Managing your money in college is a cardinal life skill that is borderline essential to learn and master during your years in college as, just like so many skills and lessons in college, it will carry with you after you have graduated from college and have stepped out into the real world (you know, that time when those things called “student loan payments” begin appearing at your doorstep.)
So, whether you are already a seasoned penny pincher, or are embarking for the first time on this financial quest to find the cheapest alternatives possible, I have compiled a list of tips, tricks, and resources for everyone to help save you a couple of dollars at the cash registers. I like to call it Operation COUPON. It’s cheesy, yet effective.
C – Coupons. Do Not Put Too Small a Price on Them!
Extreme couponing is an elusive discipline that probably rivals your Statics and Electricity & Magnetism class in terms of difficulty and time dedication, but what if I told you that couponing while in college really is not as hard as people make it out to be? I see countless residents of mine throw away coupons as if they were nothing more than an annoyance, but there be gold in them there pages!
Case in point: When I, a self-proclaimed money miser, needed a new pair of shoes, I paid attention to local retail store sales. When I found a good deal that offered free shipping on any online order, I went on the offensive, finding a 20% off your purchase coupon in the newspaper ads delivered to our Housing program. Next, I went online and found a 30% online order that also took off $15 on your next purchase. Long story short, thanks to two simple coupons, I got me a new pair of Nike Dual Fushions, normally $75, for just under $40 (with free shipping!)
Keeping up with the weekly sales at local retail stores, supplier collaboration and supermarkets, and then combining them with coupons and/or other promotional codes will start saving you money quickly. Sure, it may only be 10 cents here or a dollar off there, but it adds up in the end. Save more money by shopping at cheaper supermarkets too (here is looking at you, Wal-Mart.)
If your particular dormitory does not get newspaper ads with the boatloads of paper coupons, then go online! Countless websites out there have printable coupons, such as:
Additionally, when ordering online, Google promo codes for the website you are ordering from in order to save on online purchases. You can find a promo code for just about any website out there that will reward you with anywhere from 10%-40% off your online order.
O – Opt for Used Books, and Obey the Law of Recycling Books
If you haven’t noticed yet, textbooks are outrageously expensive and school bookstores tend to juice you more than any other store known to mankind. So, if you don’t feel like withdrawing your entire life savings in order to buy one semester worth of books, follow these simple moneygrubber methods:
METHOD ONE: Try to find someone who took the class last semester and see if you can simply borrow their book, or at least buy it from them (guaranteed to be significantly cheaper than the bookstore.) A lot of the time, students will place flyers on bulletin boards around the dorms or on campus letting other students know what books they are selling.
METHOD TWO: Check the library. Many campuses have the textbooks available there, and while you cannot normally check them out, you can at least do your homework. An hour at the library two times a week sounds a lot better than spending $250 on that Critical Approaches to Ethical Theory textbook.
METHOD THREE: If the above two methods aren’t quite working out, or are not exactly your cup of tea, then order online. Websites like www.amazon.com or www.skyo.com are always a good way to save on buying textbooks. Also, little known fact, buying older versions of your textbook is much cheaper, and the changes between versions is usually so small you can’t hardly detect them with a microscope. In addition, also order an international edition of your textbook. They are almost the exact same book, the only difference being a few foreign words or characters sprinkled in here and there. International edition of textbooks are always exponentially cheaper. And, if you use one of those aforementioned promo codes on your online order, your $175 textbook is suddenly $20!
At the end of the semester, sell your textbooks to other students or online (www.bookscouter.com is great for this.) Just, whatever you do, don’t sell them back to your bookstore because the profit you make from them probably won’t even buy you anything off the dollar menu.
U – Utilize Student Discounts for Computers & Computer Software
No matter how you go about it, computers and the software and applications you will need throughout college is going to be expensive. Nevertheless, there are even ways to cut costs here to make the blow to your wallet a little less penetrating.
Primarily, utilize your student discount! Patronize it! www.journeyed.com is the place to go when you are in need of computer software and applications, as it targets towards college kids. A simple verification showing you attend one of their participating colleges or universities (their list is massive, so chances are, you school does) will land you up to 80% off the retail price of the latest software and programs.
If you are ineligible for those discounts, however, there are still ways to save a little bit. Purchase Linux software, which is (generally) equivalent to the higher-priced Windows alternatives. In addition, shop online software clearinghouses for other discounted products from all vendors.
When buying a computer, decline extended warranties. Assuming you are buying your computer from a reputable manufacturer (Dell, Apple, HP, etc.) and store (Best Buy, Staples, Fry’s, etc.) then your computer is already under the manufacturer’s warranty for at least the first year after purchase anyways. Do spend the extra money for good anti-virus and firewall protection, however. This will keep your computer running smoothly for years to come, and prevent the need to spend money to fix viruses or other issues down the road.
P – Practice Practicability
- If you are living in off-campus apartments, don’t pay for TV. The internet is your television! You can seemingly find every single show imaginable online.
- Feel like going to the movies? All praise the significantly cheaper matinée!
- Want to rent something for a night in? Hello Redbox!
- Have a Wii, Xbox, or PlayStation? A cheap monthly Netflix account is your new best friend! Also available via the mail!
- Want to read the newest big hit in the literature world? Hey, libraries still exist!
- Looking for freebie events around town? Pick up that newspaper! It lists upcoming concerts, art fairs, theaters, festivals, art galleries, museums, and so much more, usually free or for very cheap admittance.
- Need your daily coffee fix? Buy a thermos, and visit the dining hall in the mornings and fill ‘er up! Better than buying your $5 Starbucks cuppa joe every morning.
- Need a gym? Use your campus gym (memberships are usually free for students!)
- Want new music? Just do your research about file sharing network programs and their methodology so you don’t find yourself with spyware or other inconveniences.
O – Obligate Originality
A lot of the time, you do not even need to spend any money in order to have a good time and enjoy some good company. Be creative in what you choose to do, even if it includes things as simple as a picnic, a long walk with a friend, a pick-up game of football or basketball, board games in your dorm with your roommate, reading a good book, visiting a local river or lake, or even attending the events that your Resident Assistants set up (we love that!) Ladies, forego the salon nails, make it a girl’s night, and do each other’s nails! Sometimes, the simple things are the best.
When it comes to decorating your room, you do not need to go out and spend a lot of money. And, as a side note, as Christmas is right around the corner (at the time of this writing, anyways) create decorations for your apartment and gifts for friends and families by using your own two hands.
Pintrest. Need I say more?
N – Navigate Nominally
When it comes to travel, finding the quickest way from Point A to Point B is also going to be the cheapest. Regardless if you are traveling short distance, long distance, or even internationally, there are even tips and tricks to getting the best deal.
Short-Distance: Carpool. Rather a no-brainer that traveling with friends makes things cheap individually.
Long-Distance: If you go to college out of state or far away from home, when it is time to go home for your breaks, you might find yourself wondering how to accomplish that the cheapest way possible. If you decide to go by plane, naming your own price for a plane ticket so that you aren’t juiced is a good way to go. www.priceline.com is great at allowing you to do this. If flying is not your thing, check Greyhound and Amtrak also. Did you know that both of those companies also offer discounted travel rates for students?
Internationally: While not exactly feasible for a majority of us, even traveling internationally can be cheaper for students when using www.statravel.com. This website specifically targets students and teachers and gives amazing discount rates for round-trip flights all around the world. I mean, I challenge you to find a better deal for a round-trip flight to Paris for only $600.