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.
Coupons.com Scholarship Finalist: Hanna Terry, Appalachian State University
What are some of your favorite low cost/free/local things to do?
I am fortunate enough to attend a university that is surrounded by beautiful, natural scenery that provides ample free of cost opportunities for students. Appalachian State is located in the center of the mountains and is equipped with easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I spend the majority of my weekends exploring the Parkway’s hiking trails and swimming holes. Appalachian State also offers students the option of renting camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, and kayaks to use upon request. Taking advantage of those free resources is great for college students and I have saved a lot of money by doing so. I enjoy attending our local farmer’s market that supplies visitors with locally grown and made products for inexpensive costs. There are also a lot of restaurants in town that frequently have live bands that customers can enjoy listening to free of charge.
What are you currently saving for? What’s the hardest part about trying to save?
As a college senior, I am currently in the process of applying to graduate schools to obtain a Master’s degree in occupational therapy. Becoming an OT has been a dream of mine for the last three years. I have always had a passion for children with disabilities and was fortunate enough to be able to gain some experience working in the field of OT and it became clear to me that this was the career path I wanted to pursue. Ever since I have made the decision to acquire a Master’s degree, I have made a conscious effort to conserve as much money as possible to put towards my future degree. Now that I have completed the application process, I must now wait to see where I will be accepted. But until then, I plan on continuing to reserve my money in the hopes that I have compiled enough to continue my education and follow my dream of an occupational therapy degree. The most challenging aspect of saving is outweighing making a quick purchase or saving that money for the distant future.
What is a clever way you make money or save money while in school?
At Appalachian State, we have a system that has been set up by students who are looking for ways to make some extra money while in college. This system is called the student beeper service, where students post on a FaceBook page that they will drive other students around campus for a small fee. I have been a student beeper in the past and have made a significant amount of money driving for only a couple of hours. There are also many “odd job” websites available that supply students with opportunities to complete quick and local jobs created by members of the community such as yard work or babysitting. In regards to saving money, there are ample grocery stores that offer rewards cards for customers with no fees. This can save students a lot of money on food purchases. In college towns, there are typically businesses who offer student discounts but will not always advertise that offer. Simply asking before buying an item could deduct a percentage off of a purchase.
What’s one tip that’s helped you save money?
As a student, it is easy to lose track of your purchases and to not actually have accurate knowledge of how much money you are spending on certain expenses. My father suggested to me that I start an excel spreadsheet to log all of my purchases. I created categories such as food, gas, school-related, extracurricular, etc. For three months, I kept receipts and recorded each time I made a purchase and added up each column at the end of the month. I, myself, realized that I was spending an overwhelming and unnecessary amount of money on food, which I had not realized before creating the spreadsheet. It was an extremely eye-opening experience to keep track of where my money was being spent. It made me more conscious of my purchases and realize which areas I could afford to spend more money and which areas I should save more money. I would recommend this strategy to all college students to have a better understanding of exactly which areas of their lives to which their money is going.
How do you cope with unexpected expenses?
I first always try to look for alternative ways to avoid unexpected expenses, renting textbooks. But often times, these expenses cannot be avoided. In this case, one will just have to make those purchases, which often means being conservative in another aspect of their life. For example, if a student is driving to class one morning and unfortunately gets a flat tire, they will not be able to avoid paying the mechanic to replace the tire. This can potentially come at a high cost. In that case, the student might have to decide to limit the amount of times that they eat out at a restaurant for the next few weeks in order to make back the money that was used for the tire. Or, if this student spends money each week on an extracurricular activity, they might try and find an alternative activity that is free so that they can put that money towards the tire as well. It is a give and take process, and if one sees that one area of expenditures is increasing, then he/she will have to decrease expenditures in another area of their life.
What do you do on an every day basis to help save money or stay on budget?
There are two easy strategies that I use daily in order to help save some money. I have a jar in my kitchen that is set aside for change, and each day I empty the change in my wallet into this jar and never take any change out of it. One might think that just collecting change would not lead to a large amount of savings, but when I count the change at the end of each year, the number is quite surprising. In recent years, I have accumulated hundreds of dollars by doing this simple task. Another way that I save money is by using coupons, either from receipts, magazines, advantage cards, or online sources. I have a small booklet where I keep all of the paper coupons and I search through them before going to a store to see if any of them would apply to my purchase. There are also ample websites that have coupons for many purchases that are easy to look up and use in stores. Again, this saves only a few dollars each time they are used, but that adds up very quickly. A lot of grocery stores offer advantage cards that are free of charge. The stores keep track for you how much money you have saved, and in the last four months I have already saved $75.00. Some of them also provide you with points that you can put towards gas purchases.
What piece of advice would you give a student who is trying to start saving money or start following a budget?
Making the budget is honestly one of the most difficult parts, but it is extremely helpful. Determining how much money you have to work with each month and then figuring out what your average expenses are and keeping this information in a document to refer back to will really benefit college students. This way, a student knows how much he/she can afford to spend in order to stay on budget and can also help them know how much they can afford to save each month. But my best piece of advice to give students that are in this process is that there are some times when it will be difficult, but the pay off will be very much worth the time and effort put into it. Lastly, just because a student is not spending frivolously does not mean that he/she should not treat themselves every once in a while. It is important to do things for yourself in order to remain happy and have some fun.
What is your favorite “splurge” purchase?
Like many other college students, I really love food. But I find myself saving the most money in the category of food because it is easier to buy cheap pasta and live off of that for a few weeks. So I have found that my favorite thing to splurge on is eating out at nice restaurants that have good quality food. I love treating myself to that at the end of a difficult week. And it is also an easy thing to take out of the budget one week if I have spent the money elsewhere.
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