Monday, August 5, 2013

Stretch Your Back to School Budget

College students are notorious for being tight on money. I know I'm always looking for ways to make my dollar stretch, especially after my tuition went up and my budget did not. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to make your money go farther on your back to school shopping adventures!

Now, I know that I'm at an advantage in that my cooperative house includes weekday meals in my rent, but there are still times when the meal isn't necessarily healthy or a good idea for me to eat (I'm lactose intolerant. I don't think my sisters would want me eating that creamy potato soup). I always need to get something to eat on those occasions and on the weekends, and groceries are probably my biggest college expense behind paying for tuition. So how can I still eat clean and stay within my budget?

1. Keep Cheap Staples
I always have a small bottle of olive oil and vinegar, quick brown rice, whole wheat sandwich thins, preservative-free deli meat, eggs, almond milk, oatmeal, a can of beans (always rinsed before use), organic spinach, tomato, onion, apples, bananas, and carrots, as well as at least one bag of frozen veggies and frozen fish fillets. These products are relatively cheap, and you can do a lot with them. I can get frozen veggies for as cheap as $1.20 at the local grocery store, and they often boast more nutritional value than the fresh varieties, since they're picked at peak ripeness!

3. Buy Local and Seasonal
Fresh produce can get crazy expensive, but buying local, seasonal fruits and veggies can really cut down on the price, as well as the amount of pesticides used on the products.

4. Spend More Where it Counts
I keep a list of The Dirty Dozen produce in my purse. The Dirty Dozen lists off the produce that has the most pesticides in it, and these should be purchased organic whenever possible to avoid harmful chemicals. If it's not on the Dirty Dozen, I don't buy it organic if it's not in my budget to do so.

2. DIY Cleaning Products
Instead of buying expensive disinfectants, I mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part white vinegar, and 2 parts water in a spray bottle. These combined ingredients work better than bleach at killing bacteria, and it's much safer, too! Need a scrub? Mix in some salt or baking soda.
I also make my own jewelry cleaner by making a paste out of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide (you can also just use water), and using a toothbrush to get into cracks and crevices. My engagement ring sparkles more than when I first saw it!

1. Spend More on Your Basics, Less on "Fun Items"
You can find some good foundations at the drugstore, bu they won't be the $4 ones. My favorite is Revlon's Colorstay 24 hour foundation. I use it for more special occasions or when I need long lasting coverage and oil control.  I've also yet to find a primer or other dupe that does as good of a job as my Mary Kay favorite (but if you know of one for an oily girl like me, I'd love to try it out!)
When you want to get something a little less necessary, like setting spray or a new lip gloss, go a little cheaper. I love elf products for this reason. They're usually $1-$3, but are still decent quality for the most part (their eye liners are awful, though).

2. Review Before Buying
If you're interested in trying out a new product, Google reviews for it first. You might be really excited about a buzz-worthy new blush, but the reviews might say it blows. The Drugstore Princess is my personal favorite reviewer.

3. Hidden Gems
Some of my favorite beauty finds aren't actually beauty products at all. For excellent oil control, I use a little dab of milk of magnesia on a cotton ball. A generic bottle is around $3 and it lasts for months (and you can always use it for its intended use, too).
I use olive oil for my hair and nails. For nourished nails and cuticles, rub clean, naked nails with a cotton ball soaked in olive oil. I also leave it in freshly shampooed hair overnight about twice a week. I just finger comb the oil in, braid my hair, then rinse and style in the morning. My curly hair gets dry and frizzy so easily, and the oil helps keep my ends healthy.
Vinegar is a great anti-fungal ingredient to add to foot baths before an at-home pedicure. I wear closed-toed shoes and sneakers a lot, and this helps prevent athlete's foot.
Instead of buying a separate scrub, I mix baking soda into my favorite cleanser and body wash a few times a week. You can also mix it into your shampoo for super soft, squeaky clean hair.

4. Skip the Brush Shampoo
Instead of buying the expensive makeup brush cleansers, I clean my dry brushes with a mixture of vinegar and hot water. It kills bacteria without ruining the natural bristles.
For my foundation brush, I can just get away with using some of my face cleanser.

5. Dollar Store Deals
Great things to get at the Dollar Tree: emery boards, manicure sets, pumice stones, toe separators for pedicures, cotton balls, rat-tail and wet-hair combs, benzoyl peroxide acne cream, clear lip gloss.
Things I regret from the Dollar Tree: Nail Polish, Eyelash curler.

6. Perfect your Technique with Cheap Products
Not sure you can pull off a liquid liner cat eye? Try it out first with a cheap liquid liner until you know you can rock it. If it's not your thing, you haven't invested much. Also, don't borrow a friend's liners or mascaras if you want to try something. Buy your own to prevent infections.

Got these Joe's Jeans shorts for $12 and the tee for $6 at Plato's!
1. Goodwill Can Be Your Best Friend
My mom and sister started me young shopping at thrift and consignment stores, and I'm still hooked. If you have the time and patience to sort through embroidered denim jackets from the 90's, you'll probably find some pretty cute clothes! I've even found brand new items for pennies. Goodwill is especially great for DIY fashion projects like cutoff shorts, and for finding basic comfy tees.  My favorite consignment store up in Minnesota sells designer clothes for super cheap. I got a pair of J Brand black jeans and Citizens of Humanity classic flares for only $60. I almost always find something for $8 at Plato's Closet, too. Look up a few stores around your campus and check them out!

2. Student Discounts!
Stores that discount include J. Crew, Charlotte Russe, Banana Republic, The Limited, Necessary Clothing, Ann Taylor, Club Monaco, Vineyard Vines, Kate Spade, and many more. Just ask!

3. Become a Skilled "Saler"
Buy your clothes off-season, and rummage through the sale sections first. I like to stock up for winter clothes in the summer, and vice versa, because stores sell them for big discounts. With extra coupons and other deals, I can get clothes for up to 75% off!

4. Look at TJ Maxx/Marshall's for your trendy clothes. They're hit and miss, but I've found some adorable tops. I also buy my sunglasses here. I love brand-name quality, but I refuse to spend more that $12 for something I'm highly likely to lose, break, or scratch.

1. Browse Pinterest for DIY projects and make your own decor! It's fun, affordable, and you'll have a story to tell.
Glittery Bottle Pinspiration! Matt was making homemade jerky in the background. Yummy!

2. Thrifty Pieces
I love shopping for old pieces of furniture at thrift stores and flea markets, then refurbishing them myself. One of my favorites is this old desk chair I bought for $19, sanded, and covered in about $5 worth of teal paint. I now have a classy statement piece I really love!
Thrift stores and flea markets are also fun places to find home decor, funky lamps, vintage vases, and other cool pieces you wouldn't find at Pier 1 or Target.

Happy shopping, and good luck saving!

Have any more dupes, tricks, and tips for saving money?? Let me know!

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