An Intro to Money-Saving Tips or How to Pinch Pennies
(The information below has been collected from a variety of sources and is provided as a courtesy. Any reference to external web sites, organizations, or other entities, and any views expressed, should not be construed as having been endorsed by Cardozo Law School, Yeshiva University or its employees.)
Below is a sampling of some simple ways to save money. Many of these ideas have come from your fellow students. Once you start thinking this way, you’ll undoubtedly come up with other techniques and uncover new resources. Please feel free to pass these along to firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be added to the list.
If you pay bills via an online service through your bank, you will be able to pay conveniently and quickly, and you can designate a future date at which the payment should be made.
You might find that this helps you better pay on time and avoid finance charges and a bad credit rating. (FYI – bad credit ratings can have a negative impact on your application for admission to the bar.) You’ll also save on expenses for stamps and envelopes.
Get to the SBA book swap early. Buying used books saves a lot of money, especially if you don't mind previous highlighting. The Cardozo Barnes & Noble bookstore has some used books, and you can also find some online via www.amazon.com
, and www.bookfinder4u.com
(where you can also sell your books online). Be sure you get the correct edition and author.
For recreational reading, go to the Strand bookstore, not Barnes and Noble. Better yet, don’t forget about the public library; also swap books with friends and family!
Creating a budget can feel overwhelming and depressing. If you find you can’t face it, just do a bare-bones, best-guess version to start, to get a sense of what you spend and whether it matches your priorities. If you don’t have a clue what you spend, start recording your expenses daily to get an idea, and go back through your bank statements and charge account statements, etc. for information on bigger ticket items and recurring expenses to expect in the future.
Many credit card companies will provide year-end summaries of your spending, broken down by category. Then create a budget.
A budgeting worksheet can be found on Angel/Cardozo Community/Student Finance/Debt Management/Personal Budget. Once created, track how well you stick to it on a daily basis. (Weekly is possible, but a lot easier to mess up.) Be prepared to adjust it according to reality and try to anticipate occasional emergency expenses. Once you find something that is realistic, stick to it!
Avoid “foreign” ATMs. Use your home bank’s ATMs to avoid excess fees. (View any extra walking as low-cost exercise).
If you must use a foreign ATM, you can minimize fees by avoiding multiple trips, taking out larger sums each time, but you’ll need to resist spending it all. Only use ATMs located in banks to minimize the risk of identify theft.
Check out the numerous sources of information on incredibly inexpensive home-made cleaning supplies. It’s amazing what you can do with vinegar, baking soda and other common products, mixed in re-usable containers.
Try googling “homemade cleaning products” to start. If using commercial supplies, try using less than the recommended amount. Manufacturers have an interest in selling you more product, so they frequently overestimate the amount that you will need.
Other than your favorite inexpensive clothing stores, consider thrift shops, there are some incredible deals there. Better yet, make a deal with yourself: don’t buy any new clothes during law school. Ask your family to make interview attire or other needed items a holiday/birthday gift to you. It’s amazing how little you actually need in order to get by.
Limit colors for your primary articles of clothing to a few colors and vary outfits with much less expensive accessories.
If you need to buy a printer or other computer components, investigate refurbished models.You can find them online and also in stores. Other appliances may also be available refurbished.
Conserving resources = saving money! For example, instead of using disposable plastic wrap or bags, store food in re-usable sealable containers; learn how to set your computer for double-sided printing and use this as the default setting, or print on the flip side of previously-used paper. For drafts, set your margins narrow - just remember to adjust them before calculating the final number of pages and submitting the document to your professor.
There are many sources of information on the web on conserving resources. (Instead of printing them out though, jot down only the relevant information the old-fashioned way or copy and paste only the information that you truly need into another document before printing.)
The web can help you to find lower prices on items that you may be purchasing. Try searching the term “comparison shopping” or “price comparisons”, etc. to determine your favorite website on this topic.
This is an obvious approach to saving money, but only works if you resist the temptation to clip coupons and buy items that you otherwise would not buy. In addition to newspaper and store circulars, there are lots of websites (www.coupons.com
, etc.) that offer coupons for all sorts of products.
In addition, if you are buying something online, search for coupon codes to enter before check out. There are also daily deal websites (scoutmob.com, groupon.com, etc.) that offer discounts for services in big cities. However, avoid the temptation to purchase or use just because they are offering a good deal. Instead, be critical and only use this for things you were going to purchase whether there was a discount or not.
Understanding credit and knowing your personal credit history is an important part of your overall financial health. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of three national credit reporting agencies once every 12 months online at www.annualcreditreport.com
. These reports list your credit history to date but do not include your credit score. You have to pay to obtain your credit score. This is usually not necessary unless you are actively seeking a large credit line such as a mortgage. (If you are applying for a loan or other type of credit where they need to check your score, ask them to tell you your credit score.)
