1. Stop being lazy. Make your lunch. If you have a meal plan, congrats. This doesn’t apply to you. Enjoy it while it lasts (oh, and always, if you can take food out of the dining hall). But for those who don’t–at my school, buying a sufficient lunch is around $7, and if you buy that same lunch five days a week that’s $35 a week on lunch. And it’s not even that good. Save yourself some financial grief. Buy bread, peanut butter and jelly and make your lunch every day. And if you’re like me, and hate having to wake up early to pack your lunch, take a Sunday night and pack a whole week’s worth at once.
2. Utilize campus/libraries/Starbucks to cut back on the Internet bill. I had friends who did this for an entire summer to avoid paying for Time Warner Cable (which, I think we can all admit, sucks). It’s an inconvenience for sure, but is one worth looking into when you’re looking to axe those pesky bills.
3. Do literally anything for old people. Old people with money is where it’s at. I had a friend who made over $20 just by driving an old person to get groceries. Seriously, if you have an oldie living in your apartment, ask them if they need help with anything. You might not get paid right away, but chances are you’ll at least get food or might get paid in the future for something, if not just the feeling of knowing you’ve helped someone in need should feel good.
4. Get a friends’ Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus account. Unless your parents pay for one, make friends with someone who has one. Another route, albeit much less legal, is to stream things from various masterposts or hosting sites online. I don’t recommend this route, but should you choose to do it, never download any software or any links to watch anything ever. Ever ever ever. Just…make friends with someone who has one of the accounts below for some affordable entertainment. Maybe offer to make them food, or do something nice for them once a month, or just fork over a few singles.
5. Drink more water, save money on buying drinks. This sounds dumb, but carry a water bottle with you and just drink water with like, everything besides alcohol. This is really hard for me because I have a mild soda addiction, but it saves money on buying juice/soda that you don’t really need and it keeps you hydrated. Win-win.
6. Keep financial records. This may not work for everyone, but I am a compulsive list-maker, and receipts annoy me, so it always helps me to keep track of how much money I have in my account at the beginning of the week and slowly subtract as the week progresses. It’s a good visual reminder of how much you spend.
7. Make food that can last for days. Before winter break recently, my friend Kate came to visit and made me vegetarian chili that lasted for two weeks. I know the old saying is “quantity over quality”, but like, quantity saves money. Especially when it comes to food. Leftovers are so underrated. A word to the wise–a lot of food that is made to last doesn’t have meat in it, so carnivores, you may wanna look into some meat-free options for this one.
8. Go grocery shopping every-other-week. Again, sounds dumb, but if you’re in a real bind, you may have to resort to this. Buy in quantity as much as you can afford to.
9. Coupons. Seriously, that shit ADDS up. It’s tedious, and may make you feel like your mom, but it’s worth it. If you aren’t finding enough coupons in your local paper or magazine, see another option below.
10. BYO to places that aren’t BYO to save money on drinks. Not always the classiest move by any stretch, but listen, drinks are expensive and unless you’re lucky enough to have friends with fat wallets, sugar daddies or cougars buy you them all the time, this is an avenue you should explore–especially if you live in a city where drinks are redonkulously expensive (I’m looking at you, NYC). I have ordered Cokes at bars and snuck in flasks filled with Whiskey and poured it in behind the bartender’s back. I have snuck an entire bottle of Lady Admiral and a Pepsi bottle and drank it in a bathroom while some guy was peeing two feet away from me. This shit probably wouldn’t fly at a fancy restaurant or a charity event, but let’s face it, your broke ass isn’t going to these places anyway.
11. Keep a coin jar. Regardless if you’re saving up to to eat, or simply get booze or illicit substances, my trusty mason jar of nickels, dimes, pennies and quarters (!!!) have saved me so many times. And plus, paying in exact change just feels awesome.
12. Use your student ID for everything you can ever. Even if you’ve graduated or dropped out. They don’t know, unless you look like, really different. Seriously, my student ID has saved me from paying full price from almost any event or travel company ever.
13. Need snacks? Refill your bucket at discount days at the movies. My friend Sammi’s mom used to pull up to the movie theatre on Free Movie Tuesday, fill up her large popcorn bowl (that usually the movie theatre supplies), walk out and drive away. Most major movie theatre chains have some form of Free Movie Tuesday equivalent. Popcorn is always an awesome snack, and what better way to have it then on the cheap?
14. Pick things off the street. Recently while I was intoxicated, I dragged a fully-functional coathanger four blocks to my apartment. I’ve seen fully-functioning microwaves on the street. Seriously, finding random crap off the street is like winning a mini-lottery. And if you’re really desperate, try and sell whatever items by making a Facebook status or by posting to Craigslist for some easy money.
15. Eat at a food pantry. I was staunchly opposed to this at first, citing that these were “only for homeless people”, but sometimes you only have $5.00 in your Bank Account for the week and your roommates mad because you’re eaten like, all their food, and you realize you’re in no position to be classist. That being said, probably not something you should do often if you do have the means to but totally worth it for those thin-wallet weeks.
16. No Money Sundays. This was a rule I came up with after many weekends of hangovers and wanting to get greasy food on Sundays. No more. Chances are you’ve already spent money on Friday or Saturday, so make a vow to yourself that on Sunday, you’re taking a raincheck on being a consumer. If Sunday’s not your day, then find some other day of the week. If you fulfill this promise to yourself, you’ll feel awesome. And your bank account will thank you.
17. Dumpster Dive. Remember when I was talking about couponing earlier and not having enough of them? Consider your local dumpster to be not a smelly pit of trash, but rather an oasis of unused coupons waiting to be discovered. Admittedly, I haven’t done this–but I know a lot of people who have gotten full meals out of restaurant dumpsters, perfectly good clothes (after they were washed), and even decor for their apartments.
18. Recycling your cans. It usually doesn’t amount to much–and usually it takes a lot of cans to even make a dollar–but like the drinking more water idea, it’s good for the environment and you make a small buck. One time I made enough to get two bean burritos from Taco Bell from returning my recyclables and I bet if you find enough cans, you can too (and more!). The only downside is that I think this only applies to certain states, so you might wanna check online before hoarding a bunch of plastic bottles and cans.
19. Sell your stuff. Not preferable, but if you have some old books, furniture, or appliances lying around you’re not making use of, and probably won’t in the future, cut your losses and sell it.
20. Make shit and sell it. Immediately, the song “She’s Making Jewelry Now” from Portlandia comes to mind, but seriously, hit up Etsy or offer things up on Facebook! I’ve had some friends who’ve made a decent buck making cool jewelry, T-Shirts, candles, lotion and collages reconstructions of old playbills made from construction paper.