Spend Less: Ten ways to Reduce Your Expenses
You cannot change your tuition. You cannot change the cost of on-campus housing. Focus on the areas where you CAN change what you spend.
There are many students who get “free” credit cards along with a “free” gift and cannot control their spending. They might hide the card in a secure location, saving it for major emergencies. The other option is to cut the card in little pieces and throw it away, notifying the company that they have done this. Any accumulated debt will still need to be paid off, of course, Do it as quickly as possible before you owe more in interest that the money you spent.
Other students who are able to use a credit card wisely, will find that regular spending and always paying it off in full and on time will help them develop a good credit record. I prefer carrying a credit card rather than cash, but you need to remember the dangers of someone using your card if you lose it or it is stolen.
One way to prevent theft if that’s a problem in your area is to find a secret place on a jacket you wear most often and sew, perhaps inside the lining, a small zippered coin purse or something similar. You can keep your credit card or larger amounts of cash there, retrieving it privately in a restroom. You should also keep an old wallet that you don’t care about in your pocket with $5-10. If someone asks for your money, give it to them. It won’t be a huge loss.
Being a smart shopper is the first step to getting rich. — Mark Cuban
A bargain ain’t a bargain unless it’s something you need. — Sidney Carroll
1. You might check – for next year – the cost of living off campus. Talk to people who are doing it. In many, many cases, students think they will save money but end up spending more. They have electric bills, heating bills, water bills, and more. They need to pay bus fare every day to get to class or use a car which costs even more. I don’t recommend this. If you have family members nearby you might save money by living with them.
2. Pay Less for Food. This is a MUCH better way to save money. In some schools, all students must use the meal plan and you are paying for three meals a day, seven days a week. You cannot change that.
But most schools with a meal plan are flexible. You can change your meal plan. Instead of planning to eat three meals a day in your cafeteria or eating hall, can you cut that down to one meal a day? or perhaps ten meals a week? Check what the price is per meal and see if you can spend less somewhere else nearby or fix some meals for yourself.
If your school doesn’t have a meal plan, you might simply think about cutting back on meal costs. Do NOT start skipping meals. Check the prices for what you are eating. You can eat healthy foods like salads and vegetables and eat a lot less meat. My freshman year, I actually spent several months buying bread and peanut butter at a local grocery and I had peanut butter sandwiches nearly every day for lunch. If I saved $5 a day, six days a week, for 10 weeks, that came to a savings of $300. Not bad. That’s more than most students make when they start their own business.
3. Stop buying expensive soft drinks and bottled water. Many students buy 3-5 Cokes or other soft drinks a day. Students often pay a lot of money for bottled water. Try the alternatives. Drink tap water instead. If you pay $1 each for the three soft drinks or bottles of water a day and switch to tap water, you will save $3 a day, which is $21 a week or $84 a month which adds up to over $1000 a year. And that’s for only three drinks a day.
For five drinks a day, You would save $1825 every year. That’s better than many scholarships.
If the tap water doesn’t taste good, invest in a pitcher that filters the water. If you can’t stand water, buy tea bags and make your own iced tea – preferably unsweetened. You can make ice cubes in a small fridge or usually can get free ice in the cafeteria.
And there’s another excellent reason to do this. Cutting out sugary drinks cuts calories and reduces tooth decay. It also reduces your chances of becoming obese and chances of getting diabetes. Cut out drinking soft drinks will improve your health and actually can improve your learning.
4. Calculate what you would save if you didn’t drink beer or cut way back. What would you save if you ate a piece of fruit from the cafeteria rather than buying snacks during the day?
5. Textbooks are expensive. You can’t change that. But you can still save money on books.
……A. Pay less for Books: Buy used books at the book store. The earlier you get your books, the better choice you have of used books. Even better, buy them from a student who took the class last year. Even better, find a student in your department who took the class last year but wants to keep the book. She might let you borrow the book this year or let you rent it for a small fee.
You can also find used books on the Internet for much better prices. Be sure it’s the same edition. These companies will also buy the books back at the end of the year. You’d get more if you sell it to another student, but that isn’t always easy.
……B. I have never tried it but you should be able to team up with another classmate and share one book. They might let you borrow the book every weekend if you pay 1/4 the cost of the book or less. I can also imagine taking a math class with a friend and planning to do homework together right after class. If you had calculus in high school and are taking it again in college, or if you’ve always been really good in math, you might offer to help them when they need it – tutoring them in math – in return for their letting you share their book. You could also find a friend in the class and agree to split the cost of a textbook – new or used – and create a schedule for each person to use the book. One might want the book in the mornings and the other in the afternoons. One might use the book Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the other on Tuesday, Thursdays and Weekends.
……C. Use the Library. Most textbooks will not be in the library. But if you are taking a literature class, check to see which books you can find in the library. If you check a used book store — not the campus book store — you may find some real bargains on collected works of Shakespeare and other authors you will be reading.
……D. And then, of course, Resell your books at the end of the class. Whenever possible sell them to another student for less than what they’d pay at the bookstore for a used book, but more than what you’d get paid by the bookstore. If the bookstore won’t take it back – you really can sell it online.
The longer you keep a book, the more difficult it is to resell it. I know it hurts to get such a small amount for such an expensive book. But unless you really anticipate needing he book in the future, go ahead and sell it. If you plan to teach history, you might save the one or two history books you’d be likely to use as resources. But in most cases, you’ll never use them.
6. Sell your Car. If you have a car, sell it unless you really need it to commute to class. You might not get much for your car but you’ll save a huge amount on insurance, gas, repairs, etc.
7. Spend less on dates or having fun with friends. Instead of going to see a movie, watch a favorite TV show in the lounge. Instead of paying high prices for movie popcorn, buy microwave popcorn to eat while watching TV. Ask someone out to go to a free lecture, a free concert, or other free campus activities. Instead of eating at a nice restaurant, pack a lunch and have a picnic at a nearby park.
8. What are you paying for haircuts or getting your nails done? Ask a friend to trim your hair between haircuts. Learn to do your own nails. And, think about getting your hair done in a less expensive shop.
9. Look at the cosmetics, toiletries, and other necessities that you buy. Can you save money by buying less expensive brands including store brands. Consider shopping at a dollar store for some items. You might save money in the long run by buying larger sizes.
10. Spend less on clothes. Visit Thrift Stores. Most students start their freshman year with so many clothes that they shouldn’t need to buy more for many years. But if you do, you can find amazing bargains at thrift shops. It takes a little longer to find what you want but you save huge amounts of money. You might need to try several different thrift shops to find one selling better quality items.
My daughter bought a prom dress for much less because it had been used in a fashion show or in a display. She often bought clothes at thrift shops while studying at Yale. The clothes were of better quality than what she saw in the stores and cost a lot less. My son bought a used tuxedo at the thrift shop. He wore his tuxedo for years (and paid less than the price of a rental). His date bought a really beautiful prom dresses at the same shop at an amazingly low price.
I still buy a lot of things there including shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters. I’m still wearing an old sweater my mother bought for ten cents at a thrift shop. It’s getting a little ragged but it’s so warm that I like wearing it around the house. Furniture is also a good deal. We bought a used dining room table and chairs, used desk chairs, a used TV cabinet, used lamps and so much more. We also have coffee mugs and dishes and even gifts from yard sales or thrift shops.
11. ? You are creative. Think of another five or ten ways to save money. Brainstorm with your friends. Ask older students how they saved money. Put the list on your bulletin board.
Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. — Will Smith