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: Sarah Stanson, Arizona State University
What are some of your favorite low cost/free/local things to do?
I love shopping local, but it’s not always the cheapest option. We have a local co-op and have paid to be members there, which gives us cheaper prices and really great deals. I’ve found that it’s the best deal around to be a member there because the other local grocery stores are fairly expensive, even with their sales. We are all about coupons that we receive in the mail, too. We are big fans of pizza, and every week there’s at least one great pizza deal sitting in our mailbox. There is also a company that owns a few local restaurants and if you sign up to be a member of their club, which is free, then you get 30% off your entire meal every Monday, so it makes for a pretty great date night. Costco is also a must. We go to Costco for our massive purchases, like toilet paper, paper towels, and canned goods. My husband and I have learned that sharing meals is a great way to save money and eat healthier.
What are you currently saving for? What’s the hardest part about trying to save?
My husband and I are currently saving up for a goat farm. It’s a long term goal, but we’ve started saving because it is going to take a lot of money and time to get it started. We want to eventually own a dairy goat farm that produces goat milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, etc. We have a lot of research and planning to do until we start moving forward with it. The hardest part of saving is cutting out the ‘wants,’ and only purchasing the ‘needs.’ We’ve learned how much money we have been spending on ‘wants’ and that number had to drastically reduce in order for us to start really saving. We are currently evaluating how much we spend on our three TV streaming applications, eating out, and buying unnecessary clothing. I love clothes, old and new, so that has been the hardest part for me, because I have all the clothes I could ever NEED, but I always WANT more.
What is a clever way you make money or save money while in school?
When I was working full time, we would have my income go directly to our savings account and only use my husband’s income for our checking account. It was a good way to save money because since we weren’t seeing my income, it was like it wasn’t there to spend. Now that we’ve moved and I am not working full time and will be going back to school full time, we have decided to do the same with a portion of his income, automatically putting it in our savings account, not giving us the option to spend it. We also have a CD that we are not allowed to touch for 6 years, so in 6 years that will be a nice surprise!
What’s one tip that’s helped you save money?
It’s easier to save money when it’s out of sight. When there’s money right in front of you, it makes it very easy to spend it. But when you have money automatically put aside or make a no-budge rule that a set amount will always be put into savings, then it makes it more simple. Out of sight, out of mind.
How do you cope with unexpected expenses?
My husband and I have a budget that we stick to, so when unexpected expenses arise, we look at our budget and see what money we can move around and where we can spend less.
What do you do on an every day basis to help save money or stay on budget?
I have a budget app on my phone called EveryDollar and it syncs to my husband’s phone as well. Whenever we spend anything, we immediately input it into our app and it updates, telling us how much we have left to spend in each category of our budget. It has been so helpful and easy.
What piece of advice would you give a student who is trying to start saving money or start following a budget?
My piece of advice would be to automatically set aside some money each month into a savings/emergency fund and pretend that you can’t access it. Also, making a budget takes some time, but it is so beneficial in the long run. If you can stick to it and be self-disciplined, then it will really pay off. Another tip, if you have a credit card, treat it like a debit card like money is being taken out of your account as soon as you swipe the card. Don’t keep spending when you don’t have the money to pay for it.
What is your favorite “splurge” purchase?
Clothes have always been my weakness, especially when I get emails that start with “70% off sale!” Thankfully, my husband and I have made an agreement, that if we still stay within our budget, I can occasionally “splurge” on some new clothes, but I have to get rid of the same amount of old clothes. For example, if I buy 3 new items of clothing, I have to get rid of 3 old items of clothing. It’s worked really well so far and it’s also really fair!
What has been the biggest surprise expense in college?
The biggest surprise expense that I’ve run into has honestly been the classes themselves. Each credit costs hundreds of dollars, so to take one class is incredibly expensive. I knew books would be costly, but thankfully there are now all kinds of ways to buy/rent textbooks now-a-days.
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