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How to Stretch Your Dollar During College

Posted by Alyssa Pascarella on Sep 13, 2018 4:43:00 PM

There’s no better time to learn how to skimp and save than when you are in college! Chances are, you’re on a tight budget. We all know the stress that comes with such restriction, so we’ve put together this handy list of ways to penny-pinch.

Stretch your dollar

Use your student discount

You have probably heard all about some of the local options when you first received your student ID, but remember to use it! Movie theaters, restaurants, and retail shops all offer deals and discounts for students. And there’s more!

  • Save money on shipping with Amazon student.
  • Significant discounts on streaming music services like Spotify.
  • Tech companies like Apple and Microsoft all significant student benefits, sometimes adding up to hundreds of dollars in savings on new products.
  • Experiences like museums, symphonies, amusement parks, and other cultural events typically offer student pricing. When in doubt, ask!

Avoid the bookstore

The on-campus bookstore will inevitably include markups that can easily be beat online. Always buy your textbooks used, and rent them when possible, unless you reasonably foresee a need to retain them for more than the current semester. If you’re in the market for college-branded clothing, make sure to shop around online before dropping money at the bookstore – chances are, somebody sells it cheaper. Slugbooks is a great tool for comparing prices on college textbooks.

Park the car

If you can walk or bike, do it. You’ll save a ton of money if you can ditch the car altogether, between insurance, maintenance, and fuel. But even an overall reduction in driving can help plenty, if you consider how much you’re likely spending on gas over the course of a year.

Put away your wallet

Think about what you need to buy, and buy only those things. This is a tough one, because we all enjoy life’s little luxuries. But if you can brew coffee in your dorm or pick it up in the cafeteria as part of your meal plan, you’ll save quite a bit over the cost of daily coffee at your favorite chain. (A $3 cup of coffee every day adds to up $1095 in a year!) Similarly, retail goods are usually the first place most of us waste money. Here’s a great trick for avoiding impulse buys – never buy an item the first time you see it. Try this: “If I still think I need it in two days, I’ll come back and get it if I can afford it” (i.e. not put it on your credit card if you can’t pay it off that month!). You’re likely to decide you don’t need those new shoes after all! Going to a gala? Borrow a dress from a friend rather than splurging on a gown you’ll only wear once. You get the idea…

Cook at home

If you are on meal plan, use it! If you can’t make it to the dining hall, there are ways to make a decent meal with just a microwave and a mini fridge in your dorm room. But if you’re in more generous housing, use that kitchen! Get together with friends on a rotating basis and make communal dinners. Shop at the cheap grocery store and practice making recipes that can feed a crowd. Restaurants, even low-priced options, are considerably more expensive than anything you’ll make at home.

Get a job or internship!

Even a few hours a week will pad your pockets. Start with your school’s career services office, where the staff will have compiled lists of both on and off-campus positions that might suit your needs. Also check out bridge.jobs for internship opportunities in Rhode Island. While at the career services office, get some help with that resume and brush up your interview skills. If you have experience as a babysitter, server, or retail employee, you’re more likely to land work in a similar vein. But remember that you can diversify if you like, and that new opportunities are always sprouting up.

Living on a shoestring budget is tough, but you’re tougher! Be smart and savvy, and you’ll always have a few dollars left to spend when you really need them. 

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Topics: Financial Education for Students, Adulting!, Money Management, College Life