Broke Student Budget Guide

Hey all you broke-ass college kids! I know youre just like me...you start out the week with a wad of money in your college bank account (no monthly fees heck yes!) and slowly but surely end up with next to nothing at week's end.

Okay, you won't end up like Mr. "I-Make-it-Rain", but you could be less broke.

What do you spend your hard-earned cash on? Well for me its very simple: coffee, groceries, clothes, and books. Since the first two are basically essential to my existence, I need to have them. The last two are basically on a selfish "I have to have this" basis. And when I say books I mean real books, like for reading, not for school. I'm an art major, I don't have time for $200 textbooks, but many people have to spend a fortune on them. So I'm here to give you a guide and some tips on how to end up with more money each week, and still maintain a level of sanity and be able to "splurge." Here we go!

Coffee: a college student essential.

theres nothing better than a hot cup of coffee in the morning that wakes me up and prevents me from morphing into a raging biatch. (psh yea right, on most mornings I'm the one making non-fat, 8-pump, no foam lattes for the uptight business class of Downtown Portland)

Pro: I work at a coffee place, which means I get free drinks on the job.
Con: On my days off I tend to get more than one drink at a coffee shop, which means more money spent and more trash if I don't bring my own tumbler.

Invest in a coffee maker and make your own at home. I have a french press, which makes a great cup of coffee, plus you don't need filters! I also own a stovetop espresso maker which I have been using more lately. Just heat up some milk (kudos if you get a milk frother wand) and you have your own homemade latte for next to nothing! Get a coffee thermos or tumbler and you can bring your delicious latte to class and get discounted refills at most coffee places.

Groceries: How to shop the smart way and not get tricked into buying things you don't need
A college student must learn the ways of the grocery store in order to come out with the best deals and only the essentials.

Pro: Buying my own groceries is far cheaper than being on my school's meal plan, plus I get to cook and choose my own foods, which means healthier meals for me and my sister.

Con: I usually fall off track and buy things impulsively, or buy things that I end up throwing away later.

Tip: Make a list of essential items you need like milk, eggs, cereal, fruits and veggies. Stick to the list! Buy only what you know you can eat within a week or less. That means only a couple pieces of fruit, a few veggies, etc. Stock up on frozen meals if you want, buy grains in bulk (I recently got a large amount of oatmeal for $1!) Try to avoid buying take-out, host dinner parties and cook for your friends, bake your own sweets. Bring your own meals to work, its amazing how much money you save! If your city has a farmer's market, you can find fresh, seasonal produce that help out local farmers.

Clothes: A girl's gotta have them.

Okay, so my sister works at Forever 21 and I die (Rachel Zoe style) everytime I'm in there. Its cute-fashionable-cheap clothing MECCA. Its really hard not buying something when a shirt is only $7.50 and those cute earrings are ONLY $3.80. Wah!

Pro: Buying clothes cheap than department store and designer brands saves me a hell of a lotta money, plus I get to look cute all year round.

Con: Cheap=I Buy More=Broke. Its easy spending $1o0 there because I can get so much. Thats not a good thing, ladies.

Tip: Buy what you can afford and actually NEED. That part is hard, but if you're strapped for cash, don't blow it on a cute top, its NOT. WORTH. IT. Trust me. You can also donate used clothes to a donation center or used clothing shops, which will pay you cash for the clothes you bring in. Do your part and let others be fashionable!

Books: The death to all college students.

Okay, whoever thought that charging $200+ for a textbook that is used by everyone in the class is seriously the devil. Thank god I don't have to buy textbooks or I'd be in a coma, sobbing at how ridiculous prices are just for kids to read for 10 weeks. Its fraud, really.

Pro: Okay...I guess if you don't have the book you don't pass the class. Thats all I have for the Pro section.

Con: They are too effing expensive to buy at the school bookstore, and when you try to return them you get a fraction of what you paid for it. One time the store couldn't take my book back because a new edition was already out. I. Was. Pissed.

Tip: Try to find your books early. If your school posts up the books needed for classes early, find out what you REALLY need (you may just have to wait til you start classes). I use Amazon.com to find all my books-I once got an art history book for $4. Not even kidding. Whenever and wherever you can, buy USED. There is no harm in reading a cheaper, slightly used copy than spending an extra appendage for a glossy new one (you might be able to use those scribbled notes left by the previous user in the margins!) Plus used books are being recycled for the good of humanity.

Helpful Resources:

Portable Tumblers:
I Am Not a Paper Cup
Coffee Makers:
French Presses
Drip Coffee Makers

Coupons! (GREAT site)

Buffalo Exchange
Forever 21
Salvation Army

Powells Bookstore


BioBelle said...

Love your photos (especially the ones with the pumpkin Snickerdoodles). What kind of camera are you using?

For non-textbook books, have you considered getting them from the library? I find a lot of guilty-pleasure chick-lit reads available at mine, as well as classics and new releases (with shortened borrow times).

Laura said...

hey! yea the library is also an excellent resource. I remember a question on a website somewhere that asked "is there a place I can 'rent' books and return them like movies?" hahaha. oh man. i use a nikon d100 camera, its sweet!