Saving money while in school

You too can have cash and fancy glasses.  Courtesy of Google Images.

You too can have cash and fancy glasses. Courtesy of Google Images.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can rent a good replacement. Here are a few ways that you can save some cash and allocate it towards more appropriate goals, such as a 2 a.m. Jack-in-the-Box run.

FOOD – We all “gotta” eat, but you don’t have to throw money away on it.

1. On the official dining website, a small advertisement features prominently on each page stating: Save money – Buy a meal plan! Noticeably absent though are the actual prices for the three meal plans listed.  Instead, your correspondent had to dig through the catalog to find the only apparent location of said pricing. The five meals a week plan is $840 a semester. This spring semester has 17 weeks, including spring break. Subtract the $100 Pirate Bucks to get $740. Divide $740 by 17 for weeks, then divide that by five meals a week and you get approximately $8.70. That’s assuming you use every single meal every single week (unlikely given holidays and the desire to occasionally eat somewhere besides the Commons – especially since you have $100 in Pirate Bucks to spend).  However, if you simply buy these 85 meals with Pirate Bucks, it would only cost you $530 (85 x $6.25 for lunches) or $550 if it were dinners instead of lunches (unlikely again as this plan is aimed at off-campus students who would probably use it for lunch).  So, there is no conceivable situation where the five meals a week meal plan is a good investment, in fact you are throwing away a minimum of $200. Do the math!

2. You should not be spending so much on coffee. Let’s say you buy a three-dollar coffee three times a week. This is probably on the low end for some people, but it’s just an example. A year of spending nine dollars on coffee a week is $468.  Compare this to buying a Keurig style coffee machine (easiest solution but also one of the more expensive) for around $120 (more or less depending on model) and the equivalent 150ish cups for it which is about $80 depending on brand, and you’ll already be saving approximately $250 in the first year of owning it – more if you and a friend/roommate to split it, much more if you actually go through the process of brewing it.

3. Go to Costco and throw a dinner party. Buying in bulk saves money. While you might not have room for a 30 pack of paper towels, a group effort can make the trip to Austin’s Sam’s or Costco well worth it. Pooling resources to cook together accomplishes the same thing.

BOOKS – Textbook publishing is a huge, booming business – for a reason.

1. You want your books to be cheap, right? Nothing is cheaper than free. If the book is old enough for the copyright to be expired, more than likely it’ll be on books.google.com.  Another option to check on is simple – the library. While classic textbooks (math, science, foreign language, etc) are typically not in the library (and don’t ask me why they aren’t – I’m of the opinion that any book assigned for a class should be required to be available in the library), pretty much everything else is. Obviously class books might be in high demand from SU’s library, but don’t forget that the Georgetown library is just a few blocks away.

2. If you do have to buy the book, keep in mind that SU’s bookstore is one of the most expensive sources possible.  You can save a ton of money just ordering your books off Amazon, AbeBooks, or other such sites. You can also keep track of friends who are taking the classes you are going to take and buy books directly from them. This has the added effect of them being able to sell it for more than they would otherwise (typically). One caveat: This method is much more unreliable in terms of time and quality of the books, so in regards to convenience the SU Bookstore still comes out on top. Don’t forget to check edition numbers, although if you can get away with it, the previous editions are usually much cheaper.

3. Before making a decision, I’d recommend talking to your professor. Believe it or not, professors are highly sympathetic to a tight book budget. They’re also the best source for finding out if you can get away with an online version of the book, or a book that’s a few editions old. Finding a way to get around needing a book the class uses for a week is a whole lot simpler than a book used throughout the semester.

As with saving money anywhere, if you do the research and make a little effort, you can easily reap the benefits of being frugal.