47 Ways to Save
The first few years in the real world can inspire new grads to
try out all sorts of creative cost-cutting strategies. Here, young
Sagehens share their tried-and-true techniques for scrimping.
Story by Adam Conner-Simons '08 / Illustrations by Steve Breen
Live within walking
distance of work.
My apartment’s less than a mile away
from my job, so I can walk to work every
day. It’s great because I am able to save
the environment and some extra bucks.
I end up only having to buy one tank of
gas per month. I also like the opportunity
to relax, talk with friends on the phone,
and do errands on the way to and
–Julie Trescott ’08
Trade books with friends.
My friends and I have created a bit of a
library service amongst ourselves where
we borrow books from each other and
return them for a new one when we’re
done–sort of like a Netflix service for
–Stephanie Pham ’10
Be bubbly and make
“I tend to be talkative
with people I meet, resulting in many
friendships and free stuff. On one flight I
chatted with a man whose girlfriend is a
professional singer and performs frequently
at Carnegie Hall. My roommate and I
(both music majors) were consistently invited
to her performances - for free.”
–Lisa D’Annunzio ’06
Take advantage of extras
from your employer.
and fitness subsidies, for example, can
often save you 50 percent or more on
gym memberships up to a certain limit per
year. Some places will even let you apply
fitness subsidy funds toward buying
athletic equipment like climbing gear or
bicycles. It’s a great way to stay active
and save money.
–Patrick Flemming ’07
Borrow DVDs from the
Besides being able to get
everything for free (or for a small fee),
libraries usually have the newest releases
just as fast as Blockbuster. You can also
search the online catalog and put things
on hold from your home computer.
–Erin Fitts ’06
#6. Buy postage online.
discounted stamps either on eBay or
directly from a stamp collector. A lot of
stamp collectors are over-stocked with certain
stamps, and sell them at discounted
prices. You can usually save anywhere
from five to 25 percent. Whenever I send a
letter, I think about the person when I
apply the postage. With my grandmother, I
used a 13-cent stamp commemorating a
nurse because my Grandma was a nurse
during World War II.
–Hilary Parker ’08
Entertain yourself with things you already have.
I live in L.A. and things are expensive all around. Instead of going to a movie or
club, I sift through my old toys and video games. If you have enough patience,
drive and nostalgia, you can entertain yourself for hours. Call up Mom and Dad
and tell them you want your Legos shipped out right away!
–Nick Aase ’07
Catch a flick at the drive-in.
It’s just as much as a regular movie, if not
cheaper, and you usually get to see two
movies. You can bring your own snacks
without the guilt of sneaking them in, and
for a date, it’s a lot more romantic to sit
under the stars.
–Iris Gardner ’09
#9 Clip some coupons.
The Sunday paper more than pays for itself in coupons. I clip the coupons
and keep them in my purse, as they are always handy. One caveat is that
you should collect coupons for items you will really use. It’s easy to fall into
the trap of buying something just because you have a coupon for it.
–Hannah Vander Zanden ’03
Cook for yourself.
and I can generally spend $100 on groceries
for a week. If we went out for meals,
we could easily spend that much in a couple
days. I’ve had tons of fun experimenting
with new recipes…we prepare our own salsas
and handmade tortillas. The extra time
in the kitchen is almost therapeutic: You can
just unwind without having to think about
–Lori DesRochers ’06
“Do it yourself” for auto
My power steering pump broke
while driving in Mexico. I was told that the
repairs would be between $700 and
$1,300. Instead, I looked up my part online
and fixed it myself with a toolbox and a
new pump for $140. A liberal arts education
doesn’t make you a mechanic, but I’ve
found I can do lots of repairs myself for a
little more time and a lot less money.
–Kyle Edgerton ’08
Furnish your flat, Craigslist-style.
My two roommates
and I managed to furnish our apartment for
around $400 total by using Craigslist and a
U-Haul truck. We searched the “free stuff”
and “buy furniture” section for a few days,
lined up things to pick up, and then went
and got them with the U-Haul. It was an
amazingly cheap way to furnish a place.
–Josh Blonz ’08
A lot of people settling
into their first apartment think that setting
up premium cable is a must. But you always
end up writing a big check each month for
five or 10 channels that you enjoy watching
and more than 100 other channels you
wish didn’t exist. I finally decided to fire the
cable company, deal with the 20 channels
that I can get for free with rabbit ears,
stream the shows that are being offered
online and meet friends at a bar if there’s a
game that only ESPN is broadcasting.
–Jeff Fortner ’07
Crash with friends during
I spent two months this summer
traveling in West Africa and Southeast Asia.
From Benin to Thailand to Cambodia to
Vietnam and finally to Hong Kong, I had a
blast catching up with my Sagehen friends
who were living abroad in wonderful and
exciting places. Plus, it’s always more interesting
to explore a place with someone who
knows it well. Just remember to bring along
a nice little gift from your travels to say
thanks to your friends for putting a roof over
–Maggie Fick ’07
Dry your clothes on a line.
