Posts filed under 'discounts deals & freebies'

Real World Roundup: Grocery Shopping Secrets

I don’t care how prepared you think you are, living on your own is no walk in the park. If balancing your school-life (or brand new career) and social life isn’t hard enough, add to that all the mundane tasks that keep your world afloat (laundry, grocery shopping, remembering to buy gas before your car stops in an intersection or something). Oh, yeah–and you have to manage your finances on top of that.

I’ve been on my own for a few years now, and while I’m still no expert at being a “grown-up,” I’ve definitely lived and learned. This little series–a combo of helpful tips and links about life on your own–should give you the benefit of my experience without the headaches of learning it the hard way! Yay!

Today we’re going to talk about one of my personal favorite topics: food. ♥

You Don’t Have to Eat Ramen.

Ramen noodles as a dinner entrée is a college cliché for a reason–after all, its not only cheap but also easy to cook. But guess what? You don’t have to eat Ramen. You can eat real food. Grown up food. Food that doesn’t have half your daily recommended value of sodium in one bowl!

So, you don’t have to eat Ramen. But you do have to do a little legwork. Read on to find out how to get good food for less.

Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to save money at the grocery store is to plan ahead. If you wander aimlessly through the aisles picking up what you think you might want/need, you will probably end up with a cart full of odds and ends you don’t need, and you might forget the things you do. Here’s how to start:

  • Step 1: Make a Meal Plan. This is step one, and it is easy. Plan out the meals you want to eat for a week. You can keep it simple–cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and simple meals for dinner. Then make a grocery list based on the ingredients you need for those 7 days, and only buy those things at the grocery store.
  • Step 2: Shop Sales. Once you’ve got the meal planning thing down, you can move on to step 2! Most grocery stores have their weekly sales fliers online, so once you’ve got the hang of meal planning (and give yourself some time if its tricky) start checking the sales fliers before you write out your dining schedule. Cooking based on in season produce and other sale items will really help reduce your food budget.
  • Step 3: Add Coupons. Once upon a time you had to spend hours clipping coupons–not something most college students want to do. Now there are tons of blogs that tell you exactly which coupons you need (you can clip them or even print them off–so easy) and which sale items to use them on so that you can get things for cheap (or sometimes even free!). Here are some great sites to start with (I recommend just choosing one store to use coupons at, though, or it will be way too overwhelming):

Shopping Smart

  • Don’t Shop Hungry. Seriously. Have a snack before you head to the grocery store. Shopping hungry leads to impulse buys (because everything looks delicious when you’re starving) and that means spending money you weren’t planning to spend. Curb your appetite, spare your wallet.
  • Stick to the List. Remember that list you made when you were making up your meal plan? Don’t buy anything that isn’t on that list!


One more thing that is college-student specific: you can split stuff with your roommates. This is awesome if you find something cheaper in bulk, as long as you can be sure the sharing is even. To keep the peace, I’d recommend only splitting things that come in finite amounts (like veggies or prepackaged items) so nobody gets their nose out of joint when you polish off the last of the milk. 🙂

Oh and p.s. our sister site, the Pay for College Blog recently posted some more tips about saving on groceries, so don’t miss out on those great ideas!


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Add comment May 30th, 2011

5 Awesome Freebies at Your Public Library (Besides Books)

You already know its the hot spot for borrowing free books (obviously), DVDs and music, but did you know about these other freebies the library has to offer?

  1. Downloadable E-Book and Audiobook Rentals. I love listening to books while I drive or work out, so I was really excited to find out that tons of libraries let you borrow audiobooks (which can cost $10-30–or more–a pop) by downloading them right to your computer or mp3 player, or download it to read on a mobile device. Its just like renting a movie from iTunes (it “expires” after a while) but you get to listen/read for free!
  2. Classes and Workshops. If you’re curious about anything from writing a resume to learning the art of haiku, check out your library’s calendar. There are always an assortment of free or cheap courses, workshops, and seminars: this month my library has classes on search engine optimization, family history, investing, computers, and nutrition–and that is only naming a few.
  3. The Hold System. If you want to read the newest Koontz thriller but find out it is at another branch, all you have to do is place a hold and it will get sent over to your library for free (or sometimes a very small fee–I’ve never paid more than a quarter). You can pick it up when it arrives and return it to your usual branch. Plus you don’t have to search the stacks to find it–it will be waiting for you!
  4. Clubs and Learning Groups. Struggling in your foreign language course? My library offers a language class and several foreign language conversation clubs that allow people to meet and practice their French or Spanish in a low key environment. Looking to learn something new, or stretch your literary muscle? Look for clubs meeting at the library, too–you might join a book club or learn to knit (and you’re bound to meet a crazy assortment of people!).
  5. Art, Music, and Media Events. Libraries strive to be a community gathering place, so they often put on free movie screenings or have guest musicians, authors, or art displays.


