Tips For Planning An Affordable Spring Break

If you’re planning a spring break trip with your friends, now is the time to crack down on your planning.  Finding an affordable trip is easier than you might think.  Here are a few tips to help you get started!

1. Do your research.

1-14 Research

Look into every deal you can find for the places you’re thinking about going.  Check Groupon, Airbnb, Expedia, Priceline, etc.  Make sure you find the best deal for the kind of trip you want.  Really explore your options so you can find the trip that’s right for you.

2. Set a budget and stick to it.

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Make sure you know how much you have to spend and plan accordingly.  Include any potential spending money you’ll need while you’re there.  If you’re not going to an all-inclusive resort, factor in your food and beverage expenses.  If you’re doing any non-free activities, make sure you’re prepared for the costs.

3. Read the fine print.

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Some hotels and getaway deals have extra and hidden fees.  Read everything before you book your stay/trip to make sure there are no surprises.  Be certain of the costs before you agree to anything.

4. Be open-minded.

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Don’t be too set on a specific place.  Just know the type of vacation you want to have (i.e. warm weather, beach resort, city, ski/snowboard trip, etc.)  Depending on the popularity of the place, the dates you’re going, and the amount of people you’re travelling with, some places/hotels will be more expensive.  Being open to different places can help you find a more affordable trip.

5. Split costs where you can.

1-14 Split Costs

Find rooms that sleep more people.  Split the cost of the rental car or gas if one of you has your own car that you can take.  Go in as a group on snacks and/or groceries.  Anything that can be a shared cost, share it.

Sticking to Your Guns

Setting a budget can seem like a daunting task especially when there are so many expenses to keep track of. When you’re a college student on a tight budget, there’s no point in making a budget because you’re already in debt anyway. Right? Not so much. Your finances aren’t completely a lost cause and shouldn’t be put to the back of your mind until graduation. Here are a few tips to set a budget and stick to it.

1. Prioritize
Knowing what is most important to you and your success is the best way to keep your mind focused on your budget. Keep your eye on the prize (graduation) and you will be much less tempted to blow through your tuition savings on that fancy jacket you’ve had your eye on.


2. Avoid Temptation
When you know you are at the end of your budget rope, stay away from big sales and stores altogether. Odds are you will end up making impulse purchases with money that you really should have used for textbooks instead.


3. Count every purchase
It’s tempting to count small purchases as freebies when it comes to your budget. A box of mints here, a nail polish there, and before you know it you’ve racked up quite a bill of small purchases that you didn’t account for in your budget.


4. Ask yourself if you really need it
Even when we have the best intentions, a budget can be ruined with buying things that you just don’t need. Let’s say you need a paintbrush for your art class. You arrive at the art supply store and you see a fancy set that you’re pretty sure Picasso himself recommended. Purchasing such a luxury is a budget blowing move that you could try to justify, but deep down you know that you could have cut easily cut costs by only buying what you truly need.

What tricks do you use to stick to your budget? Let us know in the comments below!

Cheap Eats

When faced with the financial burden of college tuition and fees, one must stretch their budget elsewhere. There no getting around paying your college fees or textbooks, but you can stretch a dollar (or dollars) in other ways.

1. Chose meals that have a long shelf life.


If you dorm, this may be especially useful. You may not always have the time to prepare a meal with fresh ingredients and they may spoil before you find that time. In this case, you risk losing your hard earned money. Meals that have a long shelf life are usually canned good, such as soups, certain fruits, vegetables and beans or prepackaged foods such as pasta, instant oatmeal and rice. Also, they are relatively inexpensive, costing no more than a few dollars for each item

2. Pasta, Pasta, and More Pasta


Not only can you buy a package of pasta for no more than two dollars but you can make a meal out of it to last two or three days. It also falls under the list of non-perishable foods so there’s no worry of spoil before it’s cooked. Pasta can also give you that much needed energy as its high in carbohydrates. Ramen noodles has become a staple in many dorm rooms due to its versility and cheap price tag. A package can cost no more than 50 cents.

3. Quick Pick Me Ups


Mothers always tell us to eat our fruits and vegetables and we should always follow their advice for they know best. Certain fruits and vegetables are expensive, especially if you may be searching for organic types. Bananas and apples, the loose variety not the bundles, are relatively cheap, readily available and easily consumed on the go. Just make sure it’s washed before consuming. Celery and carrot sticks in a to-go package is usually no more than 3 dollars.

4. Cheap Foods with a Short Shelf Life


Keep in mind that the body needs a whole array of nutrients in order to sustain itself. With that being said, some foods may need to be consumed that do not have a long shelf life but will be relatively cheap nonetheless. Eggs for protein and versatility in salads or sandwiches, and fresh leafy greens for antioxidant and immune support such as Spinach, can be found for a few dollars per bundle.

5 Dorm Decorating Ideas for the Student on a Budget

College students often don’t have a significant amount of money to spend, which is why the term “broke college student” is so well known.  But, just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make your dorm room feel a little bit more like home.  Here are some ideas to help you do that without breaking the bank!

1. Print pictures from Google images, Tumblr, etc. and create wall collages/designs.  Most universities give you a per-semester print quota that most people don’t use up completely.  Take advantage of this opportunity to make your dorm room more festive or homey.  Black and white pictures are classic and go with everything, so you don’t even need to print in color (usually your print quota doesn’t include color printing and if it does, each pages will be worth more for your quota).  Just print out your pictures and get creative

7-14 dorm wall blog pic

  (This is the wall collage I made for my room last year!)

