How to be a Hu$tler on Campus

So you’re a poor college student. Struggling to pay tuition, rent, grocery bills, etc. Not to mention your booze and weekend allowance. So what do you do? You hu$tle. From working mutliple jobs to selling your old things on ebay there are lots of ways to squeeze money out of time and into your pocket (or straight to your college tuition…). So here’s a list of ways to save and make easy money in college.

1. Search for the best deals on textbooks. Don’t settle for paying the high prices your college bookstore will charge. Textbooks range from $50-$200 per book and with an average of 5 classes per semester this can add up. I don’t even want to think about all the money I have spent on textbooks over the years. However, there are lots of ways to get out of this. The first step is to check and see if any of your required textbooks are available at your university library. You would be surprised how many they will have. The trick is to act on this quickly because they may only have one or two copies of the book that you and 100 other students need. Another possibility is to share your textbook with a friend who is taking the same class, or borrow/ buy a used textbook from a friend who has taken the class before. Always make friends in class! Even if it’s a huge lecture hall, it’s extremely helpful to buddy up for lots of reasons. My favorite way to save money on textbooks is to buy the international editions. They are the exact same book but softcover and sometimes have lower quality paper, but not always. I just bought one of my textbooks in the international edition for $60 that would have been $113 at the college bookstore or $180 used online. It just came today and it’s smaller and lighter  than the copy they are offering for $113 but with the same content. If you aren’t planning on keeping your textbook, consider renting it or selling it back when your course is finished. Lastly, I use to instantly compare prices for your textbook on hundreds of websites. Don’t let your college bookstore hu$tle you!

2. Amazon Student. Did you know that as a college student you can get a free Amazon Prime account for 6-12 months? It’s easy to sign up and completely free. The perks are free 2-day shipping, discounts sent to your email, and again FREE SHIPPING. What you save on not paying for shipping adds up, plus you get your stuff faster! When your free membership runs out, they offer you a discounted Prime account which I decided to get because with what you save in free shipping it pays for itself. Plus with a regular prime account you get access to Amazon Instant videos which has most of what Netflix has. You can make your free Amazon student account here at Amazon Student.

3. Coupons! While you may not be as successful with coupons as the people on Extreme Couponing, they can still help lower your grocery bills if you live off campus. There are lots of ways to get coupons such as in your Sunday newspapers, online or in e-mails. Use your coupons wisely. Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon for it, but save the coupons for items your would buy anyways like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, or snacks. Make sure to match your coupons with weekly sales to get the ultimate savings and maybe one day you will be on your way to being and extreme couponer.

4. Get a job. Or two or three…. Find an on campus job that works for you. If you live off campus a dining hall job will provide you with some free meals. If you live on campus find an easy info desk job that allows you to do your homework or study when there aren’t any customers. Most colleges have a job website that makes it easy to find work. I work in the game room in my school’s student union. It’s the perfect job because I sit at a desk and can do my homework during work. I also have television and a computer at work, so if I want to just veg out I can do that too. If a job is too strenuous it may interfere with your performance in classes. I worked in a lab for a year cleaning bottles and doing other menial tasks. While it paid well, I was on my feet for hours at a time and was too exhausted after work to get any school work done. So take advantage of easy jobs and even double up on jobs if you can handle it. In addition to my campus job, I do babysitting and tutoring on occasion when my regular clients need a last minute sitter. I look for my babysitting, tutoring, and petsitting gigs at which is a great legit site for finding work.

5. Rewards websites. There are easy and safe ways to make some money online by taking surveys, watching videos, shopping online, searching online and playing games. I use Swagbucks and I make about $50 per month on it by spending 30 minutes-1 hr per day on it. If you shop a lot online this site is great because for most shopping websites you can earn 1-10 “Swagbucks” per dollar. Each swagbuck is about a penny but they add up fast. Say you are buying your textbooks on Amazon and the sum total is $300. If the rate for Amazon textbooks is 3 sbs per dollar, you will earn 900 swagbucks from your purchase which is about $9 back. You can redeem your swagbucks in the form of gift cards for anything from Paypal to Walmart. It’s a cool site and I would highly recommend it. You can also use MyPoints, which is works the same way but it’s harder to earn points and it takes a lot more points to earn rewards.

6. Sell your old unwanted valuables on ebay! Not everyone has things to sell, but if you have stuff lying around that you don’t want anymore you might as well. If you only sell 10 items per month there are no extra fees and ebay takes a very small percentage of your profit. You can sell things like video games, trading cards (look out for cards that are worth a lot now!), old electronics, etc. I don’t sell very much but when I do it’s nice to have some extra money coming in.

7. Sell your eggs or sperm. This is kind of extreme and I haven’t personally done it, but eggs are worth a couple grand if you are a healthy college student. If it’s something you are open to, go for it. If not, ignore this tip.

8. Participate in campus research studies. Most college campuses offer a handful of studies periodically which can be quite lucrative for the participant. While studies have a reputation for involving taking pills or MRI’s, there are less intrusive studies which only require you to do simple reading tasks or puzzles. In the past I have been paid up to $80/hr in cash for these studies and all I had to do was take simple reading tests, do some math and answer questions. Since they are through the university they are definitely legitimate, but if you ever find studies that aren’t affiliated with a university or reputable company, be wary and read everything through before you sign anything or participate.

9. Save your pocket change in a piggy bank. You would be surprised how much your loose change from an entire semester can add up to. I keep a couple cups of coins in my room where I put all my loose change that I find on the floor or in my pockets and by the end of the semester it’s my gas money home.

