6 Tips for Living on the Frugal Edge

Living in a vanCollege is expensive. Got it. We know tuition prices rise, state’s contribute less and politicians are running on platforms promising relief. But until that day comes what can students do to curb bills and deal with this financial reality?

We’ll  have ideas like living in a van and paying only partial rent for the kitchen and bathroom and many more.

Students like Jose Ortiz work 35 hours a week in order to pay for school and living expenses. He’s pulling it off but many students don’t work during school for fear of getting behind.  So if working a ton of hours and going to school seems too difficult here are a half dozen ways to save money prepared with the help of other money conscious students:

  1. Cook at Home. Top Ramen counts. I’m not saying Top Ramen is the only or most nutritious way in order to save up some money to pay tuition but, creatively cooking at home can save some serious bucks! Add some frozen peas and carrots–it helps. Here are some  other creative tips for saving grocery money: don’t just leave those cans and bottles from last weekend’s party on the curb to be taken away by the garbage man. Recycle them yourself and get cash from a grocery store that provides this service. Also, keep your receipts from grocery stores, which often hold coupons and special offers on the other side. Oh and hit up the events on campus with free food–there are quite a few.
  1. Get Roommates, and put them in nooks of the house not necessarily intended as bedrooms but can be made to work, at least while you’re in school.  Living off campus provides the opportunity to use living space however you’d like (depending on your rental agreement). In research for this article I came upon 1 person living in a garage, 1 person living on a couch, 2 people living in their vehicles and one person living in a master bedroom closet. Now that’s some cheap (or non-existent) rent!
  1. Use School Services and Free or Low Cost Outlets:  One way Jose Ortiz suggests saving some money is to “ hang out at the library… because they have computers, internet and printers. Now by me doing all my school work on their computers, I actually save a lot of money. A personal computer/laptop is crazy expensive when you’re on a budget especially considering programs like Microsoft Office which can be really expensive.” Nobody likes dealing with printers and scanners at home, let alone wifi and sharing crap connections. Use the library and computer lab among the many other school services provided by your tuition costs! Also for clothes and household items–Ashland has a Free Box with clothes and other items. Bike on down and check out what’s in there. Sometimes it’s just a stitch or wash to get what you need with no money.
  1. Get a “Trail Card” or commonly called “Food Stamps” was a recurring creative solution to offset one of the biggest expenses students have beyond tuition–food. You have to apply and qualify for EBT, electronic benefits transfer, once known as “Food Stamps”  based on many factors, primarily your rent cost, living situation, and how much income and financial assistance you may have. Students have to work in a job 20 hours per week to qualify but if you meet eligibility it could be worth the effort to assist you in paying for food. if you don’t qulify for a Trail card check out the food bank. It’s a good way to get free food and tide you over for those really tough weeks which can up toward the end of term.
  1. Human-Powered Commuting! Ashland is very pedestrian friendly and many people use human powered travel already. If you don’t, pick from biking, walking, skating, running, and whatever that segwey thing without handles is (though it’s not human powered—I think!) and give it a try! The money saving potential by not using gas everyday is huge! I talked with some students that just don’t have a vehicle whatsoever and seem to get along just fine. There is a lot of freedom in never having to think about car insurance, maintenance, and parking costs… just to name a few of the hidden expenses associated with driving.
  1. Live in Ashland, Elsewhere, or with Family. Rent is generally cheaper in parts of nearby cities like Talent, Phoenix and Medford. It’s very possible that the rent money being saved by living out of town doesn’t actually counter-balance all the time and money of commuting to school and back every day, but depending on circumstance, it could. It’s worth crunching some numbers to see. Living with family may not be a part of the college experience you intended on having but it can save some serious bucks. Like thousands of bucks.

So buckle down and try some of these creative ideas to help balance that checkbook of yours–or more accurately, mobile phone app for banking, it is 2015 afterall. Checkbooks are so 90’s. If you have better, more creative ideas for saving money please feel free to get in touch with me–I’d be happy to add it to this list!