Monday, March 21, 2011

Special Request: Dorm Living on the Cheap

Jen, a Captain Cheap reader, has asked for some tips on how to save a few bucks while living on campus.  Back in my undergrad days, renting just half a dorm room came out to about $800/month, which is hardly economical, so I do encourage you college-y readers to consider off campus living if you're really looking to save some serious money. But. For those of you who ARE living the dorm life:

Circus/magic themed
collage I made entirely
from pictures printed
from the Internet.
* Don't lay out hundreds of dollars at Target to deck out your half of the room like everyone else does. Instead, chances are good that, as a student, you have a certain amount of pages you're allowed to print for free every semester in computer labs on campus; use this to your advantage! Print off your own digital photographs to hang up, or print pictures from the Internet to use for collages.

* Research all your meal plan options before choosing one (I know, most schools require you to buy one if you live on campus). Choose the minimum plan that will fit what you absolutely need. Remember, you can supplement meals (particularly breakfast and snacks) with your own stash of food at a much lower price.

* Speaking of food, here are some things to stock up on if you don't have a fridge or microwave. Some can seem expensive to the average grocery store shopper, but trust me. All are WAY cheaper than food being sold on your campus, and don't forget -- you can use coupons!:  Trail mix, nuts, bread, peanut butter, honey, fresh fruit, toaster pastries, bagels, protein / granola bars, beef jerky, pudding cups (non-refrigerated kind), applesauce, banana chips, fruit snacks, sunflower seeds, crackers.
* Other campus tips: Join e-mail lists and/or Facebook groups for any clubs that you're even remotely interested in, so that you can hear about events that might offer free food. See if your student ID will provide you a discount at any local businesses, including museums and events (check with your card office.) For entertainment, your campus should be your first stop, since so many free things, like movie screenings and art events are offered on campuses. Check your school's website to see if you can find an events calendar for all clubs and departments.

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