Going to college takes a lot of money. Things like tuition, housing costs, food, transportation; all of these things cost thousands per semester. What’s more, a part time job paying minimum-wage won’t cover all those costs when you need to devote most of your time and energy to classes, studying, sleep, and a social life so you don’t go crazy. Even if you aren’t a student anymore, fear not! These suggestions apply to anybody! Thankfully, there are ways to cut costs in ways you may not expect:
1. Don’t buy textbooks.
Textbooks are specifically marked up since the publishers know that students need them. Buying them new from bookstores both wastes your money and keeps the exploitation cycle alive. Try finding them used if you must buy them or scanning the pages of someone else’s copy. Sometimes, your school library may even have what you need at no cost to you!
2. Live with other people.
I know, people are a pain. People can do some crazy shit – especially when they live in close quarters with you. Sometimes it may feel like living with them was a horrible idea, and you may be right. Sometimes, you might make the horrible decision of living with four other guys in an old house and one of them may be your ex. Then, when everyone stops getting along after two months, you find another place to live within two weeks of the drama bomb. Then you may end up moving into a four-bedroom apartment on the other side of town with three sophomore guys you don’t know just to get away from the drama permeating your other living situation. And even though it may be hard to live with other people, at least your rent is cheap and you’ll have the stories stashed away for your memoir. And won’t it just be the best memoir.
3. Cook for yourself.
I am surprised at how few people cook for themselves. It saves a ridiculous amount of money and the food usually tastes a million times better. Since food and rent are the top expenses I deal with every month, I have saved so much money just by cooking rather than eating out. Plus, since I only make minimum wage, eating out costs about an hour’s worth of wages per meal. This means I need to work a full hour to get that money back if I spend it eating out—or I could simply spend fifteen to thirty minutes preparing myself something to eat and saving those hard-earned dollars. Over the past two years, I have learned to make myself the weirdest dishes and have been consistently surprised at how easy it is to prepare them.
4. Don’t buy new clothes.
Clothes can easily be made or bought at a thrift shop for much cheaper than the new selling price. Also, raiding your sibling’s closet every Christmas for the things he/she doesn’t want may be a way to restock your closet. What’s nice about the popular styles nowadays is that old, used clothes are actually cooler than new ones anyway.
5. Research what your city or school already has to offer.
There are many free services available for those who are willing to find them. Maybe your local vegan restaurant takes an hour of volunteer work in exchange for a full course meal? And don’t forget the free food at club meetings on campus! In addition, many schools or cities will have festivals, concerts, movie screenings, or other forms of entertainment free of charge.
6. No, you don’t need cable TV.
Use (your friend’s) Netflix or YouTube for movies and shows. There’s nothing on cable TV anyway. Seriously there’s nothing.
7. Find other ways to entertain yourself that don’t include $300+ systems
I know that PS4 or new Xbox looks like an awfully tempting reason to empty your bank account, but there are so many other ways to spend your time. Learning a language, reading a book, spending time with friends, or exploring neighborhoods of town you haven’t been before are some things you could be doing instead and typically cost nothing. If you are really into a hobby that requires certain equipment, go for it. But make sure you will get your money’s worth out of all that money you just dropped.
8. Use public transportation
Buses, taxis, trains, or even biking to where you need to go may take a little extra time, but you don’t need to worry about the down payment, registration, insurance, or repair costs of owning your own car. Of course, some people really need a car, but there’s no denying that owning your own car is a financial black hole.
All this cost-cutting can easily add up if you follow these tips consistently. Personally, I think living simply is a big part of being able to do what you want. Accumulating material things while you’re young ties you to one place and prevents you from being spontaneous. Having a little bundle saved up means you have the freedom for a surprise trip somewhere or can deal with unexpected setbacks easier. In the end, it is a delicate balance of judging what you need and what you want. Obviously what you need is more important than fleeting wants.
Personally, I try to follow these guidelines to save up money so I can continue traveling. I mean, if I’m not used to living with just the basics, how am I going to live out of my suitcase while running around Europe?
Here’s an equivalency list just to offer some perspective:
$1,000 = a new Mac book Air…….OR a round trip plane ticket to Prague
$400 = a brand new gaming system (ex. PS4)…..OR housing costs for two weeks in Brussels
$100 = a typical new university textbook….OR groceries for a month (depending on how much you eat)
$65 = a new video game…..OR a fun night out with friends
$25 = dinner at a restaurant/parking in a city for an hour or two…..OR spending the day at Buckingham Palace
This is a picture of some decorated cookies for sale in a market from when I was in Odessa, Ukraine