Penny-pinching – the language of the frugal. As an overly anxious child, I would save wherever I could and felt tremendous guilt at the idea of spending more than what was needed. My parents couldn’t understand why I would return home upset over the fact they had bought me new school books, while my classmates retained those of older siblings or acquired them from second-hand shops. To me, the fresh pages were not only an indicator of too much privilege, but also wasted Jaffa Cakes or donations to Dog’s Trust or however else a seven-year-old thinks money is meant to be spent. As I got older, and money became scarcer, this was appreciated at home, and never more so than as a student. What, however, are the best ways to save? Using the showers at the gym to save hot water and the bathrooms on campus to avoid buying toilet roll doesn’t work out as cost-effectively as you might imagine (although useful in dire straits). Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to make your weekly budget go that extra bit further.
Plan your meals with friends
While the initial advice was to cut eating out entirely, that seemed short-sighted. Instead, talk to your friends about how you can coordinate meals. Ingredients are far cheaper when bought in bulk, and the intimidating process of cooking is lessened when uncovered with friends. What’s more, nothing is worse than food gone to waste, and having the ebb and flow of different appetites compensates for that, so long as it isn’t consistently ebbing in one direction. Not only will you save money and effort, you’ll learn a thing or two and spend time with friends away from the atmosphere of college. If kitchen facilities aren’t available, you can still buy large meals when out and split them, which usually works out cheaper than buying smaller, individual meals. A foot-long Subway works out saving upwards of 30 cents when compared to buying individual six inch sandwiches. This may be a minor saving and might not be met with enthusiasm as you and your friends divide up a Subway but three times a week, over the 24 weeks of college, amounts to €21.60. Over your four years of college, you’re approaching triple digits and a chronic dislike of sandwiches.
Carry coffee with you
In college, hanging out with new people invariably involves spending, whether it be coffee between lectures or an embarrassing evening in the Pav. What can be overlooked is how much these dates can add up to, and for many, the financial requirements for “going for a coffee” can put a strain on their bank balance. One solution is to offer to get a table when you enter Costa; the chance to choose your favourite spot while avoiding the pressure of buying something to fill the table with. If you still need your caffeine boost, a tub of instant coffee carried in your bag may be your solution. With kettles spread around campus, it’s doable. Being able to sprinkle your own coffee into your cup will save massive amounts. With Tesco’s instant coffee coming in at €1.79 per 111 servings, your €3 Starbucks has morphed into a 1.6 cent per cup beverage. At two cups per day, five days a week for the 24 weeks, it comes in at under €3.50. Compared to the €720 with Starbucks, the savings add up.
Second-hand and library books
Listening to the sense of my seven-year old self, abandoning new books and relying instead of second-hand copies is not only better for sustainability, but better for your wallet. With a plethora of second-hand shops around the city, resources like Oxfam offer an opportunity to find nuggets of prose while contributing to a worthy cause. If you’re looking for more specific titles, Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street has a second-hand section averaging out at €5 per book. For the more patient among us, Amazon’s second-hand section contains some bargains, particularly with older titles. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, or it’s a new release that hasn’t yet been sold on, ordering the book from stacks in Trinity’s library is an option. While it’s probably not the intended purpose of the academic resources, if it fuels your intellectual growth, who are they to argue? Working out the savings here is a little tougher, but if you’re very adventurous and undertaking the 52 books-a-year challenge, and you split your readings evenly between second-hand Chapters copies and Trinity’s library, it would work out at €130 per year, versus the €624 worth of new copies (not to mention the trees saved).
Find some income
Like a plane losing altitude, sometimes a crash is inevitable unless you find a way to get some thrust back. Saving money only goes so far, and if you’re really stuck, there are plenty of ways to face the often unavoidable without impacting your college work. Part-time jobs such as working in a café or supermarket are a reliable and trustworthy solution, if time-consuming. Thankfully, there are a number of on-campus positions available, from working in the Goldsmith Café to giving guided tours of campus. Outside College, jobs sympathetic to student schedules are scattered around town. If you’re in Dublin for the summer, now is the perfect time to apply and start squirrelling away for the coming year. Giving grinds is better money per hour, even though it can be sporadic and stress-inducing when you’re asked for the fifth time what the value is in learning off Junior Cert theorems. If you can afford to rely on your creative talents instead, students have found success through designing for Redbubble and handcrafted goods on Etsy. For the writers among us, finding freelance work is difficult, especially when you’re starting off. Niche subjects are easier to break into, with people fulfilling everything from custom poetry to requests for fiction. If you can find a market that caters to your interest, the chance to be paid even pocket money for your budding stories is a dream come true. But that’s the crux of it – you’re never going to find a single way to make your fortune in college. Relying on the Arts Block’s supply of toilet paper isn’t going to make your first million, but every penny saved on a regular basis adds up, and the power of frequently saving often surprises us. So save where you can, plan ahead, and budget – spending smart doesn’t necessitate becoming a miser.