Cutting Back

It’s time for a brutally honest post.

Cost-cutting isn’t going super well for me.

Now, before you start wondering where all that money is going, let me explain a few things. I don’t have a car, so I don’t have insurance, gas, or maintenance to pay for. My “rent” is tied up in this nice little package called room and board–it includes wifi, utilities, use of the laundry facilities, and a meal plan (so I don’t need to spend money on food, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.). Tuition is actually part of the same bill–it’s all just one giant expense.

All that said, I don’t think there are a lot of college or graduate students who are as serious about cost-cutting as I am. So as I’m searching Pinterest and Google for ideas on how to save money, I’m getting a lot of stuff about turning down the heat/air conditioning, where to get the best deals on diapers, and only paying for wifi if you need to work from home. None of this works for me. My circumstances are unique with the room and board expenses (which come to about $200 per month–cheaper than rent almost everywhere, especially when you consider that utilities, wifi, laundry, meals, toilet paper, etc. are all included).

I am still eligible for most student discounts. But most of them are not at stores where I will be spending money. Or they’re only on full-priced items. And I never buy anything at full price. Ever.

If I’m not buying a generic/store brand product, it’s because I already tried the generic brand and it didn’t work. (I’m looking at you, Neutrogena knock-offs!) I’ve looked up all the coupons. All of them. And I’m still not paying full price. And I’m still only buying things I’ll actually need.

I don’t have a phone contract. I’m paying $35 per month using Total Wireless’s prepaid service. I get unlimited talk/text with 2.5 GB of data. I’m thinking of going to the data-free plan for $25 per month even though I really do use the data. I should switch. I don’t necessarily need the data after all…

I’m a little ticked at the posts I keep seeing about cutting down the number of mani-pedis you get per month. Because who even gets those while they’re in grad school?! And Starbucks…I’m literally at the point where I only go if someone gives me a gift card or money that they specifically say I’m to use for coffee. (I really, REALLY appreciate that by the way!) I rarely eat out because I have a meal plan, and if I do, it’s a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza that I can make last for a week. And I probably only bought it because I didn’t have time to go to the dining common when it was open.

The tax breaks for which I am eligible won’t help me until next semester.

I keep hearing that if you budget yourself to the point where you don’t spend ANY unnecessary money ever, it takes a toll on you mentally. And I’ve tried it. And as much as I wish it wasn’t true, it is.

Unless I’m mistaken, I’m saving pretty much all the money I can. Within reason.

I’m trying to sell clothes on Poshmark and Ebay. It’s taking a while to get that off the ground.

So what is working for me? What would I suggest?

  1. CVS ExtraCare card

This is a simple rewards program. It doesn’t cost anything to sign up. Just present your card when you check out. You get points on certain beauty purchases that add up to rewards (plus a free reward on your birthday). They will spend $4 off or 30% off coupons to your email on a regular basis–coupons that are actually useful!!! And they will also send emails to let you know when there are deals on the products you purchase the most frequently. Get this card. Do it. I’m serious.

2.  Check the prices of what you’re buying. Religiously.

Sometimes there’s actually a deal on a name brand that is cheaper than the store brand. It’s all about looking at the prices. And start comparing things like Net. Weight and Fl. Oz. Is the price on two items the same, but one has an extra ounce? That’s the better deal. Just read the signs.

3. Buy more than what you need right this second.

Sound counterintuitive? It isn’t necessarily. For example, if I know that I’m always going to be using makeup remover and there’s a BOGO 50% deal, it’s cheaper in the long run for me to buy two bottles of makeup remover rather than just one. Because I WILL use it. And I got it the second one for 50% off.

Things like coffee will keep. I can buy a regular sized can off store brand coffee for $4. Or I can get a can that’s almost triple the size for $7. Which is the better deal? And I can pay $1.60 for a 2-litre of Pepsi, or I can pay the same price for a 20 oz. bottle. So which is the cheaper way to treat myself? I can make the 2-litre last almost a month.

I’m still hoping to cut costs even more, so if you have more tips, keep them coming! I’ll post updates as I find more useful ideas.

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