How to (Financially) Cheat Your Way Through College

By Katie Sears

If you’re anything like me (a woefully and eternally poor college student), you know that not even JC himself could make you pay $160 for that textbook or $9 for that cocktail. Or maybe you’re the parent of a student like me who only calls to chat when they need something. Something green. Preferably with Benjamin Franklin’s face on it. Or, maybe you’re one of the lucky few who miraculously managed to trick an employer into hiring you right out of college (we’re all glaring at you, btw) but don’t have the funds to relocate. Either way, there is no denying we’re all in need of some sound financial advice now and then.

Although I am a meager marketing major who struggles to fill out her 1040 EZ tax form, I am exceptionally proficient at keeping my wallet from hating me (too much). When it comes to penny-pinching and being cheap to the point of embarrassment, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Here are my tips and tricks for getting through college with just enough money leftover to take your SO out to Chipotle. 

Get two for the price of one
Commonly known as ‘Two for Ones’, this is a promotional deal where you can get two drinks for the price of one. It is also a lifestyle. Granted, the drinks are smaller and contain (what I’ve decided) is far more ice than usual, so who knows if we’re really getting a deal. It’s the thought that counts, right?
big storm

Find that loophole
Here’s a lesser known fact: McDonald’s charges a small fee for dining in as opposed to ordering to go. So, order to go then eat in. So what if the charge is only 10 cents, I’m in college remember?
help me im poor

Avoid the campus bookstore like the Plague
Three words for you: Amazon Book Rental. Seriously. Never forget it. One semester I paid $600 for textbooks from the University bookstore. This semester? $75. BAM.

Dorm it up
If you are coming to college as a freshman, try to live in the dorms. Not only will you have 40 friends willing to give you emergency Ramen, but there is usually a ‘donate’ or Goodwill box on each floor. I’m pretty sure half of my clothes came from that box. As well as a lamp. And a rug. And a fridge. Which brings me to my next point…
treat yo self

Once you lose the luxury of living three feet away from another sweaty human being, the dorms are the number one place to scour through on freshman move-out day. Freshmen don’t yet realize the realities of not having a meal plan and will throw away just about anything.
bob ross

Turn your coffee into money
One of my ex-boyfriends did (what I used to think was) the most horrendous thing: he re-used the coffee grounds in the pot for days on end. Turns out, he was just being brilliantly economical.

Part ways with your plasma
If you haven’t given plasma yet at BioLife, you’re truly missing out on a chance to save the world. Or just pay your rent. Whatever.
Get creative
Most adults use tables as, well, tables. And desks as, um, desks. But in college that just won’t do. My roommate and I use a mini-fridge as an end table. I have a crate that I use for a bedside table. A friend of mine once used cinderblocks and an old door as a desk. Waste not, want not.
Free + Food = True Love
One thing I discovered early on in my college career was that free food rules all. Join clubs you’re not interested in, attend lame campus events and talks. Free food is like a beacon of light in the darkness that is your grocery bill.

Invest in your Netflix relationship
Most people get the completely wrong idea about the first week of classes, especially freshman. While it is common practice to spend this time meeting new people, what you should really be doing is meeting new Netflix accounts. Friendship only lasts so long, free Netflix is forever.
could you not be here
Oh, Canada!
My last and most ingenious idea is something I have been doing ever since I went to Canada three years ago. When paying in change, I use Canadian dimes instead of American ones. No one has ever noticed and although I’m technically losing money thanks to exchange rates, I figure I won’t be going back to Canada anytime soon.


3 Replies to “How to (Financially) Cheat Your Way Through College”

  1. Good advice. I laughed, I cried, then I ate some ramen. I enjoyed your use of pictures with words on them. <3 Bob Ross

  2. Dorm move out day = the day I resell Patagonia and Northface shit that doesn’t fit me to the consignment stores.

  3. Oh the things I didn’t need to know in this! On the other hand, I’m strangely very proud of your creativity and resilience 🙂

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