Saving money after freshman year

Brendan McCabe, Opinion Editor

So you’re finally out of the dorms, ready to take the first real step into adulthood. Your new apartment lease is signed, you’ve bought your own groceries and you’re finally fitting into your big boy pants. But what’s this? All of a sudden your lease doesn’t include utilities, you spent $37 on asparagus and your big boy pants are a few sizes too big. Well, you’re in luck. I’m here to help you save money and become slightly less of a disappointment to your parents.

A lot of college students think it’s cool to go out on weekends, getting drunk with new people and forging friendships that will last a lifetime. But you know what’s really cool? Fiscal responsibility. And oftentimes, that begins with the how you purchase basic necessities like shelter and food.

While it may sound hard to believe, not every rental house in Grand Forks is particularly nice. Many of them are old, creaky, dilapidated, dank, moldy, drafty and, worst of all, poorly insulated. While this last descriptor may not have crossed your mind when you signed the lease in June, it’s a factor that can really begin to cost you come fall and winter. I’ve met people whose utility bills have doubled and even tripled in the colder months due to increased use of the furnace and the constant running of electric heaters. This is a cost many people are unprepared for, especially during a time of year when Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas are rolling around.

The easiest way to save money on your electric bill during North Dakota’s balmy winters is by installing window insulators. These clear sheets of plastic go over your windows, creating a barrier that prevents heat from escaping and cold air from coming in. A kit that can cover multiple windows typically costs $20, a figure that will quickly pay for itself.

Another way to lower your wintertime utilities bill is by only using your electric heater for short amounts of time. While it may be tempting to turn your heater on before class just so you can return home to a 90-degree room like a king, I have news for you.  You aren’t a king. You’re a sophomore communications major who works at Menards in the summer. If you really want to save money, and not be the one responsible for skyrocketing your house’s electric bill, only run the heater in the morning or an hour before you go to bed. I thank you. Your roommates thank you.

One of the most obvious ways to save money is at the grocery store, and you can do it with three words: Screw name brand. I challenge anyone in the school to tell me the difference between Great Value brand rice and literally any other, more expensive brand of rice in the world. It’s all rice. Get over it. The same can be said for pretty much every other food item in a college student’s pantry, with the exception of ketchup. Store brand ketchup is almost always funky and terrible, so with all that money you saved by unplugging your heater, treat ‘yo self to some Heinz. You deserve it.

My first semester at UND, I bought all my textbooks for every class and spent around $650. By the end of that first semester, I realized I hadn’t actually needed half of those books and the other half I could have rented for around $150. While all of the books you “need” are posted on Campus Connection soon after you sign up for classes, I’ve found it’s much better to wait until the first day of class for the teacher to tell you if the listed textbook is actually needed. This method has already saved me $80 this year, and many professors go easy on students who do not have their textbooks the first week.

Almost always, the UND bookstore charges more for books than comparable online stores such as Chegg and Amazon. While they are conveniently close to campus, this convenience comes at a price that is typically $30 to $50 per book higher than online sources. This gap becomes even higher when it comes to rentals.

One of the first things I learned about college is that textbooks are worth their weight in gold. At least they are until you’ve owned them for four months and try to sell them back to the bookstore at 5 percent of their original cost. If you did buy your textbook that you will only be using for a semester, instead post it online to a local sale page. You can make more money this way while simultaneously giving someone else a better deal.

Brendan McCabe is the Opinion Editor for   The Dakota Student. He can be reached at  [email protected]