Dryers are the most costly part of cleaning
clothes (20 cents a load versus 6 cents a
load for washing), so air-drying can save a
lot of money. Plus, if you dry them indoors,
they work as a great air freshener.
–Rocco Addante ’08
Cruise at the speed limit.
After graduation, my boyfriend [Kyle
Edgerton ’08] and I went on a 2,200-mile
national-park road trip, and we drove 55
m.p.h. the whole way – which is, for most
cars, the speed at which they are engineered
to optimize fuel economy. Kyle’s car got 30
miles per gallon, which is probably five to
eight miles per gallon better than when he
drives 75 m.p.h. Truckers, though, weren’t
very pleased with us in the slow lane—one
actually tried to run us off the road.
–Audrey Bergmann ’07
#17 Cut your own hair.
When I cut my hair short the summer
after sophomore year, I realized that
getting it trimmed every few months
was expensive (about $60 each time
for my hairstylist in Sacramento). So
I started cutting my own hair when it
got a bit out of control, stretching
out appointments to about every six
–Anne Shulock ’08
Call people on Skype.
need is a computer with Internet access and
a microphone. Calls to another Skype user
are completely free, and calls to landlines in
much of the world are 2 to 10 cents a
minute. It’s a great way to cut down on the
cost of long-distance and international calls.
–Chelsea Hodge ’09
Find out where your money
I use www.mint.com, which
monitors all of my bank accounts, credit
cards, 401(k), etc. It shows me all of my
purchases and categorizes them, so I know
how much I’m spending on groceries or
restaurants. I can see how much I’ve spent
each month, and I can easily see in a pie
chart where I should cut back.
–Ellen Smith ’05
Fix up your clothes.
pants and shirts, and get your shoes reheeled
instead of buying new ones, so you
can keep your favorite pair of shoes for
–Katie Duberg ’10
Get your employer to pay
for your education.
jobs–both in the private and government
sectors–will pay all or part of your tuition
for graduate school if you promise to come
back to work for them for several years. If
you enjoy your job, it’s a great way to get
school paid for.
–Kaneisha Grayson ’06
Grocery-shop at a farmer’s
Buying locally grown seasonal
produce is good for your health, your wallet
and the Earth. It is much less expensive
than buying cheap processed food.
–Jeremy Wertheimer ’03
Get hitched at Pomona.
Alumni, staff, faculty and their children can
get married on campus, and they keep
prices low. I got married in January (to
Jonathan Pearson Magoon, HMC ’03), and
we had the ceremony in Little Bridges and
the reception in Edmunds Ballroom. You
can’t imagine a more beautiful setting for a
wedding, and it was very meaningful for us.
You can also get delicious, economical
catering from the Sagehen Café.
–Karen Magoon Pearson ’05
Move in with
I very luckily happened to fall into a perfect money-saving situation last summer—
I moved in with my grandmother. Some alumni move back in with their
parents, but I took it a whole generation further. She actually found me a job
and baked me oatmeal bars whenever I wanted, and all she asked for in
return was help reaching tall things and moving heavy things.
–Brian Sutorius ’07
Grow your own herbs at
It’s a great way to save money.
They generally cost a lot at the store and
you usually don’t need very much, and it’s
always handy to have fresh herbs around to
–Brett Close ’07
Hit up a yard sale.
early on Saturday mornings to root through
piles of neighbors’ cast-off belongings
doesn’t sound appealing at first, but once I
found a few treasures I was hooked. I loved
bargaining with sellers, many of whom were
quite generous once they learned that their
beat-up end tables were going to a soon-t-
be med student just starting out on
her own for the first time. It’s a stingy
–Ellen Perkins ’06
Host a cheap wine tasting.
I had one for my 24th birthday this year.
Every person brought a bottle of under-$10
wine which got brown-bagged, labeled with
a number and critiqued. I definitely saved
money, but more importantly, it was a really
fun group activity.
–Erin Haley ’06
Why pay rent when rent
can pay you? I have a lot of friends who
have lived for months or years in someone
else’s house and been paid for the privilege.
People who do this usually know someone
who knows the owner of the house, and/or
look responsible. Getting to know people at
your job or through tutoring local kids are
great “ins,” too.
–Tom Elgin ’05
Take to the streets for furniture.
Big cities [like New York, where I live] are full of people with too much money
and not enough space who leave furniture on the curb. If you look around
the first of the month (when people are moving), you can find good stuff.
–Marie Sullivan ’05
Invest in a rice cooker.
will investing in a rice cooker save you
money? Once you see how easy it is to
make rice in one of these things, you will
only want to eat rice—and rice is cheap.
–Vanessa Kettner ’02
Join a credit union.
union doesn’t charge fees, and the interest
on my car loan is a small fraction of what a
commercial bank or the dealership would
offer. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars in the
past few years, and don’t get pressured to
buy more services than I really need.
