Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The frugal student.

So, I realize I'm not a college student anymore, but I was for seven semesters, and I was a very frugal one at that. I was the girl with Excel spreadsheets of every expense and income, categorized and sorted by month. Oh, you did that, too? Glad I'm not the only one. (Ha!) Today, I thought I'd share some money-saving tips I learned as a student, and maybe later I'll do a post-grad edition.

I wish this had been my college budget! | Source: via Sandra on Pinterest 

Full disclosure: I was blessed to have parents who were willing to cover my rent and to attend a school that thought I deserved a lot of scholarships, so I'll admit: I don't know what it's like to pay my own tuition. I'm sure these tips will not be adequate for those who find themselves facing thousands of dollars of bills each month. However, these tips did help me comfortably pay for my travel costs, sorority expenses, entertainment, books and clothes during college, so hopefully you'll find at least some useful.

1. Do not buy textbooks. I repeat: DO NOT BUY TEXTBOOKS. Why? a) I know you're probably not going to read them anyway, b) If you're a history major, like I was, probably 85 percent of your assigned books can be found in your university library for free, and c) Why buy when you can rent? Sites like are easy to use and carry pretty much any book you would ever need. Obviously, the biggest benefit of any textbook rental company is that you save money by not buying the book. Campus Book Rentals is especially convenient because it offers free shipping. As someone who really likes snail mail, I know how astronomical shipping costs can be. But when you rent a book from Campus Book Rentals, they provide you with a prepaid return envelope. How cool is that? As if you needed more convincing, each book you rent with Campus Book Rentals provides a donation for Operation Smile. Doesn't doing good while you save money make you happy?

2. Sign up for rewards programs. I'm not talking about retail credit cards that charge you fees. I'm talking about free rewards programs offered at most eating and retail establishments. We all know the Starbucks Rewards program is my favorite, but restaurants like Panera, Flying Star Cafe and a lot of local eateries offer similar programs. Some places will also have buy nine, get one free deals, etc. Take advantage of them!

3. On that note, register for frequent flyer miles. Why wouldn't you? Even if you don't think you travel enough, go ahead and get a frequent flyer number. It's free, and hardly any extra work at all; just enter your number when you buy your flight and they do all the work for you. I've gotten at least one free round-trip flight per year on Southwest since I became a Rapid Rewards member. Trust me, it's the best!

4. This probably should have been the first piece of advice, but I hope it's pretty obvious: Make a budget. And stick to it! You can use Excel like I did, or there are lots of apps out there for your computer and/or phone that help track your expenses. I use SimpliBudget now, which (fun fact!) was designed by my landlord.

5. Another thing I hope I don't have to say, but: Make good choices with your money. If you buy a $100 dress that you're only going to wear once, that's $100 you can't spend on anything else. If you choose to eat out seven times in one week, then that's less money you have to pay cover at the bar next Saturday. If you are careless with your money, you'll soon realize you don't have enough to go around.

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

6. That being said, don't buy clothes that aren't on sale. If you don't have a coupon or it's not on sale, it can wait. Seriously, I can't remember the last piece of clothing I bought for full-price (unless it was from Forever 21, in which case it was only $6 to begin with). You can always try Googling coupons for specific stores if you're really dying to buy something.

7. And finally, utilize social media to find deals. My sorority sister introduced me to a ton of great blogs that spotlight discounts, coupons and even free giveaways. Some of my favorites include Fantabulously Frugal, Who Said Nothing in Life is Free? and The Krazy Coupon Lady. There are also Twitter accounts that share discounts, like @AmazonKindle, which tweets daily deals on e-books. (I even get their tweets sent to my phone.)

Well, thanks for reading my super-long post! I hope at least some of the tips were helpful, whether you're a student or not. Toodles!

The fine print: This post was sponsored by Campus Book Rentals, but all opinions are—of course!—my own.


Carenpants said...

Lots of great tips! You know I love a good deal and am extremely cheap (in a good way!) I'm loving the sites you recommended, very useful! I've gotten all my textbooks through the bookstore and it is such a rip off, I'm never doing it again. I think you could make this a weekly thing if you didn't already have so many other good things going on!

Jill said...

Textbooks are the biggest ripoffs! One trick I learned is to buy older editions. 99% of the times they're exactly the same and they cost so much less.