“A penny saved is a penny earned!” Does anyone really live by this creed? Maybe so, but what does it mean to save a penny? What will a penny get you these days, anyway? A twenty-fifth of a gum ball? A twelve-thousandth of your English 202 anthology of Gothic literature? Sooo not worth it when that amazing camel angora cashmere sweater you’ve had your eye on since before gum balls and English literature were even created finally comes on sale and the last one just so happens to be in your exact size!
Unfortunately, it’s the adoption of this very attitude throughout last semester that has rendered your bank account emptier than your 8 a.m. Monday morning class. You know you should save your college funds for, ya know, college, but it always seems to prove so much easier said than done.
What’s a collegiette to do?
1. Eat in! (Not out)
Eating out is the ultimate luxury. Someone else cooks for you. Someone else does the dishes. You are waited on hand and foot. You can almost forget that you are, in fact, being charged for it all… almost. At the end of your meal comes the inevitable whopper of a bill you racked up after a drink, appetizer, entrée, and dessert, and it’s rarely pretty. Even eating a simple $15 meal just once a week can add up to upwards of $250 by the end of term if you don’t break the habit.
Satisfy your dining urges by organizing a potluck with your friends. Potlucks are a cheap, easy and fun way to bring everyone together. Unless you have a super generous boyfriend who insists on paying for your share every time you go to a restaurant (disclaimer: do not acquire a boyfriend solely for this purpose, cost-reducing as it may be), eating out is outif you want to spend less. And you don’t have to go to the grocery store every day to cook dinner, either. Buy a bunch of chicken breasts and some vegetables, add some PAM and teriyaki sauce, and you can make stir-fries in under 15 minutes any day you want.
2. Buy textbooks used! (Or don’t buy them at all...)
Textbooks are a necessary evil in the grand scheme of your expenses. A new semester means a new set of books, and at great cost. But how many times have you bought a textbook for a class and opened it a grand total of three times, once just to write your name in it? If you know for a fact you’ll be studying extensively from the textbook, buy it used! Most schools’ websites contain classified ads, which provide a great forum for you to link up with other students selling the textbook you need.
It’s also possible to rent textbooks through websites like Textbooks.com, a totally reliable textbook resource that allows you to save more than half of what your textbook costs at the campus book store. Many textbook websites like BookRenter, Neebo,Campus Book Rentals, and College Book Renter sites also offer bundle discounts on rentals of several textbooks or more so the more textbooks you rent, the greater savings you’ll receive. After you’re done with the textbook at semester’s end, you return it to the company free of cost!
Another option is to just not buy the textbook. That may sound like just about the worst advice you’ve ever received regarding your education but talk to any senior and they’ll support the fact that sometimes, the textbook just ain’t necessary.
3. Locate the ATMs for your bank
Think about an ATM for a moment. It’s kind of like a money pit stop when you’re on the go. But when you stop at an ATM that isn’t for your bank, you’re charged a surcharge of a dollar or two (or even three) merely to dispense a bill. If you’re only taking out $20, stopping at an ATM that isn’t from your bank means you could be paying up to an additional 10% of your withdrawal. Doing this several times a week could add up to several hundred dollars paid in surcharges by the end of one year.
Do yourself a favor and find out where the ATMs for your bank are. Next time you need to withdraw some cash, take the short detour to your bank’s specific ATM. If you can’t find one within walking distance, head to a convenience store or drugstore before trying another bank—the fees are usually lower. It may feel like the closer ATM is the more convenient choice, but what’s convenient about paying additional hundreds of dollars a year? Think about it.
4. Sign up for rewards from your favorite stores
Sign up for rewards at your favorite dollar-dropping spots like Sephora and Starbucks and save money at places you know you’re sure to spend. If you know you’ll be spending money at a certain place, signing yourself up for rewards will at least lower the toll on your bank account. Sign up for the e-mail list at your favorite places and find out about discounts as they come. “Signing up for rewards at my favorite stores didn’t cause me to spend more- it made me wait for the best deals to shop, instead.” says Courtney Sproul from University of Western Ontario, “It also left me feeling way less guilty at check-out!”
