I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been “good” with money. While in high school, I spent a little too much time buying this-and-that and didn’t put nearly enough effort into becoming educated in finances. I was making part-time wages (at $8.00 an hour), which always seemed to burn a hole in my pocket. Within 24-hours, at least half of my paycheck would be gone – compliments of local sales, high-rate coffee and newly released films.
When I started my freshman year at Dominican University in fall of 2009, I had dwindled my savings account down to a small amount, thanks to my spending habits. Facing the reality that I would only be working 10 hours a week (protocol for student workers employed at Dominican University), I knew that my frivolous lifestyle had to change. After all, a typical monthly check of about $300.00 doesn’t go very far, especially with the new expenses that college brings. With this in mind, I took a leap into adulthood and began to budget wisely, spend frugally and, much to my regret, cut back on the unnecessary luxuries that I once enjoyed. Although this change was difficult, I realized that this experience was an opportunity to research money saving options.
As I’ve become quite the penny pincher, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks that have made this change not only tolerable, but rather enjoyable as well. In celebration of this academic year, and of a whole new financial challenge, I’m sharing three of these useful gems with the rest of the Dominican community:
Amazon Student: Free shipping, happy college kid.
With a busy schedule, it’s sometimes difficult to make it out to a storefront in order to pick up a birthday gift for Mom or a pair of winter boots. When a mall is out of reach, many of us turn to the convenience that online shopping brings. While purchasing items online is always a great option, we’ve all been in this situation before: After adding your required items to your digital cart, you begin the checkout process only to realize that shipping will cost almost as much as the items you’re purchasing. However, Amazon has come up with a solution to this problem just for us college kids. Amazon Student, a free service catered only to those with a .edu email, allows students a 6-month period of free Amazon Prime, which allots for 2-day shipping on millions of items. Included in this service is free release-date delivery on video games, DVDs and books, along with additional promotions exclusively for students. By signing up now for your 6-month trial, you can be sure to apply these savings to all of your holiday shopping orders – even on that Ninja game that your little brother wants.
Visit www.amazon.com/gp/student/signup/info to sign up for your Amazon Student account.
Mint.com: Budget wisely, save money.
My parents always advised me to keep all of my receipts from every transaction and to make sure my checkbook was always in order. However, this has never been a forte of my disorganized mind. Because of this, I have found it difficult to budget my finances, as I was never actually sure how much money I was spending on certain things (such as groceries and clothing). After discussing this with a friend, she suggested I try using Mint.com, a free, personal money management website. Mint provides a user with many different tools in order to plan their spending wisely, including setting monthly budgets and saving goals. By syncing with the users checking and credit accounts, Mint is able to identify how much money you’re spending in certain categories. Yes, the website will be able to display the exact amount that was spent on that impromptu ice cream run last Tuesday or your new poster of your favorite art replica. You’ll receive email or text message updates on your budgeting status (including when you go budget), and will be able to change your allotted budget depending on financial circumstances (say, if you got that paid internship that you’ve been hoping for). Careful money management is grounds for money saved. How plain and simple is that?
To get your own, free Mint account, visit http://www.mint.com.
I’ve always been a real advocate of reusing and repurposing. I can often be found rummaging around in my Nana’s old jewelry or trying to mend my Super Nintendo game system. I believe in the well-known saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. With this in mind, I find one of the best money saving opportunities to be found in none other than your local thrift store. Looking for a funky lamp to add a bit of light to your dorm room? Instead of heading to a nearby retailer to pay full price, check out The Brown Elephant. This resale shop, with a location right in Lakeview, has sold over 740,000 items annually. And, you’re not the only one who will benefit from shopping at The Brown Elephant: all proceeds are donated to charity. Trying to find the perfect dress for your vintage-loving roommate? Instead of buying a “mod-inspired” outfit from a fashion boutique, try looking at the Economy Shop to pick up “the real deal” at a great price. Located right in Oak Park, The Economy Shop prides itself on offering eco-friendly, vintage and brand new items. Much like The Brown Elephant, profits benefit 6 local charities.
Want to visit the discussed resale shops?
The Brown Elephant – 3651 N. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60613 (Lakeview)
The Economy Shop – 103 S. Grove Oak Park, IL 60302
With these tips, I wish you all happy spending, heavy wallets and well-fed piggy banks.