Making the Cut: Groceries on the College Budget

It is just a fact of life, we need food to survive.  With a busy schedule of classes, studying, writing papers, or whatever your plate holds, it can be easy to grab some fast food and go. Consider making some cuts to your eating habits daily. Here are some ideas on how to bank some bucks.

  • Trying to eat on 12 cents? Two words: Ramen® Noodles.
  • If you live on campus and pay for a meal plan, then use it. Some programs don’t restrict you from taking food to go or eating as many meals as you wish.
  • If you’re like many college students ducking into the corner coffeehouse every morning for your daily cup of Joe, then you are wasting money. An average latte, cappuccino, or mocha costs about $3.50 depending on the size you need. Seven days of that routine costs you $17.50 per week, $70 per month and around $280 per semester. That’s over $500 a year! Make your own. By the time you graduate from a four-year degree, you’ve saved over $2000 in coffee costs. Even if you buy numberswiki.com a decent coffee maker or small espresso/cappuccino machine for your dorm room or apartment, you’ll still save hundreds of dollars.
  • Oatmeal is fast, filling and affordable.
  • Peanut Butter Rocks.
  • Skip the fast food forays and late night take-out. Make sure you keep healthy, affordable options in your room or apartment. Yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, bagels, peanut butter are all affordable, convenient and much more healthy than a late night burger and fries.
  • Collect coupons and follow the weekly sales at the grocery store. Avoid high-end markets like Whole Foods. These are nice, but most products cost much more. Once you’re out of school and have a good job you can shop the upscale markets.
  • Kick the bottled water habit; support your local tap water and drink for free. If you’re freaked out by unfiltered water, consider buying a convenient travel-size filtered cup.

Think of the many ways you can cut costs while doing day to day budget checks. What are some of your favorite tips for saving money on food?

 

Source:
“118 Ways to Save Money in College” College Scholarships. 04 Dec 2013 <http://www.collegescholarships.org/student-living/save-money.htm>.

4 Ways to Save Money in College

Turn your pennies into dollars without touching a single package of Ramen Noodles®.

Make a budget and stick to it

Determine what you need to cover the necessities – rent, education expenses, loans, etc.  Create a budget.  Even a simple budget can help you avoid overspending on a night out when you needed money for a new textbook.

Consider cheap text book options

Did you know you can rent textbooks? Rent a book for as long as you need it and return it when you are done. Check out sites like BookRenter, TextBooks.com, eCampus and CampusBooks. Selling your used textbooks is a great option too. It never hurts to get a little bit of cash back to put toward your next semester.

Different living options

Sometimes room and board can be more expensive than tuition.  So how can you try and lower the cost if you need a place to stay? If you work as a Resident Advisor (RA) you can get significantly reduced costs on room and board and in some cases RA’s rooms are free. If you’re rarely near your own room, look into dorms with fewer amenities.  Even though staying on campus may be a bit pricey, it is nothing compared to staying off site. Yes, you may have a cheaper rent, but when you add utilities, internet, transportation, etc., it can actually be more expensive.

Use your student ID for discounts… EVERYWHERE

Make the most of your student status; take advantage of your student discounts. Save on electronics, enjoy discounts for clothing/shoes, movies, printer ink, fast food/pizza, gym memberships and even traveling.

If you put all of the money you saved into your savings account and didn’t touch it, how much do you think you could really save in a month or even a year? I challenge you to put that money away and see what you can reward yourself with at the end of a month or even a year.

Next week, “Making the Cut: Groceries on the College Budget.”

 

Source:
“24 Ways to Save Money in College” shmoop. College 101. 04 Dec 2013 <http://www.shmoop.com/college/save-money-in-college.html>.

Unwanted Gifts? No Problem!

Now that the holidays are over, have you walked away with some gifts that have left you unsatisfied? You are not alone. Last year, 11% of people said that they either trashed or returned items that they really didn’t want.

Here’s how you can make the most of those unwanted gifts, and maybe make a little money in the process.

Return It

Some stores like Nordstrom, Walmart and Khol’s accept returns even if you don’t have a receipt. This isn’t a bad option if you know the where the gift was purchased. Don’t count on getting cash back though because you’ll likely be given store credit instead. Shop around and exchange the item or just hold out for something in the future.

Swap It

They may only cater to a type of product (electronics, movies and games at Goozex.com or books at BookMooch.com) but the process is simple. You place the items you want to swap and create a wish list. If someone wants your item, you earn points/credits and put that toward things that you want to acquire. They also offer alerts when an item you are looking for becomes available.

Sell It

Craigslist and eBay are wonderful outlets for almost any item you can dream of finding or in this case, selling.

If you get a gift card that you simply don’t want, consider selling it for something better. Visit a site like GiftCardGranny.com.  You may only get 85-92% what the card is worth, but that’s better than holding onto a card you’ll never use.

Donate It

Give your unwanted gifts or gift cards to charity. Make someone else’s day and walk away feeling good about your contribution.

 

Sources:

  • Gustke, Constance. “5 Ways to Ditch Unwanted Holiday Gifts” Bankrate. 30 Dec 2013 <http://www.bankrate.com/finance/frugal/ditch-unwanted-holiday-gifts.aspx#slide=1>.
  • Bergen, Jennifer. “How to Sell or Swap Your Unwanted Gifts” PC Mag. 31 Dec 2011. PC Magazine. 30 Dec 2013 <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2398232,00.asp>.
  • Bowsher, Karla. “5 Ways to Make or Save Money with Unwanted Gifts” Money Talks News. 20 Dec 2011. Money Talk News. 30 Dec 2013 <http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2011/12/20/5-ways-to-make-or-save-money-with-unwanted-gifts/>.

Choosing the Right Credit Card

Don’t sign up with the first offer that you get in the mail. Shop around. Read the contract carefully to make sure you understand the terms. Note and compare the important features of each card, including the:

  • Annual percentage rate (APR): This is the interest that you are charged on any balance that you carry over, or do not pay off, each month. If you pay off your balance in full every month, the APR is not important, but it doesn’t hurt to look for a card with a low or fixed-rate card just in case. If the card comes with a teaser rate – a low or no interest rate for a temporary period of time – don’t forget to check what the interest rate will be once the teaser rate expires.

Apple Federal Credit Union offers the eXtras Student Platinum Visa® credit card that has a low, fixed APR, $1,500 credit limit, no annual or balance transfer fees, and 24/7 fraud monitoring.

  • Credit limit: The credit limit is the maximum amount you can borrow at any given point in time. Having a higher credit limit is better for your credit score, but if you are worried you will overspend, it may be a good idea to look for a card with a lower limit.
  • Fees: It is standard for creditors to charge a fee for paying late or going over the credit limit. Some cards also charge an annual fee.
  • Rewards: Some credit cards offer perks, such as cash back or gift certificates, that come with using the card.

Keep it Simple

One card is all that you need to start building a good credit history. Plus, it’s easier to monitor your spending and pay one bill each month. If you happen to find that you get into trouble with your card by accumulating an outstanding balance, seek help from a family member or consumer counseling agency. A little help can eliminate a huge debt later down the line.

There you have it. The basics to credit card ownership. If are serious about using a credit card wisely and paying on time then you’re ready to find a card that best fits your lifestyle.

 

Stay tuned for our next posting How to Choose the Right Credit Card Limit next week!