There’s a very thin line between frugal and flat out cheap. And when you’re a college student with no money to speak of you start to think, “What damn line?” Then make a few choices you instantly regret but stick to out of principle only to laugh at years later. At least, assuming your miserly ways don’t kill you first. That’s certainly what I did.
Luckily, readers, today my tragicomedy is your entertainment so it was not all for naught! Here are some things that I did that I’ll never do again to save a buck.
Drag all my belongings in two oversized suitcases via train.
Cue to freshman year when five-foot-tall Taylor is moving from the West Coast to the East, bringing ALL HER POSSESSIONS in two seventy-pound suitcases. Somehow I made the decision that paying $50 overage for each suitcase rather than using the slightly more expensive Fedex option because, as I expressed to my mother at the time, “Paying for shipping is for the weak.”
I ended up dragging my suitcases through one plane ride and two different trains. Note to the reader: trains don’t really have a lot of room for your suitcases. Mine were way too big for the overhead bins so I ended up standing in between cars. Holding on for dear life to all my worldly possessions and the nearest rail, awkwardly shuffling outside the doorway at each train stop so people could get off the train.
Also note that going down stairs with giant suitcases that weigh more than you do is a very bad idea. Between the broken suitcase and my own minor injuries, it’d be a miracle if I actually saved money with this particular scheme.
Walk a mile in a blizzard to go to the dentist.
No car + bad public transportation + not enough money for a cab = walking a mile to get to the bus stop to get to the dentist. It was cold, blustery, and yes I did get wildly sick afterward.
Save disposable water bottles because I’m too cheap to buy a Nalgene.
No matter how many times you wash a used Dasani bottle, it gets gross again pretty fast. At some point I actually bought one of those VOSS glass water bottles at $7 because I thought the glass would be easier to clean than plastic. Which is true, it was certainly easier to clean and cheaper than a $20 water bottle, but it also was heavy and I looked pretty silly every time my glass bottle accidentally THUDDED onto the floor while I was taking notes in lecture. (Luckily it didn’t shatter.)
Take a bus rather than Amtrak in the middle of winter.
Another terrible Northeast winter story.
I was going from New York to DC to visit my then-boyfriend at his father’s house for between-semesters break and decided that at half the cost of Amtrak I could take a Greyhound down in about the same amount of time. Oh how naive I was.
Turns out buses have a really hard time in the snow. Which means my 3 PM bus turned into a 7 PM bus. What made it worse was that the Greyhound station wouldn’t let passengers wait inside the bus terminal and wouldn’t tell us when the bus was going to arrive, so we stood outside in the below-freezing cold for four hours. Suffice it to say, I’m never taking a Greyhound again as long as I live.
Skip meals or go to events purely for the free food.
One semester I had a meal plan which gave me 2 meals a week in the dining hall, dinner every day in a co-op, and access to a full kitchen for breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast was pretty easy– I’d just grab myself a banana each day at pretty low cost.
Lunch, on the other hand, was a doozy. There weren’t any grocery stores nearby so the kitchen I had access to was less useful than I thought and most the co-op groceries were for dinner-making, so I was on my own. Of course, I had 2 meals in the dining hall, but that usually meant about 5 lunches a week I’d deal with myself.
And how’d I decide to solve that problem?
By not eating, of course.
Not only was my stomach wailing from 2 PM-5 PM every day with sad, moany grumbles, I also had frequent headaches that’d distract me in class.
Eventually I started going to public lectures around lunchtime because they served free appetizers from a local deli. Protip: learn to avoid the small seminars where they go around the room asking why you’re interested in this particular talk about Esoteric Philosopher’s Views on The Human Condition and How It Relates to Quantum Physics Concept Cloud Computing.
How about you? What have you done that you’ll never do again to save some cash?