–Lindsey Wollschlager ’04
Make your own jewelry.
It takes very little in start-up costs–just the
basic wires, clasps, chain and thread, and a
couple pairs of jewelry pliers. Beads are
generally really cheap, and every once in a
while you can splurge on some fancy ones.
In addition to being a cheap way to stock
my jewelry box, it’s also an inexpensive (and
personal) way to make gifts for friends.
–Emily Gable ’08
Make your own sushi.
moved to Wisconsin for grad school, I could
neither find nor afford good sushi restaurants,
so a friend taught me to make it. The
ingredients are cheap—the only equipment
you need is a $4 rolling mat—and it makes
a great party activity. While I’m sure mine
isn’t very authentic, it’s one way to eat well
in grad school.
–Rosanne Scholl ’99
Pack a lunch.
Going out to lunch
really adds up. My fiancé [Brett Close ‘07]
and I bring our lunches almost every day,
usually by making more than enough dinner
the night before and packing leftovers. Not
only does it save a lot of money, but it actually
gives me more time to enjoy my lunch
hour instead of taking time to go get it and
–Bowen Patterson ’06
Bake your own bread.
Besides buying flour and yeast, it’s pretty
cheap. There’s something about kneading
dough that’s very soothing, plus the bread
you make is much fresher than anything
you’d buy at the store.
–Jessica Ladd ’08
Participate in research
Spend an hour doing easy
tasks, contribute to the world of science and
get paid for it. What could be better than
that? Keep an eye out near universities—
particularly over the summer—for fliers
–Alissa Sanchez ’09
Plan vacations around
I am in graduate school
in North Carolina but my family lives in the
Bay Area, so I jumped at the chance to
attend a prostate cancer conference in San
Francisco in December. This way I didn’t
have to pay for my plane ticket home for the
holidays. With the cost of air travel constantly
rising, this tactic helps the graduate
student stipend go a little further.
–Sophia Maund ’05
Ride a bike.
I have a relatively short
commute [in Santa Monica] of three miles,
so it makes sense to ride a bike. Besides
saving money, it’s also pretty enjoyable: You
get a little exercise, you get to be outdoors,
you get to people-watch a little bit, and you
get a better sense of what quirky little
stores there are in your neighborhood. Not
to mention that during traffic you don’t get
there much later than you would in a car.
–Frederick Lien ’08
Share a bathroom.
I live in a
two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment,
which is probably a few hundred bucks a
month cheaper than a two-bedroom, two-bath.
Plus, I like that you get company while
you brush your teeth.
–Brian Hui ’07
Train your cat
to use the toilet.
I’m not the first person to do this. I
started toilet training my cat in May
and by the end of June she was
using the toilet. I estimate that over
the lifetime of the cat, I will save
upwards of $1,000 in kitty litter alone.
There are many resources online that give
advice on how to toilet train your cat. Just
remember, seat down, lid up!
–Sharon Ostermann ’06
Shop in bulk with friends.
My friends and I split a [club store] membership.
We’ll take turns going out and buying
large quantities of pretty much everything,
and then get home and divvy it up amongst
ourselves. It requires a little bit of organization
and typically a calculator, but it saves
money and is always fun, especially with
friends and when there are free samples.
–Lisa Parrillo ’06
#42 Sign up for scrumptious listservs.
A few years ago, a group of
grad students at University of Chicago started
a listserv dedicated to announcing events
on campus that would be serving free food.
It’s a great list to be a part of since you can
simultaneously save money on groceries and
go to interesting lectures that you might otherwise
not have heard about.
–Carolyn Purnell ’06
Squeeze into an apartment
My apartment is technically
only a two-bedroom place, but my two
roommates and I converted an office into
my bedroom. Rent is still over $1,000 a
month per person, but that’s still several
hundred dollars less than what I’d be paying
for a studio alone. I prefer having a couple
other people around anyway–there’s
always someone there to grab a beer with.
–Alex Perkins ’07
Clothing swaps with
your friends are fantastic. Tell everyone to
bring over the things they can’t stand anymore,
put on some music and have a scavenging
–Rachel Andersson ’06
Brew beer at home.
kits run $50 to $100, and there are lots of
home brew Websites where you can find
more information. Break it out at your next
party ... or wedding: Alex Little ’02 and I
celebrated our wedding with home-brewed
–Natalia Goldberg ’02
Browse in-person; buy
If I see a book that I like at a
bookstore, I’ll write down the information
and buy it online for a fraction of the cost. I
also do this with clothing: I’ll try on a shirt
at a store, figure out what size I need and
then go online to look for the same shirt.
–Cathy Hwang ’07
Unplug appliances when
you aren’t using them.
Unplugging the TV, coffee maker, toaster
oven, computer printer and even lamps
when not in use, reduces the electric bill by
a few dollars every month because, even
when not in use, a plugged-in appliance
draws a charge.
–Nicki Cole ’02