The credit report itself is enough to understand your personal credit situation and to help alert you to any possible identify theft issues. Once you have reviewed the reports from all three national credit reporting agencies, it is a good idea the next year to set up a reminder to check one of the agency’s reports every four months. This way you will be able to regularly monitor you credit report to address any problems or irregularities in the reports quickly.
For more information on credit and how it effects you financially, please visit the Wise Borrower section of the Access Group web site at, http://www.accessgroup.org/
Have only one credit card. Transfer all balances to the card that offers the best interest rate du jour. (Don’t get bogged down in too much research, though; just make a decision.) It will be much easier to track your expenses and budget this way. Or put your one credit card in a drawer and never use it except to save life/limb.
To avoid temptation, call the Credit Reporting Industry Pre-Screening Opt-Out hotline at 888-567-8688 or go online to www.optoutprescreen.com and remove your contact information from the lists for pre-approved credit card solicitations of four major credit bureaus.
Pay off your credit card balance in full each month to avoid finance charges and penalties which can be substantial. Also, note that for many cards, if you don’t pay the bill in full for one month, and then pay the amount on the bill in full for the next month, you will still incur finance charges unless you get the exact amount from the company at the time that you pay that is needed to avoid finance charges, so call and check.
Consider getting a card that offers cash back bonuses, but watch out for any extra yearly fees. (Discover card has often given students cash back bonuses on purchases.)
If you are on a very tight budget but have some cash, pay off and cancel all credit cards and use only a debit card.
If you are having serious financial problems with managing your credit card debt, you can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org
. Keep in mind that turning over your consumer debt to a debt management agency that negotiates on your behalf with your creditors will impact your overall credit. Carefully review all of your options before turning your debt over to a debt management agency.
Clothes do not need to be cleaned after one wearing. Decide whether an item really needs to be cleaned. Give it a day of airing first and remove lint using a clothes brush. If it still needs to be cleaned, consider whether it can be hand-washed. (Even if the label says “dry clean only”, this may not be true.
ConsumerReports.org says that simple-weave, plain-color silk, or wool sweaters can be safely washed by hand in cold water.)
Go to matinee movies instead of going to more expensive evening showings. Many movie theatre chains also offer discount packages. Check the web for your favorite local theatres.
Check out the web for student discounts.
If you can’t afford it, cancel your cable subscription. You can survive without it.
Swap movies and music with friends.
If you live near a library that offers movies or music for free, skip the rentals.
If bringing lunch is too impractical for you, develop a list of affordable options near school and stick to them. Ask other students for suggestions.
Definitely skip the Starbucks and other such venues, especially the premium drinks. FYI – this was the tip most frequently suggested by Cardozo students. (Cardozo’s Office of Student Finance hands out an information packet that includes the fact that purchasing a latte 5 times per week costs you $2,340 for 3 years, and the real cost, if you used Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan funds with an 6.8% interest rate to pay for it, is $3,698!)
Be on guard for cumulative expenditures on snacks, or at least account for them in your budget. It’s very easy and much more economical to bring snacks with you, rather than spending money at the deli. It’s much less expensive to buy a whole piece of fruit (e.g. an apple) than prepared fruit salad from a salad bar.
Buy non-perishable items in large packages and bring small portions in reusable containers. The per-serving cost is usually less this way. One really simple example is nutrition bars. (And try a different brand; Slim-Fast, for example, is a good source of nutrition and less expensive than the more popular Power or Balance bars.) Healthy eating reinforces itself and can reduce impulse snacking.
Refill your water bottle throughout the day. (Don’t keep the bottle too long, though, without thoroughly washing it, since this may pose a health risk due to bacteria. Don’t share the drink with others for the same reason.)
If you dine out, try to find “early-bird specials”. Take advantage of the fact that you’re a student and don’t have to adhere to the work-world’s schedule. Have a snack at home or at school before you go out to dinner. Then you can just order an appetizer or two and save money while still enjoying an evening out.
The obvious one: cook at home rather than going out. If you hate to cook, consider buying some ingredients partially prepared (e.g. pre-cut vegetables, canned soup that you embellish, etc.) Generally, it will still be less expensive than going to a restaurant.
Cooking in bulk and freezing in portions is even more cost efficient.
Don’t stand on ceremony – instead of going out with friends or providing all of the food for a family gathering, have a pot luck meal and have everyone bring a dish or two. This is the perfect time in your life to do this – everyone knows that students struggle with money.
