Coupons.com Scholarship Finalist: Cassandra Powell


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We’re very excited to announce the first round of finalists and the winner of the Coupons.com scholarship. We know how hard students work, and managing their finances is a big part of that. We asked students to share some of their best pieces of advice for saving money, shopping smartly, and being savvy about where their money goes.

With more than 15,000 entries for the first round of the Coupons.com scholarship, we couldn’t narrow it down to just one winner. In addition to a $5,000 scholarship for the winner, we have partnered with Barnes & Noble to provide a $500 gift card for the finalists to use for their upcoming textbook expenses.

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Read on for more great money savings advice from students.

cassandra-powell-scholarshipCoupons.com Scholarship Finalist: Cassandra Powell, University of California, Santa Cruz

What are some of your favorite low cost/free/local things to do?

I love to go to the beach and paddle board, skate along the beach at the beach trail, and hike through the forest.

What are you currently saving for? What’s the hardest part about trying to save?

I am currently saving for college tuition and everything that comes along with it. I have been paying my entire college tuition by myself through scholarships and grants alone, but the hardest part is trying to find the best deals for school items like textbooks and cost-of-living items like cleaning supplies or food. Even after saving a lot and being budget friendly, the absolute hardest part of trying to save is because of emergencies. Things come up that are out of my control, like an injury and the medical bills that follow, and take away all of the money I earned and saved for tuition.

What is a clever way you make money or save money while in school?

While at school, my friends and I save money by buying things we need in bulk and splitting the cost. For example, we saved a lot of money buying school supplies that run out quickly or get lost easily, such as note cards, spiral notebooks, and pens in bulk and distributing the cost and the items.

What’s one tip that’s helped you save money?

I have saved the most money by doing a search for coupons or deals before every online purchase and doing a search online before going into the store to buy something. Also, creating a wishlist and keeping my eye out for deals by searching every couple of days allows me to buy things when they are on sale. This works best for things that “run out” like school supplies, when I start to run low, I put it on my list and keep a eye out so if I need something I can buy it in advance on sale rather than run out and buy it full price with rush shipping because I need it as soon as possible.

How do you cope with unexpected expenses?

Unexpected expenses like the small things you don’t think about to doctors’ appointments and medicine when you get sick come out of nowhere and can hit hard when you’re trying to pay for school and be on your own as a college student. I have coped with these unexpected expenses by saving a certain amount of money every quarter to account for these expenses and rolling the money over to the next quarter if something big happens and I need disposable income quick.

What do you do on an every day basis to help save money or stay on budget?

I am an avid list maker and I obsess over writing everything down, so that’s basically what I do to track and visually see everything I spend. Just like a calorie tracker app I use to stay healthy and make sure I’m eating well, I have an expense report app that I use to track spending and make sure I am spending money wisely. I organize it all into different categories like textbooks and school supplies, food and snacks, or gas money, and I figure out where I am spending the most so I can try and cut down on spending or re-allocate my funds to make up for the discrepancy.

What piece of advice would you give a student who is trying to start saving money or start following a budget?

The greatest piece of advice that I wish I had when I started to be completely on my own financially would be to focus on saving, but not put such a heavy focus on money. In college, everyone is broke and looking to save money, and you will be no different. You can always find ways to have a good time with your new college friends without spending money and when you all can spend time together without going out to an expensive dinner every week or going to the movies all the time, and instead go on a hike or take free yoga classes together, your mind and your wallet will thank you. Enjoying your time at college without constantly obsessing over money is healthier and if you learn to appreciate the new experiences around you without a dependence on money, it is an overall better experience.

I also am a big fan of coupons! You can find so many great coupons online which will help you save on virtually everything – clothes, hair and beauty products, snacks, etc.

What is your favorite “splurge” purchase?

My all-time favorite splurge purchase has been my roller skates. I have been playing roller derby since I was 13, but I moved across the state and joined a team in my college town and have been loving it! Joining a sport is a great way to meet people off campus and connect with people in the community, while also giving yourself a mental and physical break from school. My skates are my treasure, not only because I love the sport but because when I put them on I can forget about the stress of school and work, and focus on something fun and different.

What has been the biggest surprise expense in college?

The biggest surprise and the most costly expense overall that I have had to pay has been the little things. I have spent a seemingly absurd amount of money on Amazon (bless you free trial of Amazon prime student, you saved me SO much money on shipping) in my first year alone than I have ever spent in my entire life. Going from being at home and having everything that you need and don’t think about often to being completely on your own is intimidating. Things like medicine and tissues for when you get sick during finals week, to sports wrap and athletic tape when you twist your ankle running late to class, to a personal fan when a heat wave hits and you realize that there is no air conditioning in the entire dorm building, can hit you out of nowhere and you’re left relying on other people or making a trip off campus to buy these things last minute.

Also for these small expenses, I have found that almost everyone needs the same sorts of things, so my friends and I will buy things like paper towels and ramen in bulk. Buying in bulk is usually a lot cheaper, so everyone pitches in a few dollars and gets a lot more bang for their buck and we all help each other out.

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