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Penny-Pinching 101

February 16, 2009

by Ian McGinnity
Penny-Pinching 101

I'm an absolute cheapskate. I may not know anything about economics, marginal rate of substitution, or how to fix a consumer price bundle, but as a person who only chews half pieces of gum to 'conserve' and is used to seeing his checking account at under the fifty-dollar mark -well under the fifty-dollar mark- I do know how to milk  the money-teet for all its worth. With the economy spazing out and with stockbrokers holding diving contests off of 80 story buildings, I thought I would share a few tips that will hopefully keep more money in your wallet and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground:

  • Flex is your friend: It is so easy late on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night to stumble into your room, pick up the phone, dial Mix Bowl's (delivery until 2am) number, and order the MSG-filled chicken chow-mein. Believe me, I'm all for a midnight Mix Bowl extravaganza. However, making it a habitual occurrence can take its toll on your money. If you're on the meal plan at all, your best bet is to keep your debit card safe, and instead take a social trip down to the Hub, the Coup, or for late night visits, the Mudhole. It is pretty common sense, I know, but even your dear author struggles with putting down the phone. Flex: Free Money. Use it.

  • Scrounge: "But Ian, I only have 140 dollars of flex! Surely you don't expect me to make that last all year?!" Cool down, my babies. Not only do I love to spend free money, but I also am somewhat of a scavenger. Now I know that everyone has taken a cup of cereal here and banana there from the dining halls. But if you are craving some real meaty goodness late in the night, I suggest more drastic methods of scrounging  (note to vegans and vegetarians: does not have to be actual meat to be described as having "meaty goodness"). The ideal solution to the problem of spending money on delivery food is to grab a take-out box when you swipe your card, eat in the dining hall, and then fill your box with whatever you want for later. Sadly, the human mind errs, falling short to remember to grab a box for your survival food. No worries! Every time I go to the Scripps dining hall, I grab a plastic cup (meant for coffee/tea) and fill it up, mostly with chicken breasts. Scripps cups can comfortably fit four normal breasts. The same can easily be said about Pamela Anderson's shirt. Using those cups is just one way to creatively pack out food from the dining halls.

  • USE the library: Buying books proves to continually be a thorn in my side every semester. If there is one thing that could change Mr. Rogers into Stalin, it would definitely be entering Huntley Bookstore. The clerks help you with a smile as they scan the books that will crush your bank account and eventually leave you washed up, broke, playing guitar songs for spare tips on the streets of the Village, or worse yet, Pitzer. Everyone knows that buying books on Amazon is the way to go and will save you money, that is no secret. However, check and see if the library carries any of the books required for your classes. This is especially helpful for students taking literature and history courses, but the library also has been known to carry copies of current textbooks. For instance, a textbook for my comparative government which costs $127 in the book store is available for checkout in the library. Honold-Mudd is the third largest library in Southern California, chances are that it will have what you are looking for. Even if it doesn't, you always have the Link-Plus program which can order books from almost any library in California. Stop spending hundreds of dollars on books, go to the library. Who knows, maybe you'll get some studying done while you're there.

  • Hey Kid! Stop all the Downloadin'! If you are one of the very few honest people these days who actually pays for music on iTunes, first of all, congratulations. You are an outstanding citizen. Second, stop buying music. No, I'm not advocating illegal downloading. But I know how easy it is to sign in to your iTunes account, buy three, four five songs, an album here and there, without giving it much thought. It almost feels like you're illegally downloading, since there is no real tangible difference in the act, unless you check your bank account every day. But even a relatively small number of songs paid for per week adds up quickly in the long run. My method: go to which allows you listen to listen to almost any song/album from any artist streaming online for free. If they don't have what you're looking for there, try making a playlist of music on youtube. This is a very easy 20-50 dollars to save a month.

  • Don't buy clothes: This may sound extreme, especially if you are a shopaholic. But look at your wardrobe. Chances are, you have more clothes than you know what to do with. Chances are that you could probably afford to donate some of those clothes to the Goodwill. Why clog up the closet more? Obviously, as a person who uses duct-tape to hold together a pair of my favorite shoes, I am probably not the most in tune with fashion. However, if you are like me and just like wearing clothes to cover up your nakedness, I recommend (I am not kidding...) thrift stores. "Ewwww I only go THERE when I have to find a weird costume for a party!" Sure, but you can also find some pretty good stuff at thrift stores as well. I have found name-brand clothes, for instance, at the local Goodwill. Yeah, I might be sporting a Banana Republic polo from the 1986 catalog, but a polo is a polo, right? If the whole thrift store thing isn't your bag, I understand. I won't insult your intelligence by recommending that you look for sales. Just remember to ask yourself how much your utility will increase by buying one additional piece of clothing. Chances are that it won't increase that much more, and that the stylishness of having another 5 shirts won't justify spending $100 of a limited income to purchase them.

  • Go Out Less: This may sound extreme, especially if you are an alcoholic. I am going to keep the unpopular part brief and then move on. Its hard to say 'no' to Tuesday's Beirut Club, Wednesday night 's Pub, TNC, Friday's kickback, and Saturday's Rager. In all reality, your liver needs a break before your pancreas explode. BUT, if you do want to go out, go out for less. Be smart when buying alcoholic beverages: get a Vons card and buy a 30 rack of Budweiser or Coors (NOT the light beer) for around $15. Another good buy is Liquorama where you can buy a 30 of Budlight for around $12. Mickey's is probably the cheapest alcoholic substance known to man and Edward 40 hands makes for some of the most fun nights. The combination is too sweet to even elaborate further.

There you have it, some obvious and some not-so-obvious ways that you can save a pretty penny in your every day living. Cheapskate McG: out.

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