Sounds corny, but consider giving gifts of labor or time, rather than purchased items.
For family holidays, consider instituting a grab bag or secret-giver system, where everyone gives only one gift and everyone receives only one gift.
Spend as little money on gift wrap and cards as possible. This is a product that serves very little purpose, is immediately discarded, and wastes resources. Consider wrapping gifts with comics from the newspaper if you have them, plain tissue paper and inexpensive curly ribbon, a print-out of a picture from the internet, or paper with your drawing or design on it, etc. If you are going to purchase wrap anyway, consider buying it from a non-profit charity to which you would like to donate money.
To research additional sources of funding beyond those accessible via Cardozo, consider the following resources for information:
- Office of Student Finance (keeps a listing of various outside scholarships for which Cardozo students are eligible to apply)
- Office of Career Services (fellowships and writing competitions with monetary awards)
- "How to Pay for Your Law Degree”, by Gail Ann Schlachter and R. David Weber, Reference Service Press, www.rspfunding.com (also available at the Office of Career Services)
- The Foundation Center located at 79 Fifth Ave. New York, NY, Tel: 212.620.4230, www.fdncenter.org. You can visit the center and use its materials for free (check their hours before you go); or pay a small fee to use the online searchable database. (FYI - The Center is a general resource, so there is little that is specifically geared towards law.)
Take a look at the NYC and other fitness resources listed on Angel in Cardozo Community, Health and Wellness, Physical Fitness.
Invest in simple, at-home fitness products and skip the membership fee for a gym. Buying a basic, old-fashioned, small set of weights, a mat, and/or exercise bands will cost you much less then joining a gym, and it’s certainly more convenient.
See if your hair salon/barber will charge less just for a cut, and blow-dry your hair yourself at home. Look for clinics, where trainees are supervised by experienced professional stylists, and haircuts are cheap!
Google “low cost haircuts NY”.
For information on some of the government-subsidized health insurance programs, and on prescription drug discounts, see Angel, Cardozo Community, Health and Wellness, General Medical Health Care Resources.
Live outside Manhattan, or even outside of New York City. (Yes, there is life outside of NYC). The commute can be just as short (or even shorter than some commutes within Manhattan), yet you can have more space for less money. You may not have the time or money to go out that much, anyway.
Avoid brokers by checking www.craigslist.com
, the Village Voice classifieds, and walking around and writing down phone numbers from posted signs.
Consider commuting from New Jersey along bus routes rather than train routes, the rents tend to be much cheaper.
It’s easy to say “avoid impulse buying”, but may be hard to do. Try this: when you see something that you want to buy but hadn’t planned on getting, wait a day or two to see if you still really crave it. Very often, once the item is no longer in front of you, it won’t feel worth it to you to return to the store (and it’s easier to step away from the item if you give yourself permission to return the next day.)
Resisting impulse purchases is also environmentally beneficial. Reduce temptation from the influx of catalogues by removing yourself from mailing lists. You can call the company directly to remove yourself from a specific mailing list, or contact Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Services at www.dmachoice.org
. (You should allow several months for the decrease in mailing to kick in.)
You can also contact your bank and credit card companies and make sure that your name is removed from any shared mailing lists.
For your most often-used lights, consider buying a CFL (compact fluorescent lamp), which can replace any regular bulb. Although more expensive than a regular bulb, it will last about 10 times longer and use much less energy.
Skip it, do it yourself, or save it for special occasions.
Take a look at www.ebates.com
before you shop. You can get rebates from this online shopping resource on all kinds of things.
Stop smoking. It costs a fortune! For smoking cessation programs and tips, see the Smoking Cessation folder in the Health and Wellness folder on Angel.
Make sure you are on the right plan. If you are the only person on your plan, consider pre-paid monthly plans, rather than long-term contracts which can add lots of fees and make it difficult and expensive to switch.
Periodically review your cell phone and/or land line local and long distance usage to see if the monthly fees are justified by your actual usage; if not, change plans. (If you are considering completely eliminating a landline, though, consider that cell phones may not work during a disaster, and cable phone service will not work without electricity.)
By planning ahead, you can save money by waiting to purchase certain items that have a traditional sale season. For example, January is traditional white sale time (sheets, blankets, towels, etc.) and obviously, holiday decoration sales are everywhere; March – winter sport’s equipment; after Father’s Day - fishing and camping equipment; October – last year’s car models, and so on. Holidays such as President’s Day, Veteran’s Day and the like are great sale times.
See if you can better manage your cash flow by adjusting the billing due dates on your bills. Many credit-card companies and service providers will allow you to change the due dates for your convenience.
Remember to send in any additional tips to email@example.com so that we can update this list for other students!