College is no joke on your wallet, short-term or long-term. Perhaps it’s the first time in your life seeing the real dollars and cents pile up for casual and comfortable living in a new city. Can everything really add up so quickly by the end of the week? No, we say. There must be a way out!
It turns out there are direct ways to save hundreds of dollars a year without making serious lifestyle changes. Whew! You just need to know a few tricks, and we’ve got a few up our sleeves. It’s time to share the wealth and pay it forward, lads and ladies. Let’s go!
1. Campus Secrets
Your social life is a big deal, and we don’t want you to compromise. Odds are, your university probably has a lot of events and amenities that are not well advertised. And no, they are anything but boring! What might be hiding on your campus, right under your nose? Many universities actually have movie theaters and museums, and the price will be very cheap or totally free for you with a campus ID. And sometimes, there are other hidden gems! The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a great example, which hosts planetarium shows right in the middle of the day sometimes. Stargazing at noon? Sounds like a great free date idea with that girl from psych 101 you’ve had your eye on. She will never expect it, and no one has ever asked her. Sadly, no one!
It’s also a great idea to book the club events page on your campus website. Many colleges have hundreds of student organizations with different bookings every week, from famous political writers to Diwali celebrations with authentic Indian food. And the academic departments themselves have their own events that you may not know about unless you look! A full social calendar awaits you without much effort, if you know what your tuition really includes. Bars are always great. But they’re not cheap, are they?
2. Break Tricks
There’s a lot of pressure when spring break rolls around to imitate the wild scenes in the college movies we all see. But the truth is, students have plenty of pressing expenses besides a resort getaway for a week. Especially if it promises to blow all your savings in one go! Beer money or break money is a cursed choice, really. Perhaps there is a plan B?
A great idea for spring travel – and resume building – is a (nearly) free volunteering trip through Habitat For Humanity. Maybe you’ve heard about it during hurricane relief efforts, but they actually have work to do all the time throughout the USA! Their Collegiate Challenge program costs $30, and provides you with supplemental medical insurance and a spot in a host facility with your sleeping bag. The cost of a bus ticket to your destination varies. But we highly recommend Megabus, which has shockingly low rates if you reserve early, including $1! Spring break is doable on a budget and even more fun with friends. Check your university for additional volunteering trips during this time. Worth considering, isn’t it?
3. Be Phonetastic
Your phone is your life, but it doesn’t have to drain you dry if you know where to look. Traditional phone packages are not cheap items in American monthly budgets: $30-50 is not unheard of, and that really adds up multiplied by 12! It kind of feels like cash just evaporating into thin air sometimes, with no tangible product. Well, good news: A crop of new competitors has appeared, and there are a few more choices on the market now. For example, Mint Mobile!
With a clever tweak in their data plans, Mint is offering introductory packages for only $15 a month. Alright, better than $30! This actually includes unlimited talk and text nationwide, but slightly less data than your old plan. Most people never use up all their data, and this is a trick that phone companies capitalize on to charge crazy rates every month. It’s worth considering if you really need a sky-high platinum level of data, especially during college.
4. The Mysterious RA
You’ve all noticed there’s someone called an “RA” on your floor, but what exactly does that mean – and why would anyone sign up? It turns out that many universities provide free rent and food plans for students willing to take on that role. Some institutions even lower the yearly tuition beyond that! Sounds like a great deal for the long-term, if you’re lucky enough to be selected.
What does this job entail, exactly? An RA theoretically helps to create a home away from home, serving as the closest go-to person when a crisis arises. While you don’t have to be an expert yourself, you should know who to call for an emergency in a medical, criminal, or mental health scenario. Sounds pretty interesting, actually! Why not knock off $20,000 in student loans this way?
5. Discounts for the Slick
Your university probably has a student discount card that is worth looking into. But did you know that your favorite companies have their own programs just for you? Just starting with your first college laptop before you arrive, Dell offers a pretty good deal. Any laptop over $499 gets an automatic $100 back, if you’re a student and know how to ask. And don’t forget about the Spotify and Hulu college deal for your new computer – A shockingly $5 double membership! Not bad, but what else can you score with your ID?
Well, what a great question! A sampling: J.Crew and Banana Republic both offer student ID discounts of 15% everyday. If you’re in the mood for something edgier, Topshop always gives 10% too. And if you’re hungry outside the cafeteria, eateries like Burger King and Subway always offer 10% off their menus. Alright, alright. What else? Early aspiring investors are eligible for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal for 75% off the regular rate! Need to ship something? FedEx Office discounts their services by 20-30% for students. These are just a few examples, really. How many thousands of university enrollees walk into these businesses everyday without knowing the password? Too many, and 10-30% off everything you use all year really adds up. Don’t miss out: Asking is not a crime, and we think it’s a great habit for the next few years while you can. Happy shopping, everyone.