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College Advice

Save Money in College

DormEssentials March 10, 2019

Whether you’re still lucky enough to have a credit card you share with your parents, or are you’re working an on-campus job on top of tutoring, you could still start the ancient art of saving money. College is a time when money’s tight, so before you even get to spending, you should also remember to make it. Applying for scholarships and applying to internships will keep some money in the bank. Most of your money is probably already spent on tuition and books. So how do you keep what remains during college?  While using the line, “I’m a poor college kid” will validate situations like you eating pizza for the 4th time this week, or getting extra cash for saying it while  batting your eyes at distant relatives—the end goal is to become financially responsible and a baller. (Obviously). There is so much that you can do as a Freshman that not only will a Senior Year version of yourself thank you for, but every age after will smile fondly on the freshman who didn’t spend $100 on an elaborate outfit for a frat party that ultimately gets puked on in during the pregame. So how can you save money in college?


Speaking of theme party outfits: just go to the thrift store. You don’t need to build your costume to look like a hot Loch Ness Monster with pieces from the mall. Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, Brandy Melville, and all the others might have some nice cheap finds but the ones that will catch your eye as “perfect” will hardly ever be found on the clearance rack. So start at the cheapest spot, and when you realize the only way you’re getting those perfect sparkly green boots to complete the outfit is from an online store in Switzerland, you’ll feel better about not overspending on the rest.


The 99 Cents store! This place has grown immensely since I was a kid and the larger the store, the more options you’ll have. It’s insane how many brand name items come through these doors. Why would you spend 6.99 on CVS brand cotton balls when you could buy an indistinguishable knock off at A DOLLAR?! Sure there are some items you might want to shy away from (I’ve not heard great things about a self-tanning lotion for 99 cents) but as long as you’re vigilant or buying brand names this place will save you TENS. Online, this also means looking at used options for books that you’ll need for the semester. Used is basically new, especially if you don’t need a supplementary online code!


Shopping retail? Make sure to download RetailMeNot or another coupon finding app. I’ve made it a tradition to look up the store i’m shopping in right before checking out. Speaking of online – I downloaded the Honey Plug-In thinking it was too good to be true: a tool on my web browser that looks at my online shopping carts and tells me what coupons to apply after running a scan on the whole world wide web, automatically? Insane! After using it a few times,  I did realize the best way to make use of the Plug In is to copy and paste manually all the codes they give you, rather than relying on the “Auto-Fill” function of it all. That being said, I have saved so much with aggressive numerical codes (i.e. 37XDLI219!448)  that I would have never thought to type in myself.


If you have a job, the best thing you can do is take a little bit from each pay check and put it into savings. When I was more financially stable (read: still 100% reliant on my parents) I would take 50% of my retail job’s paycheck and put it away into savings. I knew that one day I’d be working entry level jobs for my real career aspirations and would need something to float on when being a Production Assistant pays you in sandwiches. When you do go out to buy things, keep it focused on the essentials. When you go out to eat or drink, pass on getting the soda and go for a water cup instead. IF you go out partying, grab a handle from a convenience store beforehand and pregame to save yourself the high cost of drinks at an event. Piggy back on the friends mealplan who has extra that would go to waste- or maybe even learn to meal prep in college if you’ve been eating out alot. And for the clothes, maybe even consider borrowing before buying!


College is all about being social, making friends, having fun, all that good stuff we always talk about—but don’t over exert your wallet to keep up (don’t also under exert it – the extra money spent going to events will create memories you’ll cherish as you enter the working life).  For example, if a friend asks you to catch a movie on a weekend night, one that you really had no interest in seeing, feel free to pass or try and catch a matinee (they’re usually cheaper.) For some reason peer pressure gains a price tag after high school, and we feel the need to show our friends that we can do the group activity that’s costing us an arm and a leg (we’re all going to take a party bus to a concert where we’re all in the pit), rather than being honest and saying we don’t see the entertainment value being worth that price. Online research for cheaper options could always help, but being able to say no is just as important of a skill. Make decisions to take advantage of the opportunities you really want, and pass on the ones you could go without.

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