Scholarship Finalist: Jessica Daniels


We’re very excited to announce the first round of finalists and the winner of the 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 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. Scholarship Finalist: Jessica Daniels, Columbia University

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

I take great pleasure in just being outdoors. I love to go to local hiking trails and just enjoy the fresh air and serenity.  Friends and I will take long walks outdoors or at the local orchard (where we’ll help ourselves to a free sample of the in season fruit). I also love to eat out; I’ll scour the internet looking for coupons or promotions for ice cream shops or pizzerias to get some cheap, delicious food!

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

I’m currently saving to start paying back my student loans. I’ve put myself through both undergrad and grad school and have accumulated quite a hefty loan total (yikes!) As I am still working on my Master’s degree, I am still in deferment. However, I’m trying to pay off a chunk of interest once a year. I don’t want to get out and be too overwhelmed with debt!   Recently I was also saving up for a set of new tires. I am happy to report that after a year of saving I was finally able to purchase good quality tires for my car. No more slipping and sliding in the snow for me!

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

Coupons, duh! My mom is what you could call an “extreme couponer”.  Though I am nowhere near as impressive as her, she has taught me the ways of the trade. I coupon for everything (or attempt to at the very least!). I never pay full price for makeup, toiletries, or sanitary products. I also buy all my clothes from thrift stores such as Goodwill, Savers, and Plato’s Closet. I love the fact that I can get an entire new fall wardrobe for well under $100 – boots and all!

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

“Stretching a dollar can make it go a long way.” This old time saying couldn’t be more true. I’ve found that it’s extremely valuable to take the time to consider all options before committing to a purchase. Even if one brand is just 50 cents less, it really adds up fast. My boyfriend gets quite frustrated when I spent 15 minutes in the grocery store isle comparing soda brands and sizes just to save a few cents

How do you cope with unexpected expenses?

When I’m faced with unexpected expenses it means having to cut back on every day things – non-essential food items, beauty products; at times I even have to limit where I can go just to save on gas! I’m very good at always finding a product for cheaper which is also a huge help.

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

I pack my own lunches! I’ll go grocery shopping every other week for the essentials – bread, peanut butter, fruit, milk, etc. Every day I brown bag my own lunches – whether I’m at class, at my internship, or at my part time job. I easily save hundreds of dollars a year by not just running to subway on my lunch break!

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

START A SAVINGS ACCOUNT! When I first started college I would save money and then blow it all entirely on textbooks or pizzas. Now I put 10% of every paycheck directly into my savings account and will not touch it for anything at all except for an emergency. I don’t even consider my savings account in every day life.

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?

The one thing I will splurge on is my hair. Once a year I’ll do something fun to my hair, like get it colored or highlighted or try out a new cut. It can cost a lot but that’s why I limit it to once a year. It’s the one thing I do for myself! Self care is so important in college!

What has been the biggest surprise expense in college?

Besides tuition, my biggest surprise expense is easily textbooks! I spent hundreds of dollars a semester on textbooks that often time are only referenced once or twice. I try to buy all my textbooks used, previous edition or rent them to save money. Sometimes I’ll get assigned a textbook that’s really worth having in my own personal library so I have to purchase it new or gently used (which is surprisingly still expensive!)

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