5. Recycle your clothing! (And your friends’ clothing, too)
No red-blooded collegiette can be blamed for embracing the trends of the latest season, but as trends come and go, so too will your funds! This being the case, it may be time to embrace the words of the wise prophet Justin Timberlake when he said, “what goes around comes back around.” Instead of going on a shopping spree at the start of each new season, organize a clothing swap and shop your friends’ closets! Invite a group of stylish girlfriends over and make some strategic item trades to shake up your wardrobe. You can always trade clothes out on loan if you’re not ready to part with them permanently
6. Stop paying for tickets and become an event promoter
No one wants to miss out on the event that anyone who knows anyone will be attending. You know that afterwards, albums upon albums on Facebook will be filled with photos of the event, over which you will cry silent tears to have been absent. But you just can’t work it into your budget to shell out for yet another $60 ticket!
Why not have your cake and eat it too? Contact the organizers of the next huge upcoming event to see what you can do to become a promoter for it. In most cases, you’ll have to sell a large volume of tickets to actually turn a profit, but most event planners will put your name on the guest list if you sell above a totally doable number of tickets. Stop paying, start promoting! On top of free entrance, a spot on the guest list of the hottest event in town certainly doesn’t hurt your street cred, either.
7. Stop studying at the café on the corner
It all starts with a light water, extra foamy vanilla latté. And then you’ve moved on to the double-shot macchiato to keep you energized. And then you supplement all these drinks with a toasted butter croissant and a protein plate. Before you know it you’ve spent $20 in one study sesh and you’re still not done reviewing your notes for tomorrow’s final. A coffee shop may seem like a relaxed oasis to study away from the stressed crowds of students cramming at the library, but it’s also a total cash-suck.
Even if you vow not to purchase more than one drink, there’s an unspoken rule at food and drink establishments of any kind that you “pay your keep,” so to speak. Purchasing a single chai tea when you arrive does not account for the five subsequent hours you spend taking up three of a café’s available ten tables for your laptop, textbook, notebook, empty mugs and mounds of crumpled paper.
8. Embrace the Art of Couponing
Ah, grocery shopping—nary a glamorous task. It’s easy to give in to what’s most convenient and least time-consuming as far as grocery stores go, but you’ll end up spending far more at the local independently-owned grocery store on the corner of your street than the large supermarket that may be a longer walk or bus ride away. Because large supermarkets like Publix, WalMart and A&P buy industrial amounts of stock, they get huge discounts on everything, which means the savings pass down onto you, collegiettes!
Furthermore, few college students realize that you can cut your grocery bill almost in half by simply clipping coupons for savings on your favorite things! As Stephanie Nelson, the “Coupon Mom” says, “Strategic shopping is not about changing the way you eat, it is changing the way you buy the food that you like.” You can find coupons in basically any local newspaper, in flyers at grocery stores and in printable versions online. Even Kourtney Kardashian’s doing it! In an episode of Kourtney and Kim Take New York, Khloe introduces Kourtney to the couponing movement and she soon grows obsessed: “This is not just about saving the money. This is all a game. It’s like winning in Las Vegas. It’s so thrilling.” If a Kardashian sister endorses it, that means it’s definitely worthwhile, right? Okay, don’t answer that. But seriously, coupons are your newest best friends! Clip them like they’re free VIP tickets to Lady Gaga. You’ll be saving in no time.
9. Buy in bulk
There are certain things a girl should never buy in bulk. For example, things with a short expiration date should really be purchased on an as-needed basis; please do not try to cut corners on your expenses by buying two months’ worth of milk. However, there are other things you can totally stock up on in advance, saving you money down the line. Buying the industrial size of anything is always the most cost-effective option if you know you will ultimately make use of it all.
Think bulk when buying things like shampoo and conditioner, bath products, feminine products, moisturizer and paper towels! As for groceries, many processed foods like cereal, ice cream, soda, water and paper goods can also be purchased in bulk. Spending a little more on an initial purchase will lessen your expenditure for months to follow.
10. Shop vintage or thrift
Thrift shopping, beyond saving money, is the best way to pick up statement pieces from bygone decades. Vintage is the chicest way to rarify your wardrobe and set yourself apart from girls who don’t step foot outside the outlet mall. Never again will you show up to a party wearing the same dress as another girl—and you’ll have the added satisfaction of having gotten it for a steal at your local thrift store. “Vintage shopping is my vice,” says Maggie Horikawa, a student at Barnard College. “It’s just an added bonus that sometimes what you want most only costs a couple dollars.” Beyond clothing, thrifting is also a great way to pick up things like picture frames, mugs and teacups, records –things that either don’t show their age or are made better with it!
With these tips in mind, it’s time to get out there and start saving! Get couponing! Get thrifting! Soon enough, you will be saving enough money to make even the Kardashian sisters envious.