Money Saving Tips & Tricks!

I’m sure everyone has been receiving plenty of advice in regards to their first year of college. However, a lot of the advice we receive involves having to go and buy something to be prepared! As someone who is a bit of a penny-pincher, I’m here to present you some advice on how to save money this semester!


#1: Your meal plan.

You may be thinking something like, “I usually eat 3 meals a day plus some snacks, so should I get the unlimited options?” or “What if I run out of meal plans early, should I get the higher up one?”

Many of the dorms at Iowa State will require you to purchase a meal plan, which can be confusing to select if you’ve never had to experience this before. Even if you live in one of the dorms that don’t require a meal plan, or you live off-campus but know that there’s no time to go out to eat or pack a lunch, you may want to purchase a meal plan.

So what’s my advice?

You will eat surprisingly less than you think on-campus. There will be times when you go home for the weekend, when you go out to eat with your friends, when you don’t have time to get a meal and just need some snacks, or when you’re sick and just want to eat something instant in ur dorm.

Whatever amount that you think you will eat, get a meal plan that is a little bit less than that. It will account for when you’re visiting home and eating out. You can always go up to the next level meal plan but you can’t go back down if you don’t use them all.

(My favorite meal of the day was breakfast. The dining centers have really good breakfast!)


#2: Coffee & tea, or caffeine in general.

I love tea, and I love coffee. But I also know that this is a generally universal feeling. The average Starbucks beverage can cost you $3 or more for one cup of joe, but when you need that quick energy, you’ll pay that price. Over time, this can add up pretty quickly.

What do I do, then? I carry around instant coffee with me. You can put it into a little travel-friendly jar, or carry around instant packets. If you prefer tea, you can buy tea bags in bulk and then carry some around with you. Last semester, it costed me 25 cents to get a cup of hot water from any ISU coffee shop. When you go out with your friends to study at other coffee shops, they will give you hot water for free or for a very small amount of money. Over time, you’d be surprised how much money this will save you!


#3: Textbooks.

Ah yes. For the new college students, you may not know the pain of paying for textbooks yet, but you will feel it after just one semester. Textbooks can cost several hundreds of dollars every semester, but there are ways to get around this!

1. Join a textbook-sharing community. There are some ISU facebook groups that are specifically for trading and re-selling textbooks, and you can find them there much cheaper than you will find them at bookstores or online. (And no shipping fee!)

2. Ask your professor if you can use an older edition. Textbooks are always coming out with newer editions, and each time a newer one comes out, the older editions become even cheaper and less “valuable.” For some subjects that have to use new or updated information constantly, such as some maths or sciences, this method may not work. However, most textbooks don’t differ very much from edition to edition. I purchased older editions of my advertising history textbook, journalism history textbook, and english textbooks, and found that they were almost identical to the newer editions that my professor was showing in class. And they all costed me $5 each!

3. Some classes will list textbooks as “required,” but then you enter the class and the professor will tell you that they’re optional. Keep that in mind, and consider waiting to get your textbooks until after the first day of class. In my first semester, I entered my sociology class to be told that all of the textbooks were optional because the professor already put up the same information on the lecture slides.

4. I always rent a used copy if it comes down to that I have to get the textbook for the class. Sometimes you will want to buy the book because you think the subject is interesting, but think about if you will really read out of that book again when the class is over!


#4. Entertainment.

I always found that there were lots of things I could do with my friends to have fun without spending a lot of money. Stay-in movie nights, TV show marathoning, DIY face masks, playing sports or working out at the gym, going on walks, and experimenting with cooking were all things that I enjoyed doing with my friends to spend time without breaking the bank! You will find that going out frequently, while it may be fun for a while, will put a dent in your bank account. But don’t be afraid to treat yourself when you need to!

College can be expensive, and living on your own can be expensive, but if you’re smart about your choices then it can make a big difference!

Good luck!

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