I am a second-year graduate student who is interested in being frugal. However, I have to put my studies first and comparison shopping, cutting coupons, etc. takes a lot of time and energy. Any ideas on how to save money on a tight budget, tight time and little energy to devote to thriftiness? What are the big things that I can do to save money?
Here are my suggestions for this grad student:
Those are my NO TIME money savers. I also recommend paying for things with green dollars (not dollars and change) and saving all your change. It's an easy way to start an emergency fund, vacation fund, etc and adds up quickly.
Kelly in Indiana
I would focus your limited time on planning your meals and snacks. It is so easy, when you are rushed, to buy convenience food either at restaurants or in the grocery store. I would spend an hour or so each week planning your meals for the week and buying the necessary ingredients to make them from scratch. Shopping and cooking this way really doesn't take that much longer and it will save you money and time in that you won't have to spend time wondering what you'll have for lunch today or spend money grabbing a $5 sandwich somewhere because you didn't have any food in the house.
I was in grad school a couple of years ago and here are some of the things I did to save money:
Believe me, the time spent cutting coupons and using them at the store is well worth it. I work full time and take grad courses part time and I still find time to cut coupons and look through grocery store circulars to get the best deals. When I do my grocery shopping and use coupons carefully I can save anywhere from one dollar to 20 or 30 dollars. If you are really committed to saving $$, you must find the time to do what it takes.
For many people, the biggest out-of-pocket expense is eating out. Find a convenient grocery store and start cooking at home. Make brown bag lunches (and breakfasts and dinners) to save expenses. Don't worry about clipping coupons or following sale ads. You will save money by cooking for yourself over eating out even if your nearest grocery charges twice as much as one across town.
Here are some Tips on Saving Time and Money when Food Shopping: You can save a lot on food without clipping coupons. Most coupons are for convenience foods and items that we don't really need. Have friends or relatives send you coupons for your favorite brand-preferred items. Eat simple foods that are close to their natural state. Buy things when they are on sale. Eat produce which is in season. Save time shopping by cruising the perimeter of the store: produce, dairy and meat items are generally found here. Most of the other aisles contain things that we don't really need. Make large portions when you do cook and freeze the leftovers. Keep your freezer stocked with these homemade convenience foods. These are much cheaper and better for you than purchased convenience foods and you save preparation time. Shop at a local market rather than a large chain store; their prices tend to be cheaper overall. If you don't have time to compare prices, pick up the circular when you enter the store. Peruse the first and last pages and mentally note which items you will buy.
Tell her to start pooling her money with friends. Also have each friend look for deals and discounts then report back to the group. Store info in lists/databases- what's needed & when; the best resources & prices; who offers what; etc. Refer to the lists frequently adding and deleting when necessary. Setting this system up requires time. However, further changes requires only require minimal effort. It is really worth it!
Other time & money savers: take advantage of university and public facilities, property, supplies, offers, etc. Also ask (local) merchants for student discounts (if the answer is "NO" ask "WHY" and explain the benefits of having a rush of students continually using their business, not to mention the power of word-of-mouth and the good will created with the university and students).
Find a roommate who is accomplished at saving & stretching income. Also, remember that it takes more time & energy to get a system in place than it does to maintain that system -- once you master discount shopping, you will find it doesn't atke much more time.
As you compromise your standard of living, remember that it is temporary -- you will earn your degree within a certain amount of time & then will adjust to a a different income.
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