How to survive on $20 a week
The life of a college student can be tough sometimes. Those stories of living on Ramen noodles for months at a time are no joke, but if you were lucky, most of your friends and relatives gave you cash for the holidays, your birthday or graduation this year, or at least some gift cards that can be used to purchase everyday needs. This will make the start of the next semester a bit easier. And if you budget correctly, you should be able to make it through the term without starving. Even if you have some cash set aside, set a weekly spending limit and stick to it. This will help reduce those nights where your stomach is growling louder than the music next door. Trust me, I have been there. But I found some creative ways to stretch a dollar and make ends meet. I set a goal to live on $20 a week, and here’s how I did it…
Find a Shopping Buddy
One of my best friends in college joined forces with me to purchase essentials in bulk. Items like pasta, meats, condiments and laundry soap are usually cheaper when purchased in larger portions at discount warehouses like Sam’s, Costco and BJ’s. We would go once a month to purchase these items and share. This is something that can easily be set-up with your roommate or someone else in your dorm or apartment complex. Typically, we would spend $10-$15 each for a month’s supply.
The dollar stores should become your go-to place for toiletries like toothpaste, soap, shampoo and paper products. You can easily get enough to last you a month for under $10. Also, look into discount bread stores, as you can score sandwich bread, muffins and other snack food super cheap. Why would you pay $3 for a loaf of bread when you can get one for 88₵? Trust me, these stores are great when it comes to finding cheap snacks.
Get the Sunday paper. The coupons in your $2 a week newspaper can save you $10 or more on your grocery bill each week. Use the sales fliers to find the best bargains and stock up on any deals that are dirt cheap. One week, I had coupons for cereal that was BOGO (buy one, get one). With the reduced price and my coupons, each box was only 50₵, so I bought 10 at a cost of $5. I never needed any more cereal during the semester.
There’s no need to live on Ramen noodles, but steer clear of Starbucks and other fast food joints that will drain your bank account quicker than you can finish a Big Mac. Another great way to stay within your spending limit is to use your feet. Forget throwing money into your gas tank – walk everywhere. If you find you need to travel farther than a few miles, use a bike. The only time I used my car was to make my bi-monthly trip to the grocery store and my monthly trip to Sam’s; even then, I carpooled with friends to save money. If you spend a little time preparing a monthly budget and shopping list, you’ll find it easier to stay within your means and never go hungry at college.