College Survival Guide: Living cheap but with luxuries

Jason Hersey/Sun Star Columnist
Oct. 1, 2013

An opinion graph that shows how to spend money wisely on a college student budget. Jason Hersey/ Sun Star

An opinion graph that shows how to spend money wisely on a college student budget. Jason Hersey/ Sun Star

Student loans and student jobs aren’t really the recipe for high rollin, but don’t let the shallow bank account keep you from packing your dorm, cabin or apartment with good food and some bling furniture. Fairbanks is full of opportunities for the crafty college student trying to save a few bucks.

Whether it’s good and healthy food, a sound system for the dorm room, or even some libations out with the buddies, come up with a game plan to keep the debit card from spending big on things you can get for cheap.

Home furnishings have the highest potential savings to luxury ratio and are essential for any college crash pad. One might ask, “Why do I need some sweet furnishings if I’m only going to be here a few years, anyway?”

Again, the potential savings to luxury ratio is extremely high in this category. Sweet home furnishings will likely bring friends flocking, which can pay high dividends later.

So how to get those reclining chairs, bulky TVs, a barbecue grill and some 20-year-old board games? The answer is: transfer sites.

Transfer sites, or “dumps,” are a place to transfer one’s household items to another. These free dumps are the reason you see an old station wagon loaded front to back with building materials and a couch on the homemade roof rack cruising down Farmer’s Loop.

One popular transfer site, located across from the Taku parking lot, attracts high volumes of hopeful dumpster divers. You have to be quick, though. Many items never touch the ground before going straight to the back of another truck or into a trunk. So be proactive! It may be worth sitting on that couch for an hour until a buddy shows up to haul it for you.

When involving friends, you’ll likely need to barter some tutoring help or a beer at the Pub for hauling prized dump possessions. While you’re at it, grab an extra chair or microwave to barter with a friend for tomorrow’s lunch. Hence, the high dividends.

Here are some closing tips:

If it seems too weird to peruse the dumpsters for household items, try keeping a bag of trash handy in your car or dorm room so there will always be an excuse for visiting the dump. While there, peek in a couple of dumpsters close by until you can build up your dumpster diving confidence level. If you see anybody you know, you could say it is part of a sociology assignment. Chances are however, they’re doing the same thing as you.

Money saved from home furnishings means more party bucks and grocery money. Hit up the grocery stores, then invite your friends over and impress them with your “new” bulky, 27-inch TV and homemade salsa. They’ll be so impressed that they will offer to bring chips and drinks to share the next time.

After a hard day of dumpster diving, give a cheer to yourself. Reading English homework will never have been so comfortable, and the 1980s upholstery of the new recliner will likely bring back fond memories of your grandma’s house, helping to fight off any homesickness.

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