10. Scholarships!!! You would be surprised how many companies or individuals are willing to help fund your education. Although I haven’t received any scholarships in college, I came to college with scholarships from AXA, Big Y, and a local bank that totalled almost $15,000. Almost every big company has a scholarship fund you can apply to and your school may have scholarships as well. If you are a minority it’s even better. There are loads of scholarships for women in science, African Americans, etc. Take advantage of these and spend time before and during college applying for scholarships. The time really will pay off and it will reduce your loans drastically. A great resource for finding scholarships is Fastweb. It will help you find scholarships specific to you.

Well, that’s all I have for now but I hope these tips help make college easier on your wallet. Ready, set, start hu$tling!

Surviving the Perils of a College Dining Hall

College dining halls. A peril only to be faced by the most daring of warriors. Or by unsuspecting freshman… Either way, it is quite the force to be reckoned with. These buildings house our main source or nourishment for our four years (or more) at school, so they must be approached cautiously. One can not make enemies with their dining halls, yet the relationship is not quite one of pure amiability. In this post wish to provide my fellow scholars with a practical guide to braving mass produced sustenance based on my experiences in the past four years. My first year of college I was housed nearest to the most daunting of the dining halls in my university. It had a reputation for foul food that only the honors and arts students could stomach. This hall was located in the most remote corner of campus and only those who had classes or lived nearby dared to enter. Throughout the rest of my years I ventured farther out to the other halls but found them to be just as formidable in their own way. Each had it’s own ups and downs and although I opted for take out whenever possible, when my bank account ran dry I was forced to again turn to the halls. And so I provide some valuable tips for surviving your undergraduate eating career.

1. Become allies with the gatekeeper. The little old ladies who swipe you into the dining hall are the key to finding edible food. If you are nice to them they will help you, but if you are frigid to them your path will be ever so more arduous. Give her (or him if the case may be) a nice smile and “how do you do” whenever you come in and they swipe your ID. If there is no line have a short friendly conversation. These lovely retired ladies (or gentlemen) may be lonely guarding the entrance all by themselves, make friends with them and they will give you valuable tips about the food that day.

2. Be prepared. Check the dining hall menus online ahead of time when possible and avoid food you know to be horrid. Do not let the gourmet names fool you. Food from a dining hall is food from a dining hall. Although Black and Bleu Cube Steak sounds enticing…. well I’ll get to that in a bit.

3. Avoid ethnic food. Nothing at all against ethnic foods (eg. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese) but when it is cooked by dining hall chefs on a mass scale, it doesn’t taste like what you get at a restaurant. Occasionally its tasty but most of the time…. it’s not.

4. Eat Kosher or Halal. Even if you are not a Jew or Muslim, the Kosher and Halal food at college campuses is usually cooked on a smaller scale. And since religious guidelines are so strict, the quality of the food is almost always drastically better. At my school the Kosher food is delicious and nutritious more often than not. Unfortunately our Kosher/ Halal kitchen is in a far corner of campus that I rarely journey to and so I am still subject to the regular food.

5. Check your meat before you eat it! This was a lesson I only just learned today. I was served my Black and Bleu Cube Steak and it looked wonderful but when I cut it open I saw that it was not cooked at all on the inside. This was rarer than rare and totally against health codes…. Were they trying to poison us? Maybe, maybe not but inspect your meat before you eat it.

6. Build up an appetite for pizza, salad, sandwiches and cereal. If there is nothing appetizing on the hot line there is almost always cold foods available that are hard to screw up. I know there have been some weeks where I live on salad, subs, pizza, and pasta from the dining halls. Also, I keep (mostly) kosher, so when there is only main dishes with pork I don’t really have a lot of choices.

7. Use the suggestion box. At my school the dining hall suggestion box is really popular. We ask for things we want more of and let them know when something is really awful. Sometimes a couple of comedic cards get in there too so they are fun to read. From my experience, the managers usually take most of the suggestions into account so you might as well take advantage of them. Can’t complain if you haven’t spoken up! (I have put quite a few of those cards in over my four years)

8. Attack your meals in pairs or groups. Generally it’s more enjoyable to go to dinner with friends. Especially so you can bitch about the food and let each other know what’s good and what’s not. One of the best parts of the dining hall experience (and believe me, there are not many) is getting to relax at meals with your friends and have a nice time. Put aside time for your meals when you can and spend them with good friends. The food is not quite so bad if there is laughter involved.

9. Pick a college that has good food. This is for any pre-college students who may be reading this. You’re going to be eating the food for a long time, make sure you try out a dining hall at each school you visit. It’s a good way to get a feel for the atmosphere of the student body and test out the food. Hey, food is pretty important, so if two colleges are pretty even and you can’t decide, make food your deciding factor.

10. Condiments. Nothing like some ketchup or BBQ sauce to add some flavor to really bland food. Get creative.  🙂

That’s all I have for now, but I hope it helps. Some of what I have written is specific to my school but most of it applies universally. Even though you may be discouraged after a few weeks of dining hall food, keep on trucking. Winter and summer breaks are a nice time to refresh your pallet and eat everything that is not delicious or available at school. Keep some snacks in your room too and most importantly, stock up on Ramen and Easy Mac. There’s a funny thing about the freshman fifteen. I have noticed that some people gain it and some people lose it. It all depends on your balance of eating and exercise.

Then again, maybe it just depends on the dining hall and your survival techniques…..