Friday, January 14, 2011

How I saved $11,700 in college (and you can too!)

You've heard the old cliche, "every little bit counts!" You might call the people who subscribe to that notion "penny-pinchers" in a none-too-kind way. Well, I happily count myself among that group of people. And to demonstrate that penny pinching does, indeed, add up into something significantly more than a few pennies. I present, for your enjoyment, a whole bunch of numbers. (Well, how else are you supposed to believe that I saved $9,600 since starting college??) As a reward for sitting through all the numbers, I took a bunch of pictures of some of the free stuff I had sitting around for a more visual demonstration. (There are more on facebook) The point of this post, essentially, is to prove to you that reading this blog is very much worth your time. You, too, can save this much, and by doing - let's face it - not a whole lot of extra work!

First I'll start with paid-to sites because they actually earn me physical, actual money, not just savings. I've been using paid-to sites since 2007 - aka freshman year - and have made roughly $600 total. So that's an extra $150 a year for simply clicking emails and links occasionally.

When it comes to free stuff (freebies, schwag, etc), I have also been actively getting free stuff since 2007. I get about $250-$300 per year (I figured a minimum of 10 free samples a month - each month varies - valued at $2 each on average, times 12) so a total of roughly $1100 minimum since I started college.

As for general savings I have accrued, there are a few main areas where I save significantly:

Groceries: I spend about $50 a month, the average person spends about $150 a month. that's $1200 savings/year. More on thrifty grocery shopping in this entry.

Textbooks, I save about $300 a semester selling back and buying carefully - read more on that here. The average college student spends probably $600. That's twice a year, so $600 savings/year.

Clothing, I spend a lot on clothing but I buy all of it at reduced prices! I'd say I save $800 each semester if you take the reduced price from what the full retail price would have been if I'd paid it. Read more on thrifty clothes shopping here and here. Savings: $1600/year.

Eating out, I use coupons with emailed 80% off codes (making a $25 gift certificate cost only $2) and I also save with things like birthday freebies, email clubs that send free appetizer coupons and such, and finding coupons online before I go out anywhere. I'd say I save about $300 a semester, so $600/year.

Total savings: $4,000 a year

I've been consciously saving for only about 2.5 years though. So that's a total of $10,000. Adding in $600 for paid-to sites and $1100 of freebies, and I've saved $11,700 or so since I began college. Not bad! See what I mean about how every penny counts?

Now, onto the photos!

Lots of freebies! These come from all over, so ask me if you have any questions about where I got specific ones. The perfume samples are all awesome for travelling or putting in my purse or gym bag to carry around. Actually, so are all the little bath/beauty samples. I never have to buy travel-sized anything!

I get a lot of free magazine subscriptions. I stopped paying for magazines a long time ago!

Freebies from, one of my favorite sites to shop at with free credits for referrals!

These were ALL 100% free!! On my last trip to the grocery store I got $40 worth of free groceries, thanks to coupons I got from writing to companies!

These are coupons I received from writing companies! The ones with that big, bold, FREE on them are obviously my favorites. They got me lots of free groceries!

I've received a couple of these gift cards from (comment for an invite) and about $50 worth of e-gift cards to Amazon from Swagbucks. They're perfect for buying Christmas presents for everyone on my list!

Freebies I've recieved! Pictured here: Tangled Disney free tote bag from Earth Day (my boyfriend has the Mickey Mouse one!); free Origins cleanser from Earth Day; free Too Faced palette from Sephora Beauty Insider VIB 500 point perk; Free Beauty Bag from Target with Fredrick Fekkai shampoo/conditioner sample, Nivea lotion, Pantene shampoo, Neutrogena lip balm, and Revlon lipstick; 2 free comic books from Free Comic Book day last year (coming up on May 7th!); cup, cupholder, mints and pen from a free career day event; Free Hallmark cards from a free career day event; Free Bath & Body Works Into the Wild lotion and Signature Item lotion (free with purchase using coupon); Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Heavenly Perfume Sample. Whew!

You can see more pictures on the Broke Student Guide Facebook page, and be sure to "Like" us to receive daily status updates on free sample opportunities, new entries and more!


  1. So, Lia! I love this blog. I'm not a student but am definitely in the position of needing to save money so I'm a follower. I was a jewelry customer of yours about 2 years ago when I purchased a pair of earrings from you. So anyway, I'd be very interested in seeing a sample letter that you might write to these companies. I've done this a couple of times but haven't gotten any results from it. Maybe you could post an entry about writing these letters. :)

  2. SwagBucks is a very recommended get-paid-to site.


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