"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 was adoption of this very attitude throughout last semester that rendered your bank account emptier than your 8 a.m. Monday 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 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 out if you want to spend less. 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 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 percent 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.