I know just how expensive it can be to live on your own, especially when you’re in college and you not only have to pay for classes, books, etc but you also have bills and gas and groceries you have to pay for! On top of all that your job options are limited because of classes. I know the struggle, I was working full time at my job as well as taking full time courses at college and it was honestly, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I want to start a series on what I did/still do in order to save money. They involve being a little creative, sacrificing a little bit, and being just poor enough to fall in certain brackets, but have enough money you you won’t starve to death.
Disclaimer: I know that what worked for me will not always work for other people. This is just what I did, and there was lots of trial and error. I am by no means perfect in money management, in fact I kind of suck at it, but these are some of the things that I did do that worked out for me. I also know that I am privileged enough to have a good paying job, some financial aid from school, and somewhat of a savings account. I know this is not the reality of everyone out there, please just keep in mind that this is MY personal experience.
I took a look at my bank statement, scary I know, but it must be done. My pastor once said “if you want to know where someone’s priorities are, take a look at their bank statement.” This way I see where 100% of my money is going, this gives me the areas I need to improve on.
I found that the majority of my money spending could be broken down into 3 groups: Bills, food, and debts. I then decided to find ways to decrease these areas as best I could. Today we are going to talk about how I decreased how much I was spending on bills.
My 3 largest bills were Rent, Utilities & Internet, and phone service.
How I saved on my phone bill:
At one point I was paying over $200 for a Sprint plan with only 2 people on it!! I decided enough was enough and I needed to find something new.
First, I called Sprint and told them my bill was too high and asked how I could lower my bill. All I really needed to do was say the magic words, “I think I’ll just find another service provider.” Instantly, they offered me $100 off my next bill, in order to stay with them. I accepted only because, this would buy me a little time to comparison shop and find something better. BOY did I ever.
That is when I discovered GoogleFi. Yep, Google now has their own phone service, and while it is still in beta for “non-Google” phones I have been loving it and have had no issues. The way it works is very straight forward. $20/month for unlimited talk/text, and $10 for every GB of data used in a month UP TO 6 GBs ($60) and then data is free. If you go over 15 GBs of data in a month your service will be slowed from LTE to 3G (I’m pretty sure this is correct but you can check the website here, if you’re interested!) but can be raised back to LTE by paying an additional $10. So basically, you only pay for the data you use, nothing more. Essentially, this means my phone bill will never be above $80, but since I am almost always connected to wifi, my bill is usually much lower, around $40.
The two drawbacks to GoogleFi is you need to bring your own phone if you don’t want to use a Google phone (the only ones available to lease through Google). I was fortunate enough to be able to pay off the rest of my lease at Sprint for my iPhone X with my tax return and take that phone with me to GoogleFi. Also checkout Facebook Marketplace as there are almost always great deals on used electronics there! (I’ve gotten phones, laptops and Airpods from FB and loved it!)
The other downside to using GoogleFi is the lack of a Hotspot, which I used constantly with my laptop since I’m a student and (reliable) wifi is not always available. Luckily, the next trick saved me on that one!
How I saved on my Internet bill:
Keep in mind I don’t watch cable so my only “cable” bill is for internet.
PCs for People. If you’ve never heard of them, they are an organization that provides cheaper electronics, such as laptops and desktops, as well as internet access to low income families. If you’re a full time student with no other income, you probably qualify.
For a single person household you must have an annual income of less than $22,000 (must be verifiable through official tax documents). This will qualify you for one of their “internet squares”(they’re called hotspots but, I like this better lolllll). The internet service is $100/year but they have 6 month, 3 month or monthly as well. You also will pay a one time payment of around $100 for the hotspot.
That’s $100 for 1 year of service, $100 for the hotspot= $200/12 months =$16.50/month for unlimited internet access literally anywhere you go. No one else is gonna beat that.
Then you have a device that will go with you anywhere! I keep mine stashed in my backpack (which I take with me literally everywhere I go) and that means I am ALWAYS running on wifi on my phone (keeping my phone bill low!) and I am able to get work done on my computer from virtually anywhere! I’m also a Lyft driver so I keep mine in my car to offer free wifi to all my riders, it helps great with the tips! 😉
Things to keep in mind:
- I am able to have my laptop, phone, and tv connected to the device all at once and never have any issues with speed. However, trying to connect the Playstation and play online was too much and resulted in being laggy.
