Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 1
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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

#1 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 from work.
–Julie Trescott ’08

#2 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 books.
–Stephanie Pham ’10

#3 Be bubbly and make connections.
“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

#4 Take advantage of extras from your employer.
Health 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

#5 Borrow DVDs from the library.
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.
Get 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

#7 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

#8 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

#10 Cook for yourself.
My partner 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 anything else.
–Lori DesRochers ’06

#11 “Do it yourself” for auto repairs.
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

#12 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

#13 Ditch cable.
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

#14 Crash with friends during trips.
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 your head.
–Maggie Fick ’07

#15 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

#16 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 months.
–Anne Shulock ’08

#18 Call people on Skype.
All you 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

#19 Find out where your money is going.
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

#20 Fix up your clothes.
Mend your pants and shirts, and get your shoes reheeled instead of buying new ones, so you can keep your favorite pair of shoes for longer.
–Katie Duberg ’10

#21 Get your employer to pay for your education.
Many 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

#22 Grocery-shop at a farmer’s market.
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

#23 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

#24 Move in with your Grandma.
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

#25 Grow your own herbs at home.
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 cook with.
–Brett Close ’07

#26 Hit up a yard sale.
Getting up 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 student’s dream.
–Ellen Perkins ’06

#27 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

#28 House-sit.
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

#29 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

#30 Invest in a rice cooker.
How 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

#31 Join a credit union.
My credit 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

#32 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

#33 Make your own sushi.
When I 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

#34 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 come back.
–Bowen Patterson ’06

#35 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

#36 Participate in research studies.
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 advertising studies.
–Alissa Sanchez ’09

#37 Plan vacations around conferences.
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

#38 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

#39 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

#40 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

#41 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

#43 Squeeze into an apartment with friends.
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

#44 Swap clothes.
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 party.
–Rachel Andersson ’06

#45 Brew beer at home.
Start-up 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 “Nuptu-Ale!”
–Natalia Goldberg ’02

#46 Browse in-person; buy online.
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

#47 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

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