ME, CT 5¢ Refund

It’s Sunday morning and you wake up with a yawn and a stretch and peel back the curtains only to find that the quad is filled with empty beer cans and Poland Spring bottles filled with a few remaining sips of last night’s vodka. You could wait for someone else to pick up the eyesore….or you could use it to your advantage.

On any typical college campus, there is bound to be a disturbing number of empties strewn all over the ground after a weekend of heavy partying. Waking up to beat the early risers to the cleanup may be the last thing you’re thinking of doing, especially if you were one of those that contributed to the alcohol remnants, but it may be worth the hassle. You can always go back to bed after, eh?

Get a trash can just to collect the cans and bottles, or just stuff them in a garbage bag until you get a chance to go to the grocery store to deposit them. You may want to keep them in a closed container or hidden in a closet so they don’t smell or add clutter to your living space.
This guy is just angry don’t listen to him; he doesn’t know what he’s talking about: (but watch it cause it’s funny.)

To get more information about bottle bills in your area, click here. You’re extra lucky now because as of October 1, water bottles became redeemable in CT.

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Buying in Bulk

While moseying down the aisles of Costco earlier today, past the buckets of nacho cheese sauce, 50-packs of cup noodles,15005922-nissan-cup-o-noodle-chkn and more Pirate’s Bootypiratebootythan you could ever eat, I realized that buying bulk, just might be the way to go. You might be shelling out a bit more for ketchup that you do on a average trip to any grocery store, but I mean, come on….it’s a bucket of ketchup. It’s going to last you a lot longer and be a lot cheaper in the long run than buying several of those skimpier bottles. Troughs full of condiments aren’t the only thing worth buying. Toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper towels and other items you use on a daily or almost daily basis are good to buy in bulk as well. Worth the few extra bucks in the mean time? I’d say so. My word not enough to convince you? Click it.

So, if you happen to find a few extra dollars in your pocket when you break out your winter jacket from last year, think about putting it toward a trip to a wholesale store like Costco or BJ’s.

The free samples aren’t bad either!

Spiff Up Your Space

So, you’ve been living in your dorm or apartment for a couple of months now, but does it really feel like home? Plain white, undecorated walls, uncovered floors…so boring! Or maybe you’ve already decorated your space but you want to make it even better. I’ve got some ideas for you…on a budget, of course.

1. WALLS!

If you live in a dorm room, it may or may not be possible to paint your walls, but many apartment complexes let you paint, as long as you return it to its original color when you move out. Just adding a little bit of color can make a world of difference. You can buy a can of paint for around $25 to $30 (plus a roller, tarp to protect your floor, paint pan, a small brush and painter’s tape for just a few extra dollars). If you want to use even less paint (and if you’re lazy), experiment with accent walls. Try painting two walls that are next to each other to create a colorful backdrop or focal point in your room. My roommates and I painted our living room this way and it worked so well I painted my bedroom like this too! To tie everything together try using colorful picture frames or posters on the white wall that are similar or compliment the paint color you chose.

If you aren’t allowed to paint or it’s a little more time and money than you’d like to spend, you can purchase sheer floor length curtains for just a few dollars at stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Place temporary plastic sticky hooks on the wall, along the top near the ceiling and hang several curtains to soften the room or add color to the walls.

Soften your harsh white walls by hanging curtains or sheers.

Soften your harsh white walls by hanging curtains or sheers.

You can find some relatively inexpensive posters online or in bargain stores. If you don’t want to buy new ones, try swapping with friends. And if you want to make them look even snazzier, frame them for just a few extra dollars.

2. FLOOR!

Never underestimate the effect an area rug can have on a room. You can find rugs at Wal-Mart for as low as $20. Not only does it really bring everything in the room together, but it adds color and makes everything more comfortable, especially if you have those plastic-like floor tiles that a lot of dorm rooms have.

Mainstays rug from Wal-Mart

Mainstays rug from Wal-Mart

3. PICTURES!

You’ve got a ton of pictures of you, your friends and your family on Facebook, so why not put them on display in your living space? Save a few of your favorites to a flash drive and bring them to your nearest CVS to print for just a few cents each. You can find cheap frames anywhere or even cut colorful pieces of construction paper to tape behind the photos. My roommates and I bought cheap frames at Ikea and painted designs on them to match the rest of the decor in our living room.

4. GET CREATIVE!

Use your imagination to decorate your space in a unique way. Last year, my roommate and I bought a rug for our dorm room. We took the cardboard roll from the middle of the rug, cut green poster board into leaves and created a palm tree. We wrapped the trunk in Christmas lights and immediately had a creative and decorative conversation starter for our room. This is the best picture I have:
palm tree

Share your ideas!

Bringing Home the Bacon

Up until now, I’ve been giving you a few ideas about SAVING money, but what about MAKING money?

Many college students decide to balance class, a part-time job and a social life. With a busy schedule like this, some say at least one aspect is going to get compromised.

While sitting through a statistics lecture and a history discussion then heading straight into a night of cleaning tables might seem like a lot to handle, it’s something to consider. Having a job could put a little extra cash in your pocket and make you stress less. But before you hand in that application to Subway, there are a few things you should consider:

1. How desperately do you need money?

How crucial is it that you have this money right now? Maybe you need cash to pay for your classes, books, food, rent or entertainment. You need to stop and ask yourself if there is any easier alternative at the moment. Can Mom or Dad lend you a little extra cash for groceries? Can you skip out on the weekly trip to the movie theater with your roommates? If you can gather up enough extra cash right now to avoid getting a job, this might be the best idea for now.

