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The Art of Financial Finesse in Harrisonburg, Virginia

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at JMU chapter.

Let’s face it: we’re all broke kids in college just trying to feed ourselves and treat ourselves. It’s hard in this economic environment to be able to stay afloat and still have fun with friends. This is a guide from a soon-to-be graduate on how to be frugal while at JMU.

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Sharp Shopper

If you need groceries and you’re trying to spend less money than you would at a larger chain grocery store, Sharp Shopper is the way to go! They have great deals and everything is MUCH cheaper than your regular stores. You do need to be selective when choosing what to buy since some products are past the sell-by date, but as long as you are thorough, you should be fine!

Dining Plan

Dining plans are the best money-saver that you can utilize during your time at JMU. There are many different options for people living on and off campus, and if you do live off-campus, they are a great way for you to get back on campus once in a while. I have the commuter 11-punch plan that comes with more dining dollars than any other plan. The way that I hack the dining system is by having more punches than I use per week, and at the end of the week, I will go to Festival or Market 64 and go “grocery shopping” with my remaining punches. If you have an insane amount of dining dollars like me, you can also go eat at Panera Bread on campus or order Starbucks very frequently without worry. Dining on campus like a queen!

Sober Driving

If you’re not sure what this is, there’s a good chance you may not be down for the challenge. Sober driving is a personal volunteering activity that can make you some extra money on the side. Since we have a very large party culture here at JMU, we have multiple ways to try to minimize drunk driving. One of these ways is joining the club Safe Rides which is a volunteering club to drive people home for free. Another option is to utilize Uber or Lyft. The best option (in my opinion) for someone looking to make some quick money, is to offer sober drives through group chats in the app GroupMe. You can make anywhere between 8-12 dollars per ride depending on how much you charge. If you sober on a busy night like Friday or Saturday, you can easily make around $100 which will cover the gas you used AND still give you extra money leftover. Unfortunately, this isn’t really an option for most freshmen because it requires your own vehicle, but it’s still a great option for anyone with a car.

You do need to be wary about the risks that come with this though. You can get pulled over for speeding, pulled over for having too many people in a car (if you have people “lapped up” in your backseat), you can have people get sick in your car, or you can just be at risk to get a massive headache from dealing with difficult drunk people. At the end of the day, it’s your decision if you decide to do this, but it does come with insane $$$ benefits.

Food Pantry

This suggestion is more for the people who truly do not have another option for meals. The JMU Food Pantry is for students who truly cannot afford food or meals and should not be abused. If you can afford to grocery shop or eat on/off campus, please do not utilize the food pantry since you could be taking resources from people who truly need them. However, if you are struggling, please use this resource!!!

G3 Nail Salon

If you’re a girly who wants to look good on a budget or you just NEED to get your nails done, look no further than G3 Nail Salon right off Reservoir Street. Their prices are already pretty cheap for basic services, and they offer a student discount when you show them your student ID.

Plato’s Closet

Plato’s Closet is a hack that everyone uses everywhere for cheaper clothing, shoes, and accessories. However, JMU students get an even better deal on Thursdays! If you show your student ID on Thursdays, you can get their student discount.

Ruby’s Arcade

Ruby’s Arcade in downtown Harrisonburg is a super fun place to hang with friends, have a good time, and play some games. If you’re 21+ there’s also a bar added in the mix for some extra fun. Thankfully, Ruby’s has some fun deals multiple days of the week. This includes Tuesdays for a $3 unlimited game pass and Wednesdays for 1/2 off pizza!

Once again, if you’re 21+, you can go to Ruby’s Speakeasy and enjoy their “house shot” and “random beer” of the night (each night!) which are both cheaper than any other drink you can get. If your friends want to go out and you’re thinking you really can’t swing the $7-15 drinks, these are a good alternative!

Rewards Apps

Rewards apps are another resource that everyone everywhere can use. For college students who want to get a quick bite, these are CRUCIAL. Some of the best include McDonalds, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Dunkin, and Panera Bread. While I suggest getting all of the apps of the places you like in the area, those listed above have the best deals consistently. You can get free fries, $2 burgers, BOGO lattes, and more with these apps. Rewards apps are the ultimate money saver for college kids looking to grab a quick bite.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is my absolute favorite place to get anything and everything! You do need to be careful when picking up from strangers (I recommend bringing a buddy, SAFETY FIRST!!!), but most of the time everything is okay and people are super nice! You can get almost anything for good quality and sometimes almost FREE! The other day I bought A WHOLE KITCHEN TABLE FOR $10!!! Be skeptical of scammers and people trying to rip you off, but enjoy the crazy cheap prices. Happy shopping!

Daily Deals

This is a very general hack, but always check daily deals for places or activities you’re interested in! Most places have happy hour drinks and appetizers which are cheaper than regular ones. A good example is Jack Brown’s happy hour Monday-Friday 4-7 pm. Capital Ale House has “Burger Night” every Monday from 3 pm to MIDNIGHT, and a happy hour deal for each day of the week (except Friday and Saturday). There are so many more just like these so just look around and you’ll definitely find some deals!

Emily is a senior at James Madison University majoring in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication (WRTC) with a minor in Human Resource Development (HRD). When she's not writing for Her Campus, you might find her hanging out with friends, trying to make a dent in her “To Be Read” list, or driving around aimlessly in her car blasting Taylor Swift.