The following economical, practical ideas can help you as you prepare for entering school and throughout your education. Select those ideas that make the most sense to you and are manageable. Also, always be mindful of other ways to save money and boost your budget.
- Live with parents, other relatives, OR acquire a roommate. This is the best way to save thousands of dollars every year and about $10,000 over 4 years!
- Consider on-campus living arrangements, if available.
- Shop around for an apartment. Consider convenience, security, lease terms, and whether or not utilities are included. Also, places that have free hot water and heat will save you a lot of money come winter. Apartments in walking distance of campus will not only save you the cost of parking and gas, but also wear and tear on your car and the hassle of finding a parking space every day. *Get a sublet clause in your lease if you plan to leave for the summer.
- Find out the cost and availability of parking when pricing apartments.
- Shop around for a long-distance carrier. Carefully compare programs and select and monitor your billing.
- Write notes and letters or e-mail; they can cut down on the high cost of long distance.
- Consider only getting a cell phone. Make sure there is good service in the area before signing a contract.
- Take clothes home to mom’s house where doing laundry is free.
- Buy only necessary clothing and watch for big sales, especially end of season clearances.
- Don’t buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Minimize dry cleaning costs by using sale flyers and coupons.
- Find a laundromat that doesn’t overcharge for the use of their washers and dryers.
Transportation & Insurance
- Car-pooling will save money on gas. Public transportation, cycling, or walking may also be a possibility. (note: most everywhere is accessible via the RTA bus and rapid system)
- Take higher deductibles on your auto insurance. Drop collision insurance on older cars.
Need Cheap Transportation?
Check out the U-PASS Discounted Bus Pass Program
- Cable is NOT a necessity. If you "must" have it only order basic cable. If you order it and barely watch it, cancel service.
- Pot luck dinners -- in which each friend brings a dish -- are fun and economical; or try eating at a buffet.
- Choose low cost entertainment: zoo, picnics, rollerblading, museums, free concerts, and festivals. *The university bookstore sells discounted amusement park and movie tickets so utilize them!
- If you enjoy reading, make good use of libraries or use a book exchange rather than buying new books.
- Go out for lunch rather than dinner. You often receive the same portion for less money.
- Borrow movies from libraries for free instead of paying enormous rental charges.
- Go to matinee shows or the movies shown on campus.
- Go to bars that don’t charge a cover to get in OR go early so you don’t get charged.
- Ask around (family, friends, and neighbors) to see if anyone may have things that they would love to give away.
- Take advantage of garage sales.
- Watch for sales where you can get items at discounted prices or additional items free of charge.
- Do-it-yourself projects: ask a friend or family member who may have experience in fixing things (i.e. Electricity or plumbing). Make sure they know what they are doing.
- Moving: get friends and family to help; it can save the cost of hiring professional movers.
- If you’re just looking for basic furniture just for the duration of school, try the salvation army or check ads posted by other students who are moving.
- For decorating, there are poster/print and plant sales on campus.
- Turn off lights and appliances when they are not in use.
- Use energy-efficient bulbs.
- Set your thermostat down for heating and up for cooling.
- Insulate your home or apartment; covering windows with plastic will insulate against the cold.
- Short showers save more money than baths; get water saving devices for the shower and toilet.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.
Books & Supplies
- Buy used books whenever possible when school starts and watch for flyers from upperclassmen looking to sell theirs which are usually in good condition (UA bookstore has used and rental plans).
- Check with upper class members to see which books are necessary, or if there are books that can be borrowed. Professors often have extra copies of the books required for class.
- The library may also have a copy you can use.
Food & Shopping
- Prepare and bring your lunch to avoid and/or minimize vending machine, fast food, and convenience store use.
- Learn to be a savvy shopper. Clip coupons and comparison shop. But, don’t buy an item just because you have a coupon; store brand or generic products may be cheaper than the name brand with a coupon and not of less quality.
- Watch for sales and buy non-perishable items on sale in bulk.
- When preparing meals, make larger portions and freeze them for later consumption. Ready-made or frozen dinners cost more per serving.
- Use leftovers (20% of all food produced in America is thrown away).
Additional Financial Tips:
- Use credit cards sparingly and wisely. Use the credit cards with no annual fee and pay your bill when it’s due. Avoid paying the astronomical interest rates that are applied when you don’t pay your balance on time and in full. Check your budget to be sure that you will be able to pay for items you want to charge before you charge them. For example, if you buy a shirt on sale, saving 15% but then put it on your credit card with a 20% interest rate and don’t pay it off, you just paid 105% for the shirt that was supposed to be a good deal. That is more than the original price.
- Carry larger bills. The smaller the bill, the easier it is to spend.
- Put loose change in a jar and save for a rainy day because there always is one.
- Do not use credit cards to extend your monthly budget.
- Consider credit cards that offer frequent flyer miles, refunds, money towards a car, savings bonds.
- Always add a "post-it" note in your checkbook showing credit card purchases.
- Subtract the amount from your checking balance to help you stay within your budget.
- Consider keeping your money in insured, interest-bearing accounts. Shop and compare the interest rates on CD's and money market accounts. Choose the one best suited for your needs. Look for checking accounts that give interest. Read and understand all requirements and penalties.
- Look for accounts with free checking because monthly service fees can add up to a lot over a year.
- Keep your checking account balanced. Checks that bounce cost up to $25 per check along with the returned check charge at the place where it was written and defeat the purpose of saving.
- Comparison-shop by phone. Check for sales and think ahead.
- Watch for airfare wars/specials well in advance of the time you’ll want to fly home for a weekend/break so you can take advantage of the price breaks.
- Talk with others and read consumer-oriented publications to learn how others save money.