1. Avoiding the highway robbery of the campus bookstore
It's that delightful time of the year again...
Second only to filing taxes as my least favorite thing to do (heck, who am I kidding... somehow I have an amazing dad who still lets me off the hook by doing those for me. Ten points for dad.), it's time to order TEXTBOOKS.
Why is this such a chore? Don't get me wrong, I love picking out the books I'm later going to throw across the room in agony during finals, but when it comes to paying for them... ick. I've never understood why something made out of trees, ink, and some glue costs three digits (and more, if your college bookstore is as painfully overpriced as mine).
I was recently told about this place, campus book rentals. I'm usually not a big fan of renting books because it's so hard to find all of the books from the same company and I end up paying shipping costs from five different places. Plus the prices never really seem that much cheaper compared to used textbooks. But I looked around on this site, and in addition to having ALL my textbooks that I need this fall, one of them was $45, as opposed to the preposterous price of $222 that my college bookstore is charging.
If I'm gonna pay $200 for a book, I'd rather it be for something awesome like the text for my Zombie class (no joke: my college offers a class on apocalyptic-themed literature and films. We're watching Night of the Living Dead, among other classics. Never have I so looked forward to school...)
Also, shipping on everything is free both ways (woot!) and they also buy books back (they don't have to be from their company) for quite a decent sum.
2. Thinking outside the box: Ramen is your friend... if you want to overdose on sodium
Eating nutritious food --> better health --> better studying. And no, I am not referencing ramen here as a nutritious food... Boxes of whole wheat or regular pasta at my local grocery store (Martin's) are only a bit more expensive than ramen. Throw some grated cheddar in there with a splash of milk and a chunk of butter and you have yourself some 10x-better-than-kraft-macncheese.
Cheapest good-for-you foods on a college budget: Oatmeal (old-fashioned/rolled oats - not the instant kind. It takes 5-10 minutes and only uses oats, water, and milk at the bare minimum.), rice & beans (to make it taste less blah add cilantro, salsa, curry powder, taco seasoning, cheese, onions, red peppers, diced tomatoes, whatever.), fruits and vegetables from a local farmer's market (usually a lot cheaper than the grocery store, at least in my area), cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit, homemade soups (there are a lot of really simple recipes using cheap ingredients), peanut butter (oh the many inventive ways I have used peanut butter... but that's another post entirely), tuna, pancakes, potatoes.
3. Take advantage of your cafeteria
Take a few pieces of fruit to go after a meal. If you're really desperate you may be able get away with a water bottle filled with milk or some ziploc bags filled with cereal and the like. Although, after getting yelled at by one of our kitchen staff, I have to say proceed at your own risk with this one.
4. Alcohol is expensive
I'm not sure any further elaboration is necessary.
5. Get over your phobias for secondhand
Dumpster diving. Thrift stores. These two things have saved my life [here meaning wallet] in college. Dumpster diving on campus at the very end of the semester is always the best time, because all the seniors are realizing post-grad life really doesn't require a mini-fridge, bed risers or 2000 extra index cards. A goodwill or salvation army in a college town usually has awesome finds as well, for the same reason. I have yet to actually dumpster dive anywhere besides my college, although it's on my to-do list. A word of caution though, as some places consider it trespassing.
6. On campus jobs
7. Biking and carpooling
8. Couponing (http://www.campusspecial.com/ or
http://www.groupon.com) and student discounts (most restaurants and college-age-targeted stores have one)
9. Buy in bulk (costco, sharp shopper, sam's club)
10. Limit coffee and meat consumption
There are countless other tricks to living cheaply, but it really all comes down to budgeting wisely and distinguishing between the necessities of life.
You don't actually need to wash your hair every day.
College parties are overrated.
And ditch those dryer sheets.