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Dire Straits: How to Save Money When You’re REALLY Broke

Everyone’s trying to save money. College is probably the most expensive single purchase in your lifetime, unless you’re planning on buying a mansion one day. And everyone has an opinion on how to save, where to save, etc. There are at least one hundred articles on this site alone about saving money in college, for college, after college, during breaks, during the holidays — you get the idea. Everyone seems to be in the same boat, bemoaning tuition and the cost of books unanimously.

But you look around, and somehow there are girls wearing Lilly Pulitzer and guys wearing Vineyard Vines and pea coats. Then there are those kids who somehow whipped $7k out of their behinds to go to Portugal for six weeks last summer. Meanwhile, there are students facing homelessness because they chose to pursue a higher education. Until the funding for college is figured out on a federal level, finding cash to hang on until graduation may be next to impossible. I pray you never find yourself in a situation like that, but if you do, this one’s for you. 

Option A: Plasma donation is a really useful way to close those gaps when rent is due. You can donate plasma twice a week and be compensated for up to $100 for every two-part donation. However, I recommend keeping this option to a strictly limited schedule. A donor should provide plasma no more than twice a week on every other week for not more than three months or you can start to develop some serious health complications. It is a lucrative, yet somewhat risky venture.

Option B: Get a job with your campus food provider or a restaurant. Frequently, one of the perks of the job is a free meal during your break, which allows you to stretch your food budget a little every week. You might even get lucky and be able to take home leftovers if you befriend the cooks/chefs. 

Option C: Shower at the gyms on campus. Almost every pool on campus has a shower, and you can squeeze in a short workout beforehand to prevent anyone from questioning you, especially if you go in the early morning. If you have a valid ID and are working out, you’re entitled to the facilities; though if you’re worried about someone calling you out, you can limit this tactic to every other day.

Option D: Charge your phone and laptop on campus to save money on your electricity. Bring the chargers with you to class and scope out any outlets in the library or wherever you study, and you can charge while you complete your homework. Since you’ll probably be there for several hours studying anyways, it’s a good habit. Also, if you happen to be free of homework, you can still use the public space to charge your laptop while you stream a movie. 

Option E: Buy candles from the dollar store to use at night. Keep them by your bedside table and don’t use the lights unless you have to. You probably won’t be home much during the day, so if that still isn’t enough to cut your electric bill, you’ll have to cut back at night as well.

Option F: Really cash in on those free events provided to students by your school. When money is as tight as it can be, you can begin to feel like you’re not a person anymore or that you can’t afford fun. At our school, we have PittArts, which allows students to explore the arts, music and more for free. Beyond that, most sporting events that aren’t football or basketball are usually free — this is especially true for club teams. If movies are more your thing, you can see if there’s a club or an organization on campus that hosts viewings for free. 

Option G: Become an RA if at all possible. Many schools compensate for the time students give to the job by either paying them directly or by expunging the costs of room and board. Plus, if you have an all-you-can-eat-for-as-long-as-you-stay dining hall, you can camp out and do your work while you eat from the compensated meal plan.

Option H: Tell someone about your situation. Tell a professor you trust, tell a school counselor, tell an advisor, tell your classmates. There is no shame in asking for help when you really, really need it. No one should go hungry or homeless trying to reach for a better future. 

So, there you have it. You can survive being *truly* broke in college; it just might be difficult for a little while. If it’s worth anything, my parents were so broke at one point during/right after college that they went to the mall food court as a date because there was a special on hot dogs for $1 each. I’m almost 70% positive my mom dropped hers and cried, so they ended up sharing one. They’ve been married for 25 years since. I guess what I’m saying is that it will be okay. No matter how bad it seems today, you can make it.

Picture Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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