Personal Finance

How Not to Go Broke

Jennifer Leclaire

April 21, 2009

How Not to Go Broke
You work hard for your money. Be sure to get the most out of it.
<p>Earning and saving money as a student can be difficult. But with some research, you can get smart about your spending.

"Now is the best time in your life to live cheap," says MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston. "If you learn how to save money you will be ahead of 90 percent of your peers. You will build wealth."

Below, some well-known thrifty shopping gurus show you some tools, Web sites and strategies you can use to stretch your paycheck.

Research, compare and coupon

Research your potential purchases at sites like, and to read buyer feedback before you buy. Then go to comparison-shopping sites like to find the best deal. Finally, don't forget sites like and where you can find e-coupons that can save you big bucks.

Become a seasonal shopper

Get to know major sale seasons. Clothing stores usually cut prices at the end of seasons to make room for new fashions. Retailers often hold huge clearance sales in January and February to move out their existing inventory and make room for new merchandise.

A night at the movies

Movies are expensive these days. Look for cheap theaters that show older movies, or theaters with student discounts. If you can wait a few months, watch movies on pay-per-view and split the cost among a group of friends. "Understand how you use entertainment and spend wisely," says Tonya Hinch, author of I Left Home With $50 and Came Back With Nothing. What Happened? "If you are never home, then don't waste your money on all the premium cable TV channels. Order DVDs through the mail from companies like Netflix. Having all the premium channels, going to the theater and renting movies will suck up your cash."

Don't choke on restaurant bills

If your social life includes meals out, try breakfast or lunch—when you aren't as tempted to get appetizers and dessert—instead of dinner and cut your bill in half. If you must go to dinner, order appetizers instead of a full meal and enjoy the company.

Chatting it up

Competition among phone companies can help you save. You could get a cell phone that includes nationwide long distance for $35-$45 a month. Or shop for a family plan with extra lines as low as $10 a month and split the savings among friends. If you need a home phone for Internet access, forego the mobile and use a phone card for long distance. You can find rates as low as three cents a minute at discount retailers.

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Are you hooked on Sports Illustrated? There's no need to go without your favorite magazines— just don't buy them off the newsstand, says Hinch. "Ask your grandma to buy you a subscription instead of a plaid shirt or buy one yourself," she says. "You can save up to 80 percent and you'll get it on time." You can also see if an online version is available for free.

Avoid textbook woes

Textbook prices don't have to break your budget. You can buy used books at sites like, use the library copy or invent a textbook timeshare plan. "Consider pairing up with a classmate to share books," says Kelly Tanabe, author of 1001 Ways to Pay for College. "You can cut your costs in half."

Slash computer costs

You can also save big on computers by taking advantage of student discounts direct from the manufacturer. Or you can use the computer lab at your school for free.

Careful with your credit

"Don't carry a credit card balance," advises Weston. "That will give you the discipline to live within your means without using credit cards to extend it. If you do that one thing you are on the road to being financially independent."

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