can provide you with hundreds of dollars per month to spend on groceries.

Nowadays, food stamp recipients don’t use actual stamps but a type of debit card, so that no one but you (and maybe the cashier) has to know that you’re suckling at the government teat.

3. Selling your plasma is not that embarassing. Nothing signals financial desperation quite like donating plasma. But if you’re saving up money for a trip, an extra $70 per week ($35 for donating twice per week) can really come in handy.

What’s involved in donating plasma? On your first trip, you’ll have to fill out lots of paperwork, receive a physical, and take a drug test. (Note: “Negative” is, paradoxically, a good result.) After that, you’ll sit back for an hour or so, watch the plasma drain from your body, and feel the cash roll in. For those of you near a major airport, eight plasma donations might just buy you a round-trip ticket to Costa Rica. Adiós, sangre!

4. Shopping at Aldi, Save-a-lot, and Price Rite is not that embarassing either. For the poor college student with $11 a week to spend on groceries, these stores are, for lack of a better term, the bomb-diggity. Canned goods, milk, and snacks are ridiculously cheap, and you won’t notice a drop in quality. Admittedly, these are no-frills places– not an olive bar, exotic fruit, or free sample to be found. But you’ll save a ton of money.

5. Here, have forty-five bucks. An investment site called Sharebuilder has an ongoing promotion that gives you $50 for signing up for their service and spending at least $5. I’ve done this, multiple times, and it works like a charm. And so far, the police have not come knocking on my door. (Well they have, but not for this.)

I’d suggest plugging “Sharebuilder promotion code 2009” into your favorite search engine, then doing some research. The money takes 4-6 weeks to arrive, but it’s free money, so quit yer bitchin’.

Have any more money-saving tips for poverty-stricken students? Leave ’em in the comments.