 2. Go to the drug store to print personal pictures; it’s usually pretty cheap there!  You can go the collage route and tape them to your wall with clear tape (or sticky tack if you’re worried about the paint on the walls) or go to the dollar store for some cheap frames; you don’t need anything fancy for your dorm room… but remember, frames take up space and your room will likely not be that big.  You can even try getting one giant frame, making a collage to put in it, and use command strips to hang it on your wall!

7-14 photo prints3. If you have a roommate, take a trip to the nearest craft supply place, like Michaels, and make a Saturday or Sunday out of creating your own posters, banners, and other decorations; you’ll be likely to find a lot of cute, cheap decorations that you can make together!  It’s a great way to bond with your roommate and make your room a home away from home.  Find a common ground, whether it is a color scheme, a pattern, or a theme you both like, and run with it!

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(My roommate and I both love Harry Potter so we went with a Gryffindor Scarlet and Gold theme for our room Freshmen year and the above picture is a banner that we made!)

4. Get dry erase boards or small chalkboards and hang them on your door and your walls.  It’s a fun way to get your friends involved with your decorations, so just leave markers or chalk out in your room somewhere so they can write you little messages or drawings!  It’s a nice way to keep changing up your décor a little bit.

7-14 dorm dry erase5. Buy a Plastic Storage Drawer/Cart to maximize your space.  You can even spray paint the cart to go with your color scheme and get stencils to spray paint a pattern or design to really make it pop!  You can buy one of these carts at Walmart, Target, or even order it online and find a great price.  Get really creative!

7-14 painted storage drawer

Summer DIY Fashion and Accessories

As you save up your money this summer, you’re tempted to blow it all on clothes and new hair ideas, though you know you want to buy a new fall wardrobe. Decisions, decisions…Instead of buying a ton of new tanks and shorts, dig through your closet and find what you don’t wear anymore and make it into something new. It’s a win-win really.

One way to create a new summer look for yourself involves the smallest, simplest article of clothing: the sock. Get your hair off your neck with an elegant and simple bun high on your head—the sock bun. You just need a hair elastic, a sock and a pair of scissors. Take your sock (you might want to use one in a neutral color if possible) and cut off the toe so you have one long tube. Turn the sock into a donut shape and secure it. Put your hair up in a ponytail, wherever you want your bun to be. Then, simply pull your hair through the sock, spreading your hair around it. As you roll the sock down your hair towards your head, continue to position your hair around the sock so it’s fully covered. Voila, you now have a stylin’ sock bun!

Has your wardrobe been lacking color for the summer? Take simply boring pencil skirt and turn it into a fun, and still elegant, skirt with a brilliant border. Go out to a near by fabric store and find about 2 meters of embroidered trim—this can be Aztec design, animal print, whatever suites your fashion desires! If you need to make your skirt shorter, use another skirt as your guide and cut carefully; if you do this step, make sure to hem your skirt again to avoid fraying. Follow the waistband and hem of the skirt with your trim, carefully cutting your pieces to match the appropriate lengths. Sew the trim along the edges, making sure to keep your fabric straight (you may want a sewing machine for this step!). And now you took your not-so-fun skirt up a notch into a totally cute summer look.

The summer season is all about the shorts, and this summer they’re more colorful and full of pattern than ever before. Turn your boring jeans into a pair of super cute cut off tie dye shorts! Simply take whatever pair of pants or shorts you’re working with and cut them to the desired length (make sure you’re even all the way around so your butt’s fully covered). Pick out whatever color dyes you want for the shorts—yellow, pink and blue always look fab together—and dampen your shorts. Apply the dye horizontally so you have rainbow bands, and let dry when complete. Throw your shorts in for a quick wash, and ta da! You now have unique and trendy tie-dye cut offs.

Crop tops are also big this summer. While you can transform just about any t-shirt or tank you want into a tummy bearing top, for a more chic take on this style, use a classic button down shirt. If the shirt has sleeves, cut them off symmetrically—you can make thin or wider shoulders depending on what style you want. Decide where you want the shirt to end, drawing a line and carefully cutting the shirt across. Grab your sewing machine and hem the bottom and shoulders until you’re satisfied, and voila! Dad’s old shirt is now a comfortable fashion must-have.

There are plenty of ways to update your wardrobe this summer without having to buy all new outfits. Take a peak in your closet and find your old, worn out shirts and jeans being ignored at the back, grab a pair of scissors and some needles and you’re on your way to the most fashionable summer of your life!

Summertime: What a Trip!

I love to travel. There is something about taking a trip that gets me so excited. Whether it’s by plane, or train, I absolutely love going places. A trip means one of two things, you get to explore and see a new place that you’ve never been to before, or you get to revisit a favorite spot and revel in memories and past times. Traveling is an automatic win-win.

In fact, truth be told, one of the major reasons why I chose to go to college so far away from home was based on the possibility of adventure and exploring. My college mascot turned out to be the “Explorer”, but that was just a huge coincidence! Every semester I hop on a plane and head to school. Then once classes end, and my bags are packed, I head right back. However, the last two summers have been different.

Instead of staying home, which is a trip in it of itself, I decided to spread my wings a little further and explore some new territory. Last summer I went to London. When I wasn’t working or taking classes I was exploring and taking in everything the city had to offer. This summer I bounced around again. A few weeks ago I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for an internship. It’s completely different than anything I have ever experienced. I’m from Kansas, go to school in Pennsylvania, and had never stepped foot in Utah until this summer. It’s an adjustment, but it’s also an adventure.

The summer is a perfect time to branch from the norm and experience something new, even if it’s just a vacation. You can take a road trip, book a cheap flight, or grab a group of friends and find a new adventure ground. And what’s the best part? You won’t be there forever. School starts in August. You can have your fun, see if you like it, and if not, be back in time for class.

So how do you decide where to go?

Your destination will depend on a couple of things. My travel spots have always been related to work. However, they don