Student Life

4 Budget-Friendly Holiday Decorations for College Students

If you’re living on a budget, it can be a little difficult finding inexpensive decorating for the holidays.  However, we’ve found some awesome ideas to prep your pad for the holidays that won’t break the bank.

Festive Paper Chains

These may bring you back to your elementary school projects, however, they can certainly make your place just a little more festive.  All you have to do is cut out strips of paper and glue the ends together so that the strips interlock with one another.  Hang these chains up anywhere and it will certainly get you into the holiday spirit.

Tree of Lights

This was a pretty cool idea we found at Reader’s Digest.   Simply by taking a strand of lights and a few thumbtacks, you can make yourself a tree right on your wall.  It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a tree either.  Maybe a snowflake or a snowman suits you better!

Candy Wreaths

This was a pretty cool idea we found.  All you have to do is cut out a ring of cardboard in the shape of a wreath.  Then glue wrapped candies onto the ring, and hang.

Pillow Presents

Simply by taking ribbon and bows, you can wrap up your throw pillows to look like gifts!






“32 Budget-Friendly Christmas Decorating Ideas” by Cynthia Dermody and Rachel Hofstetter

“11 Cheap (and Easy) Holiday Decorating Ideas for Your Home” by Kathy Wilson


Budget-Friendly Ideas, College Planning, Finances, Housing Advice, Student Life

Cutting College Housing Costs

College can be expensive; as we’ve seen in the news recently, there are a lot of students struggling once they leave school to pay back their loans.  This is why as Mark Kantrowitz explained in our College Financial Planning series that it is important to try to cut costs where you can.

Campus housing may be one of these expenses that you consider to cut when you’re evaluating the cost of attendance. In an article we read by Emily Driscoll at Fox Business, she explains that these costs can place a great deal of financial stain on families.  In fact, according to College Board reports, the average cost of room and board for four-year public universities is $8,887 and $10,089 for private schools.  This is why we’ve put together a list of different options for students and their families looking to cut housing costs and save some money.

Compare housing packages.  According to Driscoll, if you’re looking for cheaper on-campus housing options, you may want to look at residence halls with fewer amenities or those that are further away from campus.  We also suggest choosing housing where you share a room, as this will also reduce the cost.

Choose the meal plan that fits your needs.  In another article we read by Kim Clark and Beth Braverman at CNN Money, they suggest choosing a meal plan option that fits your habits.  Often students won’t eat at the dining hall for every meal; they will either just go without eating or eat a light snack for some of their meals.  Therefore, it can be a waste of money if you’re not eating at the dining hall for those meals.  If you never eat breakfast or you don’t each much, you may want to choose a cheaper plan, as this will reduce your room and board costs.

Work in a co-op.  According to Driscoll’s article, many universities offer co-op programs that allow students to receive reduced housing costs while they work a service job on campus. If you’re looking to save money, it is certainly worthwhile to check out your school’s website to see if they offer a program like this.

Check out off-campus options.  In some cases, off-campus housing may be less expensive than on-campus options.  Especially if you live with roommates, it may help to reduce the cost of housing while you’re in school.  While your school may not live off-campus during your freshman and sophomore year, you may want to evaluate your off-campus options your junior and senior year.

However, when you are evaluating these options, it is important to factor in the cost of food, gas/transportation costs, and utility costs into the price of off-campus housing.  You should then contrast this to what you would spend living in the dorms and eating in the dining halls.  This will give you a better sense of how they differ.

Live at home.  Perhaps the most budget-conscious decision could be to live at home, if you live close enough.  That way there won’t be an added room and board cost to factor in.  The only added expense you will really have here is gas or transportation costs.

Budget-Friendly Ideas, Student Life

Greener Living on a College Budget

As a college student, while you may want to have a more “green” lifestyle, your ramen-noodle-every-night budget may restrict you from actually living a sustainable lifestyle.  Let’s face it:  you most likely won’t be going out to buy a brand new hybrid car, or putting solar panels on top of your apartment. In fact, when we compared standard cleaning products to natural or “green” cleaning products at Walmart and Target, we found that there appears to be an average of about 5 cent increase in price per fluid ounce or count.  That’s on average about a 69% increase in price!  That’s pretty significant when you’re already living on a limited budget!  This is why we decided to find some ways to help you live green, because it just doesn’t really make sense:  why does it cost you more to live a green lifestyle when it should actually save you money?

Use public transportation when you can, instead of driving.  In an article we read by Cecille de la Cruz at Suite 101, she explains that the less gas you use, the more you’ll save.  Especially with climbing gas prices, paying for a bus or commuter rail ticket could end up saving you hundreds of dollars per year and will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Avoid wasting water when washing dishes.  In another article we read by Jen Boulden and Heather Stephenson, they explain that you can maximize your use of water by scrubbing dishes in stages.  Instead of running the water, you can fill one half of the sink (if you have a double sink) or a large container with soapy water to first scrub the dishes.  You will then only have to run the water when you rinse.

Avoid wasting water when you brush your teeth.  Boulden and Stephenson explain that by simply turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, you can save up to 10 gallons of water per day.  That’s pretty significant, if you really think about it!

Take showers instead of baths.  Boulden and Stephenson explain that baths take about 50 gallons of water, while a 5-minute shower could only use about 20 gallons.  This is a great way to conserve water and to avoid high water bills.

Turn off lights and appliances when not in use.  In an article we read on the TLC website, a TV left on uses 100 watts per hour, a DVD player uses 12 watts per hour, a modem uses 14 watts, a standard PC uses 130 watts, a ceiling fan uses about .1 kWh per hour, and a space heater, and a space heater uses about .09 kWh per hour.  By turning these appliances off, you could significantly conserve energy and potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars a year in electric bills.

Use cold water to wash clothes.  According to de la Cruz, using cold water to wash laundry will leave them cleaner and will help you to save money and energy.  In fact, she explains that it can even prevent clothes from wearing and tearing easily.

Recycle and re-purpose.  Taking the time to recycle cans and bottles is worthwhile, as those materials can be used to make other products.  However, you can also reuse and re-purpose products around your home.  For example, if you still get plastic bags when you go shopping, you can reuse those bags later as garbage bags or to carry other things.  They don’t have to go immediately into the garbage.