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1 comment May 19th, 2011

(CLOSED) Giveaway: Free Graduation Announcements & Photobooks from!

Hooray! It’s Surviving College Life’s very first giveaway–and just in time for graduation!

The lovely people at Shutterfly are offering SCL readers the opportunity to win some fabulous prizes, including:

  • A $50 giftcard good for anything on the site–cards, photobooks, prints, gifts, you name it!
  • 100 of their gorgeous 5×7 graduation announcements, or
  • An 8×8, 20 page photobook so you can put the year’s best photos all in one place! (TWO lucky winners will get this prize!)

In case you didn’t already think this giveaway was exciting, can I just tell you that I took a look for myself, and Shutterfly’s graduation announcements are beautiful! (This giveaway kind of makes me wish I was graduating, actually!) They have everything from the classic, elegant look to a colorful, customizable countdown of the year’s top moments. Check them out!

How to Win

Want to win one of these fabulous prizes? There are 3 ways to enter!

1. Leave a comment sharing your best tip for college-life survival! (It could end up in a future post here, too!)

2. Tweet or share the giveaway on Facebook, and leave a comment here letting me know, and/or,

3. Become a follower and leave a comment letting me know.

Hurry–giveaway closes this Tuesday, May 3rd! Winners will be chosen using and announced next week!

Another Chance

Want another chance to win some a great freebie from Shutterfly? They’re currently running a contest for anyone who blogs about their springtime announcements, so if you’re a blogger (personal blogs count, too!) share your affection for Shutterfly for a chance to win either 50 free cards or a photobook. See their site for details!

P.S. No, I was not compensated by Shutterfly to do this post–everything in this giveaway is going straight to my readers! Thanks to Shutterfly for being so generous!

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8 comments April 25th, 2011

5 Ways to Save on Textbooks

Did you know that the average student spends $800 every year on textbooks alone (and many students spend way more!)? If you ask me, there are much better things to spend that kind of money on, which is why I threw together this list of five ways to save on your textbook costs for next semester, with some help from our sister site the Pay for College Blog which has several posts about saving on textbooks (among other things!). Check it out if you’re looking to learn more about paying for your college education without breaking the bank.

And now, onward to textbook savings…

5. Think Resale

I know what you’re thinking–I haven’t even bought the books yet, why am I thinking of selling them?

Most students think of textbooks as a “sunk cost”–money you spend and never get back. But one of the best ways to save your cash is to sell your books at the end of each quarter or semester, and put the funds back towards buying your next round of books.

I recommend selling your books online, where you can usually get more than the campus store will offer you for your used text. That said, if you don’t see yourself making the effort to list and ship, take advantage of buy-backs at your school bookstore. Any return is better than none.

4. Talk to Other Students

First, if you can, talk to students who took the class before you and find out whether the class focuses more on the text, on lectures, or equally on both. Some profs suggest buying the textbook for use as a supplement to their lectures, but rarely test on it–you may not need to buy the book at all.

Second, talk to your classmates and see if anyone is up for book-sharing. You could split the cost and have joint custody–just make sure you have a backup plan for those high-study weeks before tests.

3. Rent or Borrow

Renting textbooks has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, and now you have more options than ever. While (in most cases) you won’t be able to highlight or write notes in the margin, you will most likely spend less to rent a book than to buy one. Try sites like,,, and which all claim to save 50 to 90% of the cost of buying the text brand new.

Also, many school libraries keep copies of required texts on hand. You might be able to check out the book for the whole semester, or you may be required to stay in the library to use it.

2. Buy (Not-From-the-Bookstore) Used

The on-campus bookstore may be convenient, but it is definitely not the way to save money. Their used book selection may be cheaper than their new copies, but chances are you can find a better deal if you look around a little more. Try or for great deals on used books online, check out used bookstores near campus, or talk to students who took the class last year.

1. Buy an Earlier Edition

If you ask me, the the best ways to save BIG on textbooks is to buy a previous edition of your textbook. While the new editions are selling at full price, you can sometimes get a previous edition for half that–or maybe even less. You may have to borrow a friend’s updated copy on occasion or deal with slightly differing page numbers, but in most cases the cash-saving benefit makes that little extra work way worthwhile!

Note: Always check with your professor before buying a previous edition. Most profs are understanding about the need to save money, but for some classes–particularly advanced science courses–you may NEED the most recent version.


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2 comments December 20th, 2010

Summerwise: 5 Tricks to a Scoring a Cheaper Flight

Since we moved to the East coast I’ve been shocked by how much it can cost to fly home for a visit, and lucky for you that means I’ve been figuring out how to work the system. Here’s what I do–and please feel free to share if you have tips or helpful input, I’d LOVE to hear it!

