College isn’t exactly the most wallet-friendly investment in a person’s life. This sample essay discusses how to be frugal when you take into account student loans, cost of living, books, school supplies, not to mention frivolous (but necessary and fun) expenses like dinner outings, dates, and other social gatherings. And while college is a time when we are receiving higher education and really paving the road to the rest of our lives, it is also the time to have fun, make mistakes, learn from them, and [eventually] grow up.
Being frugal in college
Sadly, not all of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths and a lot of us have to work hard to play hard. So how can you make the most of your budget without having to call your parents in desperation? Here are some ways to save money (and a little bit of your sanity, too).
Transportation in college
Take advantage of the bus system. More often than not, you’d be surprised to find out that city buses that have their routes on college campuses offer free rides to students with a valid I.D. Not having to worry about looking for parking and simply putting on your headphones while you cruise onto campus seems like a pretty sweet way to save gas money for more important things…like Pizza-Hut for those marathon all-night study sessions.
Ride your bike or walk! This is another simple solution for getting yourself from point A to point B without having to constantly shell out dollars. The benefits alone (heart-healthy, getting in shape, etc.) are reason enough to get moving.
…Or join or start a carpool. Sometimes, you don’t live on campus. And chances are, there are other students who live in your apartment building that are most likely in that same saving money boat that you’re in. So why not take turns driving each other to and from class? You’ll meet new friends, have someone to talk to, save on gas, and feel like you’re doing something good for the environment. Not bad, huh?
Being frugal with food
Stop going to Starbucks, or whatever other overpriced coffee chain is in your college town. Seriously? $4.00 for a burnt latte when you can make one yourself at home for pennies on the dollar? It’s a no brainer.
Cut coupons! Many times, you’ll find that your roommates need a lot of the same things you do. So, cut coupons together. You’ll find specials on “buy one get one free” items that you can stock up on. Buy in bulk, too. You never know when 72 rolls of toilet paper might come in handy.
Save your change. Are you one of those people who constantly has loose change in his pockets? Do you just dump it out in a jar or bowl when you get home? Keep doing that! Once your jar gets filled to the brim, take it to the grocery store. Many of the stores have coin counters that charge a minimal percentage of the total amount counted. Or you can just take it to your local bank and they’ll be happy to count that for you. It can be really surprising how much it adds up to be!
Host dinners at home instead of going out to restaurants. Think about it: you can go to the grocery store with those coupons you just cut, get a few items on sale, and whip up an all-star meal for way less than it costs to go to the restaurant down the street. And you don’t need to tip anyone. Hosting a dinner party at home is a great way to gather your friends and loved ones together and break bread. It feels intimate and unpretentious. Plus, you get to show off your own culinary expertise in the kitchen. You can also make dinners at home a lot more entertaining than you think. Theme nights (think: homemade sushi or a Mexican fiesta) or even an “Iron Chef” night will make the night feel communal and engaging. What’s not to love?
Dressing for value
Shop second-hand and thrift stores. Scour Craigslist, or go to garage sales. All of these places are great to find one-of-a-kind things from clothes to couches. For most students, college is the time of their lives when they really discover who they are. They discover things about themselves that they didn’t know. Or sometimes, they break out of their shell that they were hiding under all those years because college is now finally the time when they feel like they can. And the great thing about all of these places is that their relatively inexpensive. A new shirt at the mall can cost at least $25.00. Go to a cool thrift store and you’ll find a shirt that no one else will have for $2.50. And then you have the street cred to call it “vintage”.
Ditch Those Drink Specials and Other Income Sources
Drink at home! This could be the biggest money saver yet. Drinks at the bars, no matter what their drink specials are, will cost money. You can pick up a few bottles of liquor and mixers or a few bottles of wine or even a 12-pack of a nice craft beer and you’ll still be paying less than if you had ordered any of those things at the local bar. Also, you’ll look extra fancy when you have a nice little bar at your place.
One word: Groupon. Two more words: Living Social. Obviously, we are social creatures. And there will be those times when we just have to absolutely go out and do something. Well, luckily, sites like Groupon and Living Social make that somewhat feasible. Offering deals like 2-for-1 specials on activities or $20 for a $50 dinner at a nice restaurant is a great way to make your money stretch. Plus, it’ll enable you to explore those places that were too expensive in the first place!
Make friends who have a trade. And learn a trade of your own. Know how to sew? Got a friend that knows how to cut hair? Ask to trade a haircut for an adorable apron you’ve made. Know someone who knows how to build / assemble furniture? Are you good in the kitchen? Offer to cook a meal for their hard work putting together your shelving. It’s all about compromise and students are always looking for free ways to get stuff or to get things done.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to explore the world of being frugal without missing out on the college experience. If anything, it only enhances the college experience and you’ll be able to regale your friends of that time when you did anything and everything to save a buck. And although you may have days when you think you’re the only person trying to keep it together financially in school, rest assured, there are many others who are going through exactly what you’re going through. The difference is: you’re actually doing something about it. So, put on that hand-made apron. Whip up a signature cocktail. And relax on your vintage thrift-store couch before your guests arrive for your French dinner fête. You should feel good knowing that you’re keeping it luxe and at the same time frugal. Good on you!