Keeping up with bills like rent, groceries, and utilities is challenging for every college student, especially those paying out of pocket for their education. By the time you pay all your expenses at the end of the month, the amount left over might as well be pocket change. What if I told you there was a way to pay all of your expenses and still have money to have a social life? Here are some tips on how to have fun without running out of cash.
I learned a while back that there is a way to save money on food when you have a limited income. As a full-time student, I have to find ways to cut back while still buying the necessities. I discovered the show Extreme Couponing a few years ago, and that’s what inspired me to pick up couponing. Well, I learned that there is a trick to couponing. When cutting my weekly coupons, I found the papers in the mail that show what items are on sale that week at my local grocery stores. I went grocery shopping on what I call “deal day.” At Fry’s Grocery Store there is a VIP card that you can get by filling out a short form. With that card you can then go online and download digital coupons. Add manufacturers’ coupons on top of those coupons AND go grocery shopping on deal day, and that’s the way to save money. I recently went on a grocery shopping trip with this strategy and saved forty-four percent on my grocery bill and I got a cart full of groceries. I was able to afford produce that was marked down, some pastas for school lunches and some dairy products. All of those items can be pricey if they are purchased at full price. Plus, who doesn’t like more of a good thing. Another tip that I picked up is to stock up on non-perishables so that a meal can still be made without perishables. Also, make sure the items that expire quickly such as salad ingredients, fruits, veggies and meats are eaten first or at least prepared and then frozen.
- Free Experiences
Another way to save money is to find days that you can go out for free. The Phoenix Public Library offers event passes on a first-come, first-serve basis. With these passes you and one other person can go to museums like The Phoenix Art Museum and Pueblo Grande Museum. On First Friday, there are exhibits in art studios that are free to browse and many street performers so you can enjoy free live entertainment.
- Happy Hour
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, eating out can be expensive. Many sit-down restaurants offer Happy Hour. During Happy Hour there are often appetizers and alcohol for half price. Some places offer a day-of-the-week or a once-a-month social where kids can eat free on those days. This is probably the most cliché and basic way to save money, but you never know what kind of experiences you can have for half the cost. An example of a special occasion is trivia night. A simple Google search can show when a fun place in town has a happy hour.
One of the greatest benefits of being a student is having a school identification card. If you go to the movies, you can show the person behind the ticket counter and get a student discount on your movie ticket. Also, if your school has sports teams, you might be able to use your student ID card to get into the game for free. And if you spend fifty dollars or more at Fry’s over the summer, you can show your receipt and get free tickets to a Phoenix Mercury game.
- A Night In
When money is tight, it never hurts to have a night in. Sign up for a free trial to Netflix and have a weekend of binge watching a new show or movie you have been dying to see. This would also be a good time to use a takeout coupon for something such as a pizza and salad, Chinese food or sandwiches. Try an app like GrubHub or Postmates; they make it easy to get food delivered right to your door.
You might feel consumed by schoolwork during the semester, but sometimes students need to blow off some steam or take a break from studying. Getting student discounts and going to Happy Hour are good ways to get out and enjoy some time away from the books. Also, saving on some groceries can give you some extra spending money for takeout during a night in. Just because money is tight doesn’t mean that the fun has to stop, it just means you have to find a way to have fun while being smart.