Hey grad students who aren’t working, or grad students who are but blow a significant portion of your earnings on textbooks, eating on campus, parking and Varsity Club. I wanted to share some tips with you on how to save some money, reduce brain atrophy and boost productivity.
About a month ago I hit a financial crossroads. My roommate had moved out over the summer and I had attempted to make a go of it without the financial boon of having a renter and splitting house supplies and utilities. And then I reached a point where I either had to implement some austerity measures or find another roomie. Neither sounded like good ideas to me. Taking some inspiration from our economically beleaguered European brothers and sisters, I implemented the austerity measures. I figured doing so would not only test my mettle, but would also put me in a great financial situation once I started working again but maintained my cutbacks.
So here’s how I did it:
1) I cut the cable. I had Time Warner and apparently right after I cut the cord, so did ABC and Fox. So it wasn’t even worth it anymore. Costs savings of $82.07/month. That’s nearly a $1000 a year, tax-free! To put it into context, that’s 6 pairs of Diesel jeans and a pair of Diesel sneaks. That’s two iPads. That’s a new set of Tumi luggage. That’s a really, REALLY good shopping spree at H&M. That’s textbooks for two quarters or three if you’re thrifty and use half.com or Amazon, but we’ll get to them later. (You’ll also have more time to read all those textbooks, hence the improved productivity.)
2) Kept my internet with TWC. Mine did not go up because I had a special offer, but it sometimes does when you unbundle your package. At most it goes up around $10/month. Ask about special offers. They’ll probably be glad to keep SOME of your money around.
3) I downgraded my Netflix from 2 discs/month to instant only for $7.99/month. Costs savings of $9.99/month. That’s $120/year or 6 sushi dinners at Haiku, 20 dishes at Joy’s Village in the basement of Buckeye Books (awesome, authentic and huge portions), or 3 beers a week at Varsity club for the entire quarter. Plus, Netflix is available on almost everything now (PS3, Wii, iPhone, computer, etc.) and the instant catalog is growing every day.
4) If you really can’t live without TV, get Hulu Plus. Lots of shows, available on all your platforms and it’s only $7.99/month. You can even try it free for a week. Still have to watch the commercials though.
5) Or even better, get Boxee. It’s a program that pulls TV shows from all over the internet, except for Hulu. But it has a great interface, is totally free and easy to use. You’ll have to watch the commercials though. There’s a trade off for everything, right? Make sure to play around with the repositories to find extra apps.
6) I bought all my books on half.com that I could and then bought what I had to at the OSU bookstore. Go to Buckeyelink, pull up your book list, copy and paste the ISBN into half.com or Amazon and start saving around 60% or more!
7) I’m getting my hair cut less. It’s one of my only vanities, so don’t judge. But I used to get it cut every two weeks. Now I’m getting it cut every three weeks. Now I save about $180/year, about $15/month. That’s 3 subs at the Subway across from Gerlach and Fisher, 5 beers at Varsity Club, 3 valet parkings in the Short North when it’s too cold out to look for a spot or some groceries.
8) Call your credit card companies and see if there are any special APR’s available. If you’ve been a good cardholder and have been paying on time they’ll usually let you sign up for one for at least a year. If you were one of the debt-holders who got hit by the new 29.99% APR’s, getting a special APR of %19.99 would make a HUGE difference. Never hurts to call and ask, right?
9) Finally, here’s the last one. If you are mobile and can get to it, Aldi is a great place to shop. Don’t knock it because of its reputation as a cheap, affordable grocery store. EMBRACE IT for its reputation as a cheap, affordable grocery store! I go there first for everything on my list and then go to Giant Eagle or Kroger for whatever is left, which is usually not much. The produce is good, but limited, the meats are fresh, the non-perishables like toilet paper, soap, etc., are well-priced, and they even have wine that is pretty decent/good depending on the type. And finally, if you’re still not convinced, know this: They are the number one grocery store in Europe and they own Trader Joe’s. Yup, same company, so the stuff is good.
All in all, I’m saving almost $1300/year from cutbacks, around $600/year on textbooks and at least around $1500/year by shopping at Aldi and not having to even use coupons. What would you do with an extra $3400/year? Hmm?