Being decision-conscious makes it easy to save money without sacrificing comfort

By Peter Bailey-Wells

Whether you’re in-state, out-of-state or from another country, this year of college probably marks the first year you’re living away from home. Even if you went to boarding school or summer camp, this year is unlike any you’ve ever had, and it’s important not to blow all of that carefully saved money in your first year.

Whether it’s your money or your parents’ money, it’s important to find ways to keep your spending down without sacrificing your comfort or your appetite.

Buy local

This might seem like a funny one, but in some ways, it’s important to shop at the local Champaign-Urbana businesses for certain things, because despite some things actually costing more, the quality will result in it lasting for longer than something of lesser quality that is cheaper.

Buying the cheapest things possible usually means you have to go back to the store sooner than you might like. Buy things at more local businesses and you’ll be saving money in the long run.

Buy things at chain stores

OK, so now I’m telling you to do the opposite of my first suggestion. That’s because there are certain things that are worth buying at bigger stores. Walgreens brand stuff might not be that good, but if you can get Degree deodorant and Gillette Bath and Body Wash and whatever tissues you like all in the same place, you’re saving money.

When deciding between local businesses versus chains, just be smart. If you can get a lot better product for just a little bit more money, it’s probably going to be worth it in the long run.

Carry a water bottle with you

This one is sneaky, because most people don’t think about saving money with it, but it helps you in a variety of ways. First of all, having a water bottle means you don’t have to buy a drink at the vending machine in Lincoln Hall, or a smoothie at the Jamba Juice in the Union.

Those things can be nice treats but are also expensive habits, and drinking water is healthier and water fountains are free. In addition, it will fill your stomach up and make you less likely to succumb to the urge to buy Cheetos in that vending machine, thus saving you just a bit more money.

Secondly, drinking water can help keep you healthy, and medical supplies are expensive. Saving yourself a bag of cough drops because you always drink water and your throat doesn’t get sore is certainly worth it.

Don’t buy snacks

Basically, I’m suggesting that you mooch. Everyone at college always has food, and if you make friends with the right people, they’ll always have food. Basically, if you have food, you’ll eat it, and then you’ll have to buy more food.

If your friends have food in their dorm room that is super far away because it’s four doors down, and you’re already under your blanket watching a movie, you’re less likely to eat that food, plain and simple.

Don’t buy drunk food

I’ve seen this doom for many an excited freshman. Papa Del’s or Fat Sandwich seems like such a great idea at 3 a.m. but usually you’ll survive the night without starving, and be happy you didn’t spend the money when you want to go out to lunch the next day.

Unfortunately for your wallet, you’re going to spend money while at college, and you might spend more than you intend to, but exercising restraint is the best way you can avoid going home with empty pockets.

Peter is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells22.