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Livin’ the College Dream on Uncle Sam’s Budget


Sarah Lawrence College was recently dubbed the most expensive school in the U.S., rolling in a little over $57,000 in tuition costs per student per year. So if you’re not currently enrolled in SLC, this post is just for you! Most likely, you worked your butt off the summer before you headed into your respective college/university as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior while mom and dad paid the big, bad bill for your education. Gosh, love parents. Or maybe you worked your butt off all summer and took out loans to pay for your own education. In that case, love you.

In the deep dark pit of this recession, everyone keeps telling us to be money conscious.

Hm, “money conscious.”

Uh… huh?

If you have a shopping problem like me, then the term “money conscious” doesn’t exist.  Or maybe your kryptonite is Grey Goose Vodka, chilled, two limes. I’m afraid the term “money conscious” doesn’t really fit in there, either.

So, as “money conscious” college students – the future movers and shakers of America – it is our moral duty to put a big Band-Aid over all of our country’s problems and teach mom and pop a thing or two about what being “money conscious” really means. Here’s a foolproof plan that allows – basically entitles – you to be sloppy and savvy at college.

Want to work hard and play even harder? Spend your money in ways that outsmart good ol’ Uncle Sam and don’t leave a big gaping hole in your pocket where your wallet once was with these price friendly ideas:

1. What’s Free is For Me

Who doesn’t love something that’s FREE!? Colleges across the country are constantly offering free events during the week and on weekends. Catch a movie with your roomies or go to the ASL club barbeque. Freshmen listen up, your first few days of school your campus is crawling with free stuff: t-shirts, calendars, water bottles, sporting tickets, etc… So you’re officially a fool if you don’t capitalize on all the stuff you can wrap your innocent little hands around. Upperclassmen, however, need to be a bit more savvy. Since you’ve got the advantage of knowing your surroundings a little better, be sure to jump on every and anything with the word FREE in front of it.

2. The Bar…. Before the Bar

As a freshmen I did this ALL THE TIME. Okay, even as a senior I still did this ALL THE TIME.  And maybe I even did it again this morning…

Don’t look at me with judging eyes yet. Hear me out.

Who has enough money to pay $8 a drink at the bar? Even if you’re a lightweight, the $16 bucks it would take to get you drunk could (and should!) go toward late night Domino’s. Use those street smarts! Pregame before the bar. Pregame before Happy Hour. Hell, pregame before you even start pregaming.  Save yourself the money and time and get to the bar just as things start to get blurry.

3. Brunch, Supper, Linner

Any other in-between meals that you can think of? While at first it might be fun to explore all the culinary delights your new town or city might have to offer, these types of tasty treats get super expensive after about the first week. Take it easy on your wallet and snack before you go out to eat with your girlfriends. Cheese and crackers are filling as well as fruits and veggies. Try just ordering an appetizer or splitting an entrée with a friend when you do decide to dine out. If you’re going to drink with your meal, BYOB locations are way more pocket friendly than the hottest Tapas bar in town.

4. The Code of Coupons

Keep your eyes and ears out for the coupon book! These little booklets are JAM PACKED with deals at all kinds of restaurants, bars, shops and town/city activities near you! Get a cheap haircut or buy a new pair of jeans for half off the original cost! The great thing about these booklets is that they rarely expire before the end of the semester/year and are taken almost all over. Drunk and need Chinese? Spill coffee on your favorite white blouse? Promise your Great Uncle Marty a UVM sweatshirt and now you’re broke? All hail the coupon book! Here’s an even bigger tip: use the coupon book in conjunction with your student ID and receive an extra discount! (Most shops will give students that present their ID at the point of sale either a 10% or 20% discount, depending on deals your school has worked out, but be forewarned: cashiers won’t remind you so remembering your ID is crucial!)

5. Buying In Bulk

When I moved off campus I learned a couple of things very, very quickly. Bulk is good. Bulk is your friend. Buying in bulk makes your wallet feel good and makes your belly feel full. For all of you that either live off campus now or intend on living off campus at some point, heed my noble warnings! Buy in bulk! Not only is it cost friendly but you’re also getting more product per pound, which is especially helpful if you’re living with lots of friends.

Jump into your fall semester having fun and saving some cash! Online banking is also a great way to stay in control of your funds and if you’re a super overachiever get a local job working within the community that you now reside in. After school programs, tutoring, babysitting and work study positions are all relatively simple jobs that pay fairly well and will be enough to keep your wallet afloat!

But if that wasn’t enough to urge to be “money conscious”, let me remind you of one little, little thing. You have loans. Loans which you will have to pay back some day. And that some day is sooner than you think. They are your loans. You will have to pay them.

Until then, happy spending!