It’s been 22 years since I was last a student, but I can still remember the lifestyle well. A lifestyle where every penny counted, and a lifestyle where I ate so much Pot Noodle that I haven’t been able to eat it since.
Student loans can be crippling, and scholarships pay for just the essentials. Therefore, in between studies, students need to find ways of staying financially afloat. Well, here is Mr Mark Moneybags to show you how you can achieve that. Being Scottish, I am obsessed with making and saving money.
Discount Coupons & Season Passes
Discount coupons are a student’s best friend, as they can save you a lot of money over the long term. So it would pay to start accumulating them for when you need them.
Since every country is different, I can’t tell each of you definitively where to find offline printed coupons. You may find coupons in newspapers and magazines. I personally get coupons in my mailbox. But as usual, online is where you will find the best offers.
If Amazon is your thing, there are a few places you can check for discount codes. Other possibilities include Rather Be Shopping, and these 10 possibilities we looked at back in 2010. And if you’re wondering whether these discount codes actually work, Yaara tested some out back in 2013.
As for season passes, if you are travelling to college every day on the bus or train (don’t use a car!), then it would be silly to pay full fare every day. Instead, invest in a monthly pass. It works out cheaper in the long run, and it would give you unlimited travel during that month. Just ask at your local bus depot or train station.
The only way you are ever going to organize your money properly and make it last through the month is to make a proper budget plan. Otherwise you don’t know what’s coming or going, and you will end up using up your monthly allowance in the first week.
To keep things really basic, use Excel. If you don’t have a copy of the desktop Excel, check out the next section where we discuss that. But in that situation, the free Office Online version of Excel would do very nicely instead. Or its open-source equivalents, Open Office and Libre Office.
Note down in minute detail every single thing you spend every monthy – the rent, the groceries, electricity, gas, water, phone, Internet….you get the idea. The bare essentials that you need in order to live your life and do what you need to do. Then stick to the budget religiously. If there is any money left, you can allocate some of it to going out, entertainment, and so on, but that isn’t a bare essential. So it may be that your budget forces you to entertain at home with a pizza, and a movie on TV. Maybe you might find the money for a Netflix subscription every month? $8 a month is much cheaper than going out for dinner and a movie.
Lastly, do NOT use a credit card for anything. Yes, it’s good to build credit, but it is not good when you can’t make the repayments, and the interest starts building up.
Websites Where You Can Use a Student ID For Discounts
As a student with a student ID and a student email address, you are in the enviable position of getting huge discounts on stuff online. Take for example, Microsoft. You can get a Windows 8 license for only $69.99, and students get Office 365 for free. Phones, laptops, and tablets, are also things you can get student discounts on, if you know where to look.
Even places like Dropbox offer free space to students every now and then. It really is just a case of keeping your eyes open for special bargains.
Cheap Accommodation Sites & Ways Of Lowering The Rent
Deciding whether you are going to live on-campus, or off, is going to be one of your major decisions. Living on-campus may work out cheaper than the rent on an apartment off-campus, but the advantage of living off-campus is that you can leave the college grounds every night, and feel you have a life outside of studying. So there are advantages and disadvantages either way.
If you decide to live on-campus, see if there are any part-time jobs in the college that would allow you to trade for room and board (or at least a significantly reduced amount). Maybe they need help in the library? Or maybe as a “Resident Advisor”. Apparently a Resident Advisor is a very sought after and lucrative job in US colleges.
If you want to live off-campus, then there are a few things you can do to minimize the cost. First, don’t accept the first place that comes along. Look around at different places, and see if you can negotiate with the landlord. Don’t sign anything until you are absolutely sure you can afford it. Secondly, see if there is anybody willing to be roommates with you to split the rent. Third, try and rent everything, or buy extremely cheaply on somewhere like CraigsList. You could even strike lucky and get free stuff on FreeCycle. This would include furniture, kitchen equipment, carpets, etc.
