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The Frugal Student

As students we know the mass importance of being frugal. It’s honestly the only way for us to make certain that we can afford tuition, rent, food and fun. Basically, managing our money well is the only way that we can survive. Of course, we all know the importance, but do we know all of the best tricks to pinching pennies? I thought I knew everything about living life on the cheap. That is until I consulted other fellow college students. While having an inexpensive night-in with a group of friends I consulted both guys and girls and was excited to learn all of the secrets that my friends use to living the good life on a strict college budget. Now prepare yourself, fore in a well organized fashion I am about to share with you these secrets along with my own little money saving tricks.

First of all, the trick to saving money starts with making sure that you have your money in the right place. After you get that financial aid refund check, put only the amount that you need for books and that month’s essentials (i.e. rent, food, gas) into your checking account and then put the rest into savings. If you don’t have a savings account, opening one is your first big step in getting your finances in order. Saving accounts are great. Personally it helps me if only for the fact that when I put most of my money in there and then only pay attention to my checking account I can handle living off of my tight budget in my checking, so then when I am strapped for cash I can pull what I need from the savings account. It just acts as a nice little bumper when I need it. Saving accounts help you make certain that your money is organized and really they are the best way to start living a better more frugal college life. After you get your dinero where it needs to be and you’re certain you have enough money to cover your essentials, what’s next?

The fun stuff of course! If you want to survive through college you have to find a way to balance school life and free time. Both of which can get a little spendy, but here we are talking about the latter. As human beings, and not just college students we are social creatures. We must find ways to socialize in order to be happy and healthy. A lot of times it involves going out for dinner or drinks, going to a dance club, or going shopping. Obviously all of these cost money. What everyone needs to know is that there are ways to socialize cheaply, sometimes without even spending a dime. To have a night “out” or “in” on the cheap; you just have to look around. One of my good friends hosted a city-wide scavenger hunt where they got a group of friends together, grabbed their cameras, and darted around town getting specific photos that were on their lists. Local galleries or performance venues have free or inexpensive cover to check out music and other arts.

The “Art Hop” is another free and fun activity that I personally love forward to. It happens in downtown Kalamazoo on the 1st Friday of every month. This one I personally love. Not only do you get to window shop and check out the local artwork on display in cute little shops, but in many stores they serve free hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer with no pressure to spend any money. It makes for a great free date night and is especially nice for a girl’s night out.

If you want to stay in, you can usually enjoy the evening in a less expensive manner than your nights out on the town. Some free/cheap ideas for nights in include watching movies or your favorite television episodes for free on HULU.com or even on YouTube.

I was lucky enough to be hanging with the guys one night when they all decided they wanted to sing karaoke and form an “air-band”. I made mock music videos on my phone while the boys sang, air-guitared, and air-drummed to free karaoke videos on YouTube. This lasted for well over an hour and afterwards we uploaded the videos and sat around laughing at each other. It made for a very entertaining and very FREE night “in.”

Of course you can’t get away with spending no money all the time, but when you do have to buy things for your get-togethers (drinks or food) you can go big without breaking the bank. I have mentioned this in a past article, but I’ll bring it up again, the Michigan Bridge Card can be a life-safer for college students. It allows you to be able to afford a healthy supply of sustenance in your pantry. Just “Google” it and you can find the application online. If you manage your money right, by not purchasing brand names and by using coupons, (of which we’ll discuss soon), then you’ll easily be able to afford feeding your friends or cooking a meal a few nights a week for you and/or your special someone. In regards to coupons, you can literally save over $100 a month on groceries and even on restaurants if you know the right places to look.

For groceries, all you have to do is check out websites like coupons.com, or smartsource.com. And concerning coupons for restaurants and even fun events you can always look at groupon.com or check out mypoints.com and for free you can earn points that are redeemable for a wide variety of gift certificates and always make sure to ask at your local restaurants, or basically anywhere around your college town if they offer a student discount.

If you follow the advice and enjoy some of the ideas from this article you should be financially golden for the rest of your college career. Even more importantly, the smart financial habits you get into now will very easily carry over into the “real world” and before you know it not only will you be living frugally, but your be happier because of it.

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