Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Things College Students Should Know, But Don't

As an incredibly thrifty college student, I'm always looking for ways to save money/time/anything and everything. A lot of the students I go to school with don't think about these things, or just plain don't know some of the information that I've learned! This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it's a great start!

  1. Amazon Student: This is FREE. And it upgrades you to Amazon Prime for one year. I would suggest doing it on a day you can remember, or marking your calendar, because I'm not sure if they'll charge you for more than a year. However, for a college student, this service is incredibly useful. FREE two-day shipping?? Who wouldn't find that helpful?
  2. Amtrak Student Advantage: I use the train all the time, and Amtrak is the most convenient for me. This card needs to be purchased for around 20 dollars, but really, you save so much more that way! If you only plan on using the train 3 times all year, it already buys itself! Another useful money-saving tip for the train-riding student: buy WAYYYY ahead of time. Two-three weeks ahead of time have a much lower rate than even one week ahead of time. And try to avoid last minute purchases, they're absolutely OUTRAGEOUS.
  3. Local Discounts: At my school, the chinese place offers a cheaper dinner special to university students. The hoagie place has a weekly special. These little things really add up, if you plan on eating out. My school also (secretly) offers a discount on the NJTransit trains to their students for free. This is hidden on their website in the area only students can get to, and I'm pretty sure even I wouldn't have noticed it if I were flying through the pages to get to where I wanted to be. My school also offers a free ride from any residence in the area back to your dorm after a certain hour. The people who would know the most about these freebies would be in your Admissions office, so go ask them what 'freebies' you get just for being a student!
  4. School Meals: The meal plan at my school  is ridiculously expensive. Do the math on yours, mine came out to about 6.00 a meal. I could get a meal for 3.00 at McDonald's!! In some cases, it's worth it, though. Woof and I steal from the school buffet. It's not the norm, but it gets a huge BANG for our 6 bucks. Next fall, we're living in an apartment, and I'll be cooking and saving us money. Consider canned goods, eating in your dorm, anything to cut down that meal plan. It's a huge money-saver.
  5. Store Brands: Even if your mom and dad didn't buy store brand, I promise that kraft macaroni and cheese is just as good as the Great Value brand Walmart owns. Sometimes, this little change can save you over ten dollars on your grocery bill! Another good thing to look at to decide what is truly cheapest is to look at the unit prices comparatively. The one with the lowest unit price, even if the actual price is higher, is the cheaper product. The actual price would only be higher if you're getting more food than the competitor you're looking at. 
  6. Caffeine Swipe: If you have a Mcdonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, or somewhere where you pour your own sodas on or around your campus you can have unlimited soda. Just buy a large cup (a plastic one, avoid the McDonald's Sweet Tea cup) and keep it in your backpack. Remember to wash it after each use, or it'll get icky. Most employees don't feel invested enough in the company to want to save them the soda money, and if they do, just tell them you came through the drive through and ate in the parking lot. 
  7. Don't Be Afraid To Complain: As an example, my little sister went to a movie the other night. She bought a large popcorn because she was going to refill it after the movie ended and take it home to my mom. When the movie got out, the concession stand stopped selling popcorn! The next day, a call to the movie theater was made, and the manager didn't pick up the phone for a long time, so then the complaint made it up to the corporate office. Complaints often mean free stuff. In this case, it was no different. A large bucket of popcorn turned into two free movie tickets. Then the manager called back and gave us another two free movie tickets! Even at my school's buffet, when I had a problem with one of their workers' attitude, the manager offered to refund my meal! Remember that you're a valuable customer to them. College students are surprisingly loyal to businesses, from my experience, so they're very willing to cater to you. Also, remember that if you can imagine it, someone has probably complained about it, so don't feel so bad if you're being reasonable.

Those are the big things that'll save you money, but there are other good ideas, too. What are yours?


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