Don’t get a phone line installed. Instead use your cellphone (call your cellphone company and ask if they have any special deals for students. If not, start threatening to go to a competitor and see if that entices them to haggle with you), and/or use Skype. Have you seen the cost of landlines lately?
Second-Hand Books & Study Materials
One of the biggest expenses you are going to face for college is textbooks and study materials. The cost of buying new will eat into your bank account like corrosive acid going through metal. Therefore it makes financial sense to try and buy old used textbooks. This is no time to get snobbish and say you’re not using someone else’s hand-me-downs. The amount of money you would save buying used makes it worthwhile, so swallow your pride!
The first port of call for textbooks would be students finishing their course, who are departing the college. They probably wouldn’t mind earning a few bucks, offloading their books, if they haven’t sold them already. If that isn’t an option, then there are websites specializing in used student textbooks. Some sites offer rental and some offer outright sales. Amazon is a good place to start looking as they have a huge used bookseller sub-section. Other options include Chegg, Textbook.com, BookRenter, and DirectTextbook. You could even save money (and a lot of heavy carrying) by seeing if the books are in eBook format.
Cheap Food & Drink
Cooking is where you are going to have to get a bit creative, as food can be extremely expensive. But there are some ways you can cut down on the bill, apart from stacking up the discount coupons.
Buying ready-made meals cost a lot, but you can instead make everything fresh at the weekend, and cook in bulk for the entire week. A few carrots here, a few potatoes there. Some pasta, a sauce. When it is done, freeze most of it, and have the rest for dinner.
If you are stuck for recipes, there are many online cooking resources. You can take a look at places such as Epicurious, Yummly, AllRecipes, SimplyRecipes, and MyRecipes. If you have an iPad, you can prop it up in the kitchen and follow along with the recipe, as you go.
As for lunches, don’t go to the college canteen all the time. Instead, make packed lunches at home.
It’s the same deal with alcohol. Drinking out at bars is going to drain your wallet in no time. Consider buying what you like to drink from a supermarket, and drink at home with your buddies. You would end up saving yourself a fortune.
Working Part-Time & Making More Money
It sucks having to work a part-time job, when ideally you should be studying. But if the loan or scholarship doesn’t cover all the costs – and your parents are unable to bridge the financial gap – then you would be left with no choice but to find a job.
Obviously, all the usual ones come to mind – waitressing, pizza delivery, dish washing, McDonalds, Walmart. But try and see if you can get something a bit more interesting. For example, if you have any writing talent and tech knowledge, MakeUseOf may hire you (or a similar site). Other websites often have “write for us” pages. If that doesn’t appeal, check out Craigslist, and look at the jobs sections. Sometimes there are things like writing, editing, web design….things that don’t even require you to get dressed.
Or provide services that other students may want. Offer to type up essays (do NOT do the essay, just type up their notes and check for grammar and spelling errors). Offer to print out their work. If any of them are applying for a job, offer to make their resume. Anyone having a computer issue? Then you are the resident computer repair technician. You get the idea. Think outside the box.
Finally, if you don’t need anything anymore – whether it is your books, your furniture, clothes, DVD’s, whatever, then sell it and make some money! The Internet is the perfect place to do it. eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist are the top three to consider, due to their large in-built customer base. Just bear in mind the fees you will have to pay eBay and Amazon for listing something.
See What You Can Find For Free On-Campus
A lot of students pay for things off-campus, not realizing that those same things are probably offered for free, or a vastly reduced charge, on-campus. For example, gym memberships. Many colleges have gyms that students can use for free. So why pay for a costly membership for an off-campus gym?
Also, freebies may be getting handed out on campus by promotional companies, to entice you to sign up for something (just be careful what you sign). Campuses may also have free movie night, and other social events. Libraries will take care of your recreational reading needs, they may even have DVD rentals.
Even something like condoms are probably given away by the campus. Hey, you’ve got to have a sex life, right?
These are just some ideas, meant to spark your creativity. Put on your thinking cap, and try to find ways to make that student loan last the 3 or 4 years you need to graduate.
What other ideas do you know of to save money at college? What did I miss?