Monday, May 9, 2011

Saving money

One reason I worked full-time before going to college was to earn enough money to pay for my education in case I didn’t get student loans. Well, that pretty much ensured I wouldn’t get much help, since I had just enough savings to scrape by.

Now there’s less than a year remaining for my education, and at least tuition for summer semester is paid up (the final semester still circles hungrily like a shark). But there are all the other expenses – rent, phone, transportation and food – and I have to handle those until I graduate and can apply for a full-time job again.

A couple of years ago I spotted a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette in a library sale and grabbed it for a dollar. I was very pleased with my find, but it soon became clear that the compendium, while stuffed with tips, wasn’t the best book I could have read on this topic.

1. A great deal of its advice relates to kids – cloth diapers, toys, etc. My life plan has three Cs (citizenship, certification and condo), none of which stand for “children”.

2. I don’t have a garden to grow my own vegetables, or even a sunny place for a pot of basil. I live in a basement apartment, which I like very much apart for the fact that there’s no natural light at all. It’s like being a hobbit.

3. The book was released thirteen years ago, and it shows. There’s an article which mentions tuna fish costing fifty cents a can. Recently tuna fish went on sale at Zellers, for a dollar.

There’s plenty of good advice in the book about thrift stores, garage sales and so on, but I feel as though I knew most of that already. I used to work in a thrift store in Dubai, and I still enjoy going to yard sales or thrift stores here. So it’s time to start looking for a more up-to-date book on the topic.

As well as ways to save money, there’s also the possibility of making more. About a month ago I got a Saturday job in a psychic centre/used-bookstore. The owner is a psychic and wanted someone to keep the place tidy, shelve the books and look after the customers while she did readings. I get an employee discount on the books too, and the job pays half my rent each month, which is good.

Though after I’ve quit I may write a tell-all article about the experience.

As for the other half of the rent, I’m going to try to do more editing this summer. I edit papers for college students – spelling, grammar, punctuation and so on – but the work has become sporadic now that two of my customers have graduated. Lucky ducks. I’m going to try putting up flyers on campuses and see if that gets results.

I also joined Swagbucks after seeing it promoted on this personal finance blog, though I’m not sure if it’ll be any help. It’s taken me two weeks to get to 100 points, for instance, and the minimum for a $5 gift card from Amazon is 450 points. Speaking of which, I’m also an Amazon Associate, though it does take a while to collect enough for a gift card. Still, every little bit helps, though there are a few lines I don’t want to cross – like having Google ads on my blog.

What strategies can you suggest for me to save or make money?

Image from :


Janna Leadbetter said...

I've seen a lot of people touting Swagbucks on Facebook. I'll be curious to hear if it works well for you.

I like your three C's. (Mine are coffee, chocolate, and chai.)

Marian Perera said...

Well, I can't recommend Swagbucks until I actually get something out of it, and as of today my total is 113 points. At this rate it may take a while. :|

Oh, and I thought of a fourth C. Cat.

JJadziaDax said...

i spend/waste a lot of money on food which is getting more expensive and that was the only thing i could really cut back when i was poor just starting out. there are some foods that are a lot cheaper (potatoes, lentils, apples) and if you read up on the nutrition you can still thrive for less.

Marian Perera said...

Good idea about tutoring! Once fall semester begins again - and if I haven't been exiled for clinical placement - I'll check if I can tutor first-year students. They don't have classes in summer.

And yeah, trying to save money on food as well. A packed lunch for school every day will help a lot.

Up to 270 Swagbucks, not bad.

Loren Chase said...

A lot of my friends use Swagbucks and it seems to work for them. :) I can't really think of other ways to save or make money as I'm in the same situation. Although I'm going to have to take out more loans for my last year (which is a headache). And packing a lunch is great idea. No more take out! (Although I don't eat out that much anyways.) Great post!

Mary Witzl said...

Good for you: Children cost A BUNDLE. I would not be without mine, but if you're not dead keen on having them, you're better off without. (I say this as somebody who firmly believes kids have made me a better, more empathetic person. Some people had those qualities to begin with.)

I put myself through university and grad school, so I truly sympathize. Can you draw or play a musical instrument? I used to do people's portraits. I wasn't great, but I could do passable likenesses and made a pretty good bit of cash doing that. My daughter's friends play the ukulele, mandolin, guitar, etc.; they go busking on the weekends and come back with a good wad of cash. Being a waitress is tough, but lucrative, especially if you're young and cute. Buying junk on Ebay and selling it for way more than you paid for it can work if you've got an eye for antiques or a shrewd sense of what will sell. I marked test papers, sold blood, babysat, cleaned people's houses, invigilated on exams, and handed out leaflets. Now I'm marking papers again. Ironic, isn't it? ;o)

Marian Perera said...

Loren - I'm up to 331 Swagbucks now, pretty good. At this rate I ought to get a gift card soon, if the system works as they say it does. Then I can recommend it. :)

Regarding the food situation, I'm down to tuna fish sandwiches, but I'm going to make chicken salad on Friday. I'd really like to get through the rest of the month without spending too much on groceries.

Maria Zannini said...

The Tightwad Gazette is very dated and a lot of the tips are common knowledge now, but I liked that it made the author a princely sum back before there was an internet.

Marian Perera said...

Mary - I can barely afford to take care of myself, so being responsible for a child is out of the question. :)

Unfortunately I only play the piano, and not well enough to earn anything from it. I like your other suggestions (can't sell blood in Canada, but everything else sounds workable). And you sound like you did pretty much everything to make ends meet!

Marian Perera said...

Maria - agreed. And I have to admire anyone who brings up six children on one person's salary, without any kind of financial assistance.

JJadziaDax said...

look into tutoring for sat/gre as well. it is kind of well not fun but sometimes pays more than minimum wage.

JJadziaDax said...

whoops forgot to mention they sometimes offer tutoring jobs on in larger cities as well as the kaplan deal, not sure how big a deal sat is in canada though

Marian Perera said...

Half the comments were eaten when Blogger went down. :(

On the plus side, I'm at 402 SB. 48 more until my first purchase!

JJadziaDax said...

Don't forget about tutoring for SAT/ACT/GRE places like kaplan or just via

Marian Perera said...

I wonder if tutoring ESL is also an option?

438 SB. So close!

Kamila Miller said...

There's a lot of good info on one of my favorite blog sites: Get Rich Slowly

He has guest bloggers to mix things up. And unlike books about living frugally, the site doesn't go out-of-date. Information is constantly updated.

There's good info in the comments as well.