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Budgeting 101: How to Save and Spend Smartly as a College Student

College can be tough. I think by now, we all get that! It is possible for you to get what you want and not have to pay full price. Here are some ways to save and spend smartly at your favorite stores:

Save money at Starbucks:


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Sign up for their app and get free drink and food.

Starbucks is a favorite coffee place for many. Sometimes we simply can’t afford a $5 cappuccino. If you sign up for their app, you can get a free drink on your birthday and collect stars to get free rewards (and work towards having those lattes pay for themselves!). 

Bring a reusable cup.  

If you bring in a reusable coffee cup, it will save you $0.10. It’s not a lot but it adds up!

Make yourself a $2 iced latte. 

Order a triple espresso over ice in a vVnti cup. Then you can fill the rest of your cup up with milk on your own at the counter. You now have a $2 iced latte!


Save money at Ulta:

Sign up for the rewards program.

Ulta is a SUPER easy place to save money, and their rewards program is amazing! Sign up for their program to start adding up points to eventually get over $120 of free makeup!  (Pro Tip: if you hoard your points until 2,000 then you’ll get the maximum amount of usage out of them!) 

Look for 2x, 3x and 4x points day.

If you’re going to shop for makeup, wait for their extra point days. It may not save you money right then and there, but it will in the future. 

You can use double the coupons.

Use their normal coupon and then newspaper coupons as well! 

Wait for a time when you can use your 20% prestige coupon.

A prestige coupon comes out 3-4 times a year for regular members. You can use these to get discounts on those top brands that are just out of your price range!

Use the coupon twice. 

The coupon states it’s a one-time use coupon, valid either in-store or online. However, the in-store coupon and the online coupon are different. You can use the 10-digit code for an online purchase first, then you can take the coupon in-store to use again.


Save money at Sephora:


What, you don’t know this version of the song? #MerryChristmas

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Take advantage of samples.

The fact that you are allowed to take home 3 samples per department is amazing! So, stock up on all the samples you can!

Never buy travel sized anything.

Especially when you can get samples, travel sizes aren’t worth the money. It’s more cost effective to either buy full size or try hthee sample first.

Return products you don’t like.

This goes for Ulta too: if you don’t like a product you’ve used, bring it back and they will accept it.


Save money at school: 

Don’t get a large school meal plan.

While it may seem very convenient, not all of the food options Hofstra are healthy or cost-efficient. Save some money by going to Target or a grocery store for food you can make yourself instead.

Look for older versions of textbooks.

You will save money this way if your professor NEEDS you to get one. 


Save money grocery shopping:

If you’re taking my advice and not getting an expensive meal plan, you can save even more money by using coupons and a couple of apps! Coupons may seem really lame, but if you’re trying to save money then you gotta do it! Over the summer of 2017, I managed to go into extreme couponing mode and get enough shampoo, soap, dish soap, toothpaste, tampons, Tide Pods, Downy Fabric Softer, and more for a WHOLE YEAR. Guess what…I didn’t pay a DIME! 

I used newspaper coupons, coupons.com and paired those with Ibotta rebates and weekly fliers to get maximum deals. While you can’t always get everything on sale, you can probably save 50% on your grocery bill and put that money towards something better! Target also has something called Cartwheel where you can save a percentage on certain products which you can sometimes pair with manufacturer coupons. 


Save money at the movies:

Look for membership deals. 

If you really love going to the movies, you can sign up to be an AMC stubs member for $15 a year. It will get you free upgrades on all of your popcorn and drinks, special $5 Tuesday ticket nights, and you can earn special rewards to get free stuff including tickets and food!

Try Swagbucks.

If you want to do cool things like go to the movies, buy anything, or do something fun with your friends, spend a little time on Swagbucks and earn free money for taking surveys and watching videos. I have been using Swagbucks to pay for my movies and makeup as well as other small things I want throughout the school year. I have earned over $167 in 4 months on Swagbucks and it doesn’t take a lot of time to earn. $167 may not seem like a lot, but it has allowed me to get new makeup, go to the movies and go shopping without spending any extra money!

The money that you save by doing these tricks can be used to pay off some student loans or even save up for a much-needed vacation or a mini shopping spree! 

Hannah is currently a junior journalism major and graphic design minor at Hofstra University. She's a small town girl from Vermont who moved to the big city with high hopes and nowhere near enough money. Hannah has a big heart for animals, writing, designing, and Netflix. She is an aspiring journalist who's bucket list includes traveling around the world and working in the magazine industry.
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