Opinion: Book gives valuable money-saving advice

No one wants to hear that they’re going to be broke and in debt by the time they graduate from college, but it’s a known fact that college students suffer miserably in the cash-flow department.

It’s an awful truth, but it’s inevitable. Between tuition bills, living expenses and daily personal charges, at the end of one year, you find yourself checking every pant pocket and couch cushion for a few spare bucks.

And that’s just one year out of four or more.

Instead of spending your days looking for extra cash, start saving it by doing simple money-saving tasks such as those presented in the book, “The Debt-Free Graduate: How to Survive College Without Going Broke.”

From thrift-store shopping to do-it-yourself projects, author Murray Baker offers helpful financial pointers that could benefit you in the future.

Manage your money meticulously

    Even before starting college, Baker suggests figuring out your savings for the year. Find out what you’ve saved up, what your parents are contributing (if they’re contributing at all) and the amount of financial aid you’re receiving. If you’re like me and put every penny earned in the bank, then you’re on the right track, according to the book. But if you’re not much of a saver, then finding a well-paying job is your best hope. Baker recommends job hunting in the campus employment center, newspapers, various bulletin boards around campus and Web sites such as monster.com and jobweb.org, just to name a few.


Dorm room versus your own bedroom

When it comes to living on or off campus, decide which situation fits you best. In a dorm, transportation prices are lower, activities are abundant and furniture is provided. Living off campus, however, provides more freedom and independence than campus housing, but comes with more responsibility.


D-I-Y decorating

One of the things Baker emphasizes in his book is spending as little money as possible on furniture and décor. As an apartment resident myself, I obtained all of my furniture for free. Granted, my bed is missing a wheel on one of the legs, the ‘70s-style lamp and end table furnishing my room came from a bank, my TV remote is good for nothing and everything else is courtesy of the Kerrigan household, it works.

For those who are looking to buy, Baker suggests fishing through furniture warehouses, garage sales and discount stores. Crafting your own furniture can save you a lot of money as well. Put shelves together with bricks, plywood, milk crates or wooden crates. Use sturdy cardboard boxes as tables or decorative storage units by covering them with a blanket, embellishing with candles and picture frames, and storing books and heavy materials underneath.


Cost-cutting contributions for everyday life

Most of you know that taking the time to turn lights  off when leaving a room and cranking the heat down when no one’s home will end up putting money back in your wallet, but think about applying those efforts to more areas of the house.

Use newspapers to wipe mirrors and windows, shaving cream to lift stains from upholstery, vinegar to get beer stains out of clothes and hydrogen peroxide on bleachable clothes for blood, coffee and alcohol. Baker recommends air-drying your clothes and combining loads with a roommate, that is, if you’re not apprehensive about your dirty clothes touching someone else’s laundry.

Distribute your dollars wisely

Before grocery shopping, make a list of what you need and peruse for coupons. Baker stresses that you should never shop on an empty stomach — it only leads to impulse shopping. Buy in bulk and visit farmers’ markets for fresh produce, dairy products and baked goods. Try to skip over name-brand products and aim for the generic ones because, believe it or not, they are generally made at the same plant, Baker said. On a recent shopping excursion, I bought 90 percent of my groceries for under $50 at Aldi in Stow — talk about a deal.

When it comes to fashion, shop at outlet stores, malls, vintage stores and local thrift stores. Buy clothes that fit you now rather than clothes you hope will fit once you shed those extra pounds. By that time, the outfit may be outdated. Baker writes that if you’re buying conservative clothes, go for quality and if you’re buying trendy styles, go for cheap prices. Helpful hint: Keep fragrances in the refrigerator — they last up to two years.

Contact features correspondent Courtney Kerrigan at [email protected].