By Christine Hollister
Between classes, work and a social life, you have enough to think about — there’s no need to have to worry about being strapped for cash! Lucky for us college students, thrifty is in. Look through any magazine from Spin to Vogue and you’ll see celebrities wearing vintage and indulging in cheap thrills. Watching your money can be easy and cool if you just know how to do it right.
1. Master tightwad etiquette
Watching what you spend does not mean you have to resort to snagging the spare rolls of TP from the can or the plastic forks from the cafeteria. Just because you’re a poor college student, it doesn’t give you the right to steal or indulge in rude behavior. True tightwads are kind and suave — you must have the right attitude to reap the benefits.
2. Use your campus resources
Free factor aside, taking advantage of the free programs, activities and facilities on campus gives you yet another way to hang out with your college friends, and to meet new ones.
* Cheap workouts. Instead of spending $25-$50 each month on a gym membership, why not work out at HPER? It offers weights, racquetball, exercise classes, cardio machines and is open 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday – what more could you ask for?
* Read for free. This may come as a shock, but yes, the library has books … and magazines … and lots of them. And contrary to popular belief, there are some that you may actually enjoy reading.
* Use the computers. There are computer labs in practically every building on campus. Check your e-mail, print a paper and use those programs you may not be able to afford for your home computer. And remember, the more you use those printers, the more you save that expensive ink cartridge at home.
* Walk. Instead of spending your hard-earned cash on that ridiculous parking permit that only allows you to park in Blue-Green lot 156-A after midnight on Tuesdays when it’s sleeting, why not just park down the hill for free?
* See the doctor for free. If you’re feeling under the weather physically or mentally, UNO Student Health Services and UNO Counseling Services are there for you.
3. Watch the cash you have
* Know how much money you have (or don’t have). Balance your checkbook and if you carry cash, keep it in a safe place and know where you’re spending it.
* Pay the bills on time. Late fees for credit cards, rent and bills can add up in a hurry. Why not spend that $20 on a snazzy new shirt instead?
* Don’t write checks or use your ATM card if you don’t have the money in your account. This is self-explanatory, but it can save you anywhere from $10-$30 on overdraft fees, not to mention a possible $20-$30 in returned check fees.
* ATM = danger. ATM + Alcohol = flat broke in a hurry. Try to resist the strong temptation of the ATM and use only in emergencies and while sober. If you need cash, the best time to get it is when you deposit a check. Withdraw a small amount of money at that time and use it as your allotted cash until the next check. You can usually save yourself a fee and won’t be as tempted to make impulse buys.
4. Eat on the cheap
* Do as your mother does. Buy in bulk, use coupons and shop with a list. Your friends may taunt you and make fun of your dorky tendencies but you’ll be the one laughing when you can afford to go to the big concert while they’re stuck at home watching reruns of Home Improvement.
* Share. You’re probably already splitting the bills with your roommates but how about the food? There’s no sense in having two gallons of chunky milk in the fridge and 14 black bananas melting into the counter. Offer to buy the beer (err … juice) this week, and perhaps your roomies will return the favor next time.
* Buy generics and eat what you buy. Generics are no longer just the stereotypical white label “beer” and “peanuts.” Many grocery store generics are made with the same ingredients and some even taste better than name brand items. (Tip: Super Target sells a kick ass salsa for $2.19 for a 24 oz. jar. Put this paper down and go get some immediately.)
* Make and take your own. Make coffee at home, take lunch and take a water bottle to fill at the water fountain. This alone can save you a few bucks every day.
* Eat at home. If you’re still lucky enough to live near your folks, mom and dad will love to see you and you can amaze them with all of your newfound knowledge over a home-cooked meal. They might even offer to do your laundry while you’re there. (Just kidding, mom.)
5. Shop like a pro
* Dollar, discount and thrift. This is your mantra.
* Shop only for what you need — not recreation. Yes, bring that list, you dork.
* Give small gifts with big heart. Buy a nice, cheap thrift store basket and fill it with meaningful gifts like home baked cookies, photos and a sweet, thoughtful (read: cheesy) note.
* Out with the old, in with the used. Really, why are you holding onto that Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits disc anyway? Go through your CDs, games and DVDs and if there’s anything you don’t listen to or watch anymore, get rid of it! Most stores give you some good cash even for crap like the Boomerang soundtrack (um, no, I don’t know this from experience). They’ll at least give you decent store credit, which can be used for buying used or new CDs and DVDs that don’t make your eyes water. The same goes for books.
* Beauty on a budget. If you must have that manicure, massage or hair coloring, get it done at a beauty or massage training school. The quality is usually just as good and nearly half the price.
6. Goin’ out for cheap.
* Pint nite is your friend. If you must go out drinking, why not hit the town on a weeknight? You can usually find drinks for around a buck during the week and the social scene can be just as hot if you go to the right joint. As long as you can still make class the next morning, what’s the problem?
* Trade off or go halves. Understand that most of the people around you are probably just as poor as you are, and even if they aren’t, it’s unfair to stick them with the check. Don’t back out on your part of the bill – or the tip.
* Have parties. Instead of going out, invite a group of friends over for dinner, drinks, games or a movie. Have everyone bring their favorite beverages or snacks. And of course your friends have good taste, right? Have them bring over clothing and/or CDs they don’t want anymore and swap with one another.
* Cheap dating. Be creative – an inexpensive picnic by the lake can be even more romantic than a night spent over several cocktails at the newest, hippest martini bar. Most dates will appreciate your inventiveness and spontaneity. And if you still want to go for the traditional dinner and a movie date, go a little early. You can save a lot of cash by eating a late lunch and checking out the matinee. (Added bonus – even more makeout time later if the date goes well.)
7. Keep the good Karma flowing.
Help others and in turn they will help you. If you have something you don’t use or need, give it away – to your friends, your family or charity. Some day you will you will likely be on the receiving end.
8. “It’s all about the free sh*t.”
Say it. Say it again.
With a little creativity, being a suave spender can be easy and fun. Saving a little money here and there will help you to enjoy more of the things you really want to do and at least you won’t be forced to call mom and dad in a month to beg for more cash.