2. Will your grades suffer?

Handling a full course load and then the stresses of multiple shifts each week can really take a toll on you mentally and physically. Tacking a job onto an already full week can cut into your time for studying and for sleep and this could hurt your grades. You are here, after all, to get good grades and learn…so think about your priorities. If you think your studies will be drastically affected, maybe start brainstorming some other money-making options like selling a kidney. (Disclaimer: Do not sell your kidney for beer money.)

3. How big is the time commitment?

This goes along with what I was saying before, but if you are able to find a job once or twice a week that just falls during your regular nap time, it might be worth taking for a few extra bucks just so you don’t have to dip into your savings. If you’re gonna be answering phones or swiping people into the dining hall more than you are in class, it might not be worth it.

4. Is this job going to help you in the future?

If you’re deciding whether or not to take on an internship that is in your field of study, you might think differently. Sure, you’re going to need to cut down on your free time to do this, but if you’re learning valuable lessons and making connections that will help you get ahead in the job world after you graduate, it may be more beneficial than not to accept it. If you’re going to be sweeping broken bottles off the pavement then maybe it’s not the right thing for you.

If you decide to go for it and get a job after considering all of this, try this site for help with filling out applications.

The moral of the story? Think before you work. Outweigh the pros and the cons. A part-time job on top of school might be helpful to you, but it’s not for everyone.

Cheap and Eco-Friendly Too

Every year, Americans buy about 28 billion plastic water bottles.

Five of them are sitting on my windowsill–half empty. Yes, I say half empty because there really is no optimism in this at all. I wasted water. I wasted money. All on something that flows freely from the tap in the kitchen.
water_bottles_caps

There is the convenience of grabbing a Poland Spring bottle in the morning and throwing it out when I finish it in class but when it comes down to it, there’s things I would rather be spending my money on than something I can get for free.

One of the biggest reasons people choose to buy water is that they think it’s cleaner and healthier than regular old tap water. In fact, there have been tests that prove this assumption wrong. The popular ABC program “20/20” sent five different brand name water bottles and a bottle of water collected from a fountain in the middle of NYC to a microbiologist to be tested for bacteria. The findings? The NYC tap water was just as clean and healthy as the bottled stuff. See John Stossel’s article for more information.

Not only do the billions of bottles we use each year hurt the environment by adding up in the landfills, but the production and shipping harms it as well. Many restaurants have stopped serving bottled water in an effort to improve the situation. Not convinced? Watch the video…

Katie Couric reports that tap water in many cases may be even healthier than bottled. The fluoride that comes from tap H2O is healthy for children. Watch this too…

The solution is easy enough–invest in a reusable water bottle, get a Brita filter,  fill up from the water fountain or a sink. You thought of it before, but how about actually trying it? You’ll be surprised just how quickly those few extra bucks a week add up. Beer money, anyone?

If you can’t seem to part with your .5 liters, start collecting! You can turn in your empties at the grocery store and get a few cents back for what you spend. Five cents here and five cents there might not seem like a lot but over a few weeks (and if you take the neighbors) you can use that refund money toward groceries.

Try it! What do you have to lose?

Food for Thought

Many college students are lucky enough to have meal plans with abundant or even endless swipes into the dining hall, where they find rows and rows of buckets of carbs and vegetables and meat and dessert (note: in separate buckets…not mixed together. Bad joke.). A year ago, I would have found it strange to say that anyone eating in the dining hall was “lucky” to have that option.

Jealous.

Jealous.

Today, I fully understand what all off campus apartment dwellers that came before me were talking about. Food is expensive. It’s a pain to cook. The last thing I want to do after a full day of class is run to the grocery store and come home and stand over a stove cooking something that probably won’t even taste good anyway.

There are, however, a few good recipes that any college student on a budget can make that don’t taste half bad either.

Rice & Beans

A staple meal in my 2/3 vegetarian apartment (the 3rd is yet to be converted) is rice and beans. You can buy an enormous bags of rice for very little money. (I bought a 5 lb. bag for just a few bucks, but they have bags that can get up to 20 lbs.) Not only that, but a cup of rice when boiled will go a long way.

Boil about three cups of water and then add about two cups of rice. I usually use vegetable broth instead of water to add a little bit of flavor to the rice, but either works. Let the rice cook about ten minutes or until a taste test proves it’s even remotely edible. Then add a can of heated beans (canned kidney beans in sauce are good for adding extra flavor) and if you want to get crazy you can mix in some frozen spinach or broccoli. All of these ingredients are cheap and they go a long way.

He likes it.

I realize I just typed two paragraphs on rice and beans, but hey–it works, okay? Get off my back.

Minnesota State University has a pretty solid list of cheap and easy recipes for college students that you might want to check out. But may I suggest you steer clear of the Meatloaf Muffins?

It All Adds Up…

Sure, you only stop at Dunkin’ Donuts once every other day and you only buy a pack of gum once a week, but when you’re spending a dollar here and a dollar there, it tends to add up. Even when you’re grocery shopping at inexpensive grocery store alternatives such as Wal-Mart, the dollar cans of beans and bananas for 85 cents a pound that you pile in your cart can quickly break the bank.

image001

It may seem like common sense and not even worth mentioning, but keeping track of your money is KEY to keeping your money! For those of you who are already conscious about your spending habits…::thumbs up::

For those of you who are like me and rarely ever even bother to check your balance either out of pure laziness or the fact that you’re trying to avoid being reduced to tears…don’t fear.

I found a great budgeting worksheet that’s absolutely perfect for college students. It breaks down all of your spendings into categories to make it much much easier for you to keep track of your money and plan ahead. The only trick is keeping on top of it.

Let me know what you think!