Hello my fawns. How is your summer? Mine has been so relaxing; my darling George Clooney has been fanning me with his shirt while I lay on a thousand monarch butterflies fluttering into the shape of a chaise. We agreed on something simple this year.
I thought I would take a break from releasing dolphins with Mr. C for a moment and share some of my tips for how to live cheaply while in college. I like to think that I have mastered the art of the Cheap-Assery, and we all know how I love to watch myself type.
So here goes.
1. Master Eating Out
It seems as if once any break hits, everyone loses the ability to cook for themselves. Winter break and summer break can become expensive just from going out to dinner with all of the friends you’ve neglected during the school year. Now, I do not condone holing yourself up in your dark apartment and avoiding social events just in the fear of spending money. Rather, I encourage you to be crafty about how you go to these events.
Your Setting of Choice: The Big Group
It’s you and your favorite posse of 4-6 people. Restaurant is usually of the Tex-Mex variety. Good news? The more people there are, the less your plate is noticed. My first tip is to always eat 30 min-1 hour before going. You don’t want to eat as you’re walking out the door, because you want at least a little bit of room for what I’m about to explain.
First, utilize those free appetizers. All Mexican and Tex-Mex places will have unlimited free chips and salsa. Eat. That. Shit. Up. Worry about saving your appetite when your parents are taking you out. Right now, you gotta eat those chips like you’re stocking up fat for winter, baby. By doing this, you can cut your hunger at least in half without your homies knowing. Then, when it comes time to finally order, you can then hold your stomach, double over, and whine: “oh man*, all those chips made me so* full. Guess there’s no point in buying a meal I’m not gonna eat*”. Cue understanding nods because your friends are bomb and a sly wink from you at the camera, breaking the fourth wall like you’re in The Office.
Second, get a drink. According to research done by me on a night of drinking, big icy drinks like the delicious margarita will not only fill your brain with its wonderful slushy, alcohol goodness, but also your stomach. Alcoholic drinks are pricey? Well then make sure y’all schedule your dinner in the middle or near the end of Happy Hour! House margaritas are always reduced at Tex-Mex restaurants to at least a dollar, even two dollars cheaper. So you get to enjoy a delicious drink, good company, and a fuller wallet.
2. Be the Budget Shopper
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know I am not a stranger to the saying “college is for experimentation”. Well today, boys and girls, I am going to promote that statement with a brief lesson in budget shopping. Now, my kind of budget shopping does not include a checkbook, coupons, or Mom Jeans. It requires just a little extra preparation time and always pays off. See what I did there?
First: Stop shopping organic!
I am all about the clean life, but save the grass fed beef for when you can afford dental. Organic produce and meat are at least 3,000%** more expensive than the store-brand shit. Your bodies can handle pesticides for four more years.
Second: Look at your local store’s weekly ads before going shopping. Actually, backspace..
True Second: Plan your meals before you shop
When you go to the store without having an idea of what you need, you suddenly become six again. You run to the cart with a heap of sugary cereal, barbecue chips, and Gushers like when your mom would tell you to grab one thing you wanted her to buy. But not only are those things bad for you, they add up fast. To avoid breaking the bank in one trip, come up with what kind of meals you are going to make yourself that week. They don’t have to be anything fancy. The boyfriend and I have Manwich for a meal like every other week. (If you haven’t discovered Manwich, you are missing out) Come up with at least three meals. You will most likely eat out on the weekend and there will be leftovers that you can eat as well. Once you have your meals and the ingredients you’ll need for them, return to my second point: Look at your local store’s weekly ads before going shopping.
Every major grocery store has a website and a weekly ad that you can download and look through. These ads will become your best friends. I tend to base what produce I’m going to eat that week on what is on sale. For example: I love fruit. Though I don’t eat organic, I like to eat as clean as I can, so I eat as much produce as possible. That healthy shit can also add up fast if you’re going for what’s $2.99 per pound. So I hit up my good friend the H-E-B Flyer to see what fruit is on sale. This week, nectarines were $0.89/lb, so I jumped on that and got three times the fruit!
And lastly, after you’ve planned your meals, looked for deals, and written out your list, you must stick to the list as much as possible. The more you stray from the list, the longer your receipt. I rarely buy things that aren’t on my list unless I suddenly remember I needed them or I’m shopping with the boyfriend. When with the bf, our bags magically end up having some Chips Ahoy cookies.
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
You remember the three R’s from elementary school meant to make the world a cleaner and better place. Well now it’s time to make your classroom teachers proud. I’m talkin’ about clothes, my sprouts. As a female college student who is also a fashion blogger (sorta plug-in) and a simple shopaholic, it is difficult to deny myself a good T-shirt every once in a while. But, if you play the game of Triple R, you may not have to give up your shopping excursions.
Reduce: Do not go shopping when you are sad or bored. There is some sort of deadly chemical reaction that occurs between the synapses of your brain and the fabric in clothing when encountering sadness. I don’t know about you, but when Alwaysdaly is sad, she doesn’t just get that T-shirt. She gets the T-shirt, a new summer dress (because her other summer dresses aren’t as summer-y as this one), the “perfect” pair of jeans (for this year), some new bold lipstick and hell, the hat, too. It’s like I blink my teary eyes once and suddenly three hours have passed and I have half of Forever21 in my dressing room. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Get some ice cream if you’re sad, or go run for ten minutes if you’re bored. Your wallet will thank you.
Reuse: Remember when we were younger and thrift stores were something that everyone donated to, but no one used? Well, thanks to hipsters and Macklemore, it is now accepted by the majority of society to shop at Goodwill. I personally don’t see why there was ever a stigma, because thrift stores are my main bitches. Seriously. I can walk into a Goodwill with $10 and get a whole outfit! And not only that, but I get brand names. Just two weeks ago I got an unused pair of Ann Taylor pants with their $98.00 price tag still attached for freaking $8.00. You cannot pretend that that isn’t awesome. So go forth and hipsterfy thyself. And to thine own hipster self be true.
Recycle: It’s not rocket science. If you a’int wearin’ it, you probably won’t ever. So help out your fellow people and donate. Or, if you want to make a few bucks, take your clothes to a re-sale shop. Be wary though, you won’t make bank and they usually are picky about what they will purchase. Usually what’s currently on-trend. At my university, students have a Facebook group where we can post items for sale. If you also attend a large university, this may also be an option. Start your own!
When in college, being a cheapskate can really help.
*elongate the vowels in these words for dramatic effect
**based off of research I didn’t really do, but rather an observation I made. No calculator was harmed in the making of this exaggeration