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: Kyla Bartnicki, University of New England
What are some of your favorite low cost/free/local things to do?
My favorite thing to do is volunteer in my community. I often spend part of my weekends at the Soup Kitchen or at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I think giving to others is important because a little help can go a long way. When I volunteer at the Soup Kitchen, I often provide breakfast or lunch. I spend my time preparing the food, serving the food, washing the dishes, and cleaning the tables. I always enjoy talking to the people that come in. Some of them do not have people to talk to because they live on their own in the streets. It makes them so happy when they see me, and I am always happy to see them. ReStore is run through the organization Habitat for Humanity. This store uses donations from people such as used furniture, appliances, as well as many other materials that are needed for living in a home. We often fix the donations as many come in broken and need repairs. After they are fixed, we sell the items to the public at a reduced price so they are affordable for anyone.
What are you currently saving for? What’s the hardest part about trying to save?
I am currently saving for college. As a sophomore student, I have already gained two years of loans that I will need to pay back. I still have 2 years of undergraduate to complete. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school where I will get my Master’s in Occupational Therapy. With this degree, I want to work in the school setting to help children who have disabilities develop their motor skills. The hardest part about trying to save is all of the other expenses that I must pay along the way. This includes school fees such as books, as well as other costs such as food. It is important to prioritize when buying things because otherwise I will not be saving enough money.
What is a clever way you make money or save money while in school?
A clever way I save money is by using coupons.com. There are so many coupons that are available. I always use them when purchasing products to ensure I am saving as much money as possible to use towards my college education. I love this website because I can use the coupons at so many stores, which helps me save even more money because some stores have lower prices than others depending on the week. My college friends always crack jokes when I pull out my coupons when making a purchase, but then they realize how smart it is. Then, they too are using coupons before they know it.
What’s one tip that’s helped you save money?
One tip that has helped me save money is putting half of my paychecks into my checking and half into my savings. This ensures that I have money to spend for expenses that arise, in addition to putting some money aside. If I did not use this tip, I would be more likely to spend money and would have less money in my savings.
How do you cope with unexpected expenses?
First, I accept that I have to make them. Things come up and it is important to have some money stored away for these such occasions. Then, I evaluate if I need to make up for the loss of money. Sometimes this means I have to work extra, but that is important if I am trying to stay on track of reaching my goal.
What do you do on an every day basis to help save money or stay on budget?
Personally, I try to weigh the wants vs. needs. If it is something I need, the purchase can be made without hesitation. However, if it is a want, I start asking myself other questions to determine if the item is something that I should purchase. One question I ask myself is “when was the last time I bought something I wanted?” If I can’t remember or if it was a couple months ago, I usually go ahead and make the purchase. However, if I purchased something I wanted more recently, I then ask myself “how long I will use the item?”
If I see myself having it for a long time, I then go ahead and buy it.
What piece of advice would you give a student who is trying to start saving money or start following a budget?
When someone is starting to save money or follow a budget, it is important to pick a starting point or goal. This is where you plan out what you want in the end and how you are going to get there. Along the way, it is important to reevaluate and make sure you are on track. If it looks like you may not reach your goal, it is important to come up alternatives so the goal can be achieved in the same amount of time.
What is your favorite “splurge” purchase?
My favorite splurge purchase is buying new pair of shoes, whether it be sneakers, sandals, heels or boots! There are so many options and they are all so cute!
What has been the biggest surprise expense in college?
The biggest surprise expense in college is textbooks. When I was touring, it seemed as if the biggest expenses that added up were of course tuition, but also laundry and printing. Luckily, at my school both laundry and printing are free. However, textbooks add up quickly and if you do not carefully plan out each purchase, the money just flies. For me, I find it is best to buy textbooks used and then sell them back to other students. New college students should compare the prices of their school bookstore, Amazon, Chegg, and students who are selling books. Buying used books allows me to break even for textbooks and in the end, the only thing I am paying for is access to the online homework systems.
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