- Make sure you check their service areas since it’s not available everywhere. Also the hotspot runs off of Sprint service so in areas where Sprint doesn’t have good/any reception, you won’t either. This has really only been an issue for me when I’m in the mountains, but otherwise not a big deal.
- I know $200 all at once is a LOT of money for a college student, and often time you don’t have that money. If you can’t afford it I would advise to buy everything slowly. See if you can find a refurbished hotspot for cheap that they would allow you to use (I don’t know if they would so you would need to check with them first) and try buying service in 3 month or monthly incraments. It will end up being more expensive in the long run than buying it all at once, but still cheaper than most service providers “Internet only” cable plans. And I understand that “cheaper in the long run” is still sometimes not affordable.
How I saved on Utilities:
For me this means cable/internet, and electricity since I don’t pay water or gas at my apartment. I saved on internet by switching to PCs for People but what about cable? (While this is pretty standard for all students, I’m still going to share!) Well, I found I didn’t really need it?? I hardly ever watch live TV anymore since almost everything is available to stream from somewhere. I have an Amazon Prime student account so I have access to Prime movies/shows, I mooch off my parents’ Netflix, and I get Hulu for free with my Spotify account (student account again so its cheaper!). This leaves me with PLENTY of movie/tv show watching options available. I’ve never paid for cable, and I haven’t lived in a house with it since I was living with my parents and I don’t miss it.
For my electricity bill I had to get a little creative. I did all the usual stuff, turning off lights when not using them, not running the water for long periods of time etc. BUT what helped me out the most was investing in a little $40 space heater for my room. My roommate and I both got one for our rooms (Bargain Hunt find!) and during the winter we kept the heat off. Where we saw the biggest difference, however, was when we actually turned the breaker off for the heat. Our power bill went from $120s to around $40. It was incredible. Now I know this may not be feasible for everyone, especially if you have kids or animals. But I have huskies and lots of blankets so I was personally comfortable with this. In the summer time though I splurge for that AC because I HATE being hot.
Another power saving tip is to unplug everything. I mean everything. If you aren’t actively using it then unplug it because as long as it is plugged in, it is drawing power and that power adds up!
ALSO we have Amazon Echo’s in all the rooms of our house, and have most of our outlets connected to it so it is easy to use the Alexa app to see exactly what lights, heaters, tv’s, etc are plugged in and turned on. This helps a lot because if you forget to turn a light off when you leave the house you can turn it off remotely on the app! Again, I know this is a huge investment and if money is tight you probably can’t afford it, but I want to authentically share what we did. For Christmas my roommate and I treated each other to “smart devices” for our house. Amazon had LOTS of deals going on during the holiday season for these items so if you’re interested now would be the time to start researching! I personally LOVE them.
How I saved on Rent:
The last bill I had that was THE most expensive was my rent. Unfortunetly, this isn’t something that is easy to change or save on. Once you sign that lease you’re gonna owe that amount every month until the lease is up!
My biggest advice would be if you are able to then STAY. AT. HOME.
You will save SO much money by living at home. And while it might not be “cool” or “easy” it can sometimes make the biggest difference in the world. I know that moving out on your own sounds like so much fun, and it definitely can be, but if you are set on saving as much money as you can while in school, then this is the way to go. You get free rent, free utilities, free cable & internet, free laundry, free delicious home-cooked meals. Honestly, as a college student what more could you ask for??
Again, I know not everyone has that option, but if you are fortunate to have it available to you I highly suggest you take it.
I did not take this advice when I moved out and I regretted it many times over. I did move home for about 6 months and it was heavenly, but ultimately it became too much to spend on gas driving to work so I ended up moving back out. I wish I could live at home still, but here we are!
That is all for part one on my college money saving hacks, part two will be about how I saved money on food! So stay tuned for that one and let me know what you think, if you’ve heard of any of these before and share your own hacks and tips in the comments!
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