Watch Prices Like a Hawk. I scan several sites like ExpediaTravelocity, and Priceline to find out which days are cheapest to fly–always search a few days before and after your ideal date, because a little flexibility can save you hundreds of dollars. I also usually try to fly during the week, when flights tend to be cheaper, and if I have time I start watching prices months in advance to so I know when a good drop comes along.

Check the Student Sites. They’re not always the best bet, but websites like Student Universe and STA Travel sometimes have students-only discounts that can get you to your dream destination without breaking the bank.

Know Your Airline. Travel sites are great, but some airlines offer even lower prices if you buy directly from their website (and you get to skip the convenience fee that some of the all-inclusive sites charge you). I usually end up searching for the cheapest days on travel sites, and then booking through the airline’s website to get the lowest price.

While you’re there, sign up for frequent flyer miles! It will take a while to accrue enough for a flight, but the programs are free so you may as well get more for what you’ve paid for!

One, Two, Three, Four? If you’ve got several airports within a reasonable driving distance of either your departure or destination points (we have three within a 30 to 90 minute drive of our house and two close to where both sets of parents live), be sure to check on the difference! I always search all our airport options on both ends of the flight before I make a choice–sometimes 20 minutes of extra driving to a different airport saves us a few hundred bucks per ticket.

Pack Light. The tough economy has really made airlines get choosy with their freebies, and checking a bag now typically costs you $25 a pop–and that’s just one way! Instead, take advantage of the carry-on rules: pack a roll-on bag (be sure to check on the max size so they don’t force you to check) and use a backpack as your “personal item” to give you a little extra space. If you’re going on a long trip, it costs much less to do one or two loads of laundry half way through than it does to check a big fat bag full of all the clothes you could possibly need.

One last note: flexibility is KEY. Flights are more expensive during high travel seasons (summer, winter holidays, etc.) so a little wiggle room, like being willing to fly within a span of time or on a red-eye, can make a big difference when you’re trying to save!

Happy flying,


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2 comments August 23rd, 2010

5 Techie Freebies I Couldn’t Live Without

Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless, here are the 5 freebies that make my little geeky heart go pitter-pat. 🙂

Photo Editing and Beyond
Photoshop’s Younger (Freeware) Brother. I heard about the Gimp way back when I was in high school, and to be quite frank with you, I wasn’t impressed. Yes, it had most of the features that Photoshop had, but the usability was terrible. Several versions later, its almost unrecognizable. I downloaded it last week (my PS Elements didn’t have the features I needed) and I absolutely love it. You might have a little learning curve if you are switching from Photoshop, but remember–Photoshop is hundreds of dollars, and the Gimp is free, so a little extra tutorial skimming isn’t so bad.

Yay Browsers
Browsing, Google Style. If you’re still browsing on IE (which keeps having security issues–yikes!), its time to take a look at what else is out there. My two primary browsers are Firefox and Google Chrome–both great browsers–and I have to say Chrome is my fav. It is more streamlined (you can run a google search right in the address bar) and has all the features you need in a good browser. Word of warning, though: Chrome is still new on the scene, so every now and again it won’t be able to load all the features of a site. Which is why I have my handy dandy Firefox standing by. AND both of them focus on keeping your browsing secure.

Internet Radio
Out of the Box. When I moved last summer from the jam-packed airwaves of San Diego to a quiet little spot on the east coast, I was a little disappointed at the slim pickings on the radio. Thank goodness for Pandora, which creates “stations” based on songs I like (and remembers what I dislike). Not only do I get to hear my old favorites, but it introduces me to new favs in the genres I’m interested in. Downsides? The occasional ad will play (and they have ads on their sidebar while you’re listening) and you can only play 40 hours of music per month for free.

Blogging Software
Send it to Press. I’ve used lots of different blogging platforms, but WordPress is by far my choice for free blogging software for anyone who will be blogging from their own domain. With tons of themes and plugins (and more every day), constant updates to make it better, and a user-friendly interface behind the scenes, it is the real deal, and it doesn’t cost you anything. One note, though–if you won’t be running your blog from your own website, I’d recommend using Blogger, which is easy to customize (there are whole blogs about customizing blogger!) and gets better with each update.

Video Chat & More
Share and Share Alike. I’ve mentioned Skype several times before, because I love it, but when they introduced free screen sharing, too, I really felt bitten by the love bug. Now I can video chat with friends (free!!!) anywhere AND use screen sharing to teach my dad how to work his iMovie without having to make a trip home. Oh Skype, you are just dreamy.

(Want more tips on great deals and freebies? Find out the 10 software freebies every student should know about, or learn how to get free food in college or how to trade books, DVDs, and video games online and get something new-to-you for just the price of postage!)

Are any of these freebies on your love/hate list? I’d love to hear your take–or find out which freebies YOU can’t live without–so fess up!

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1 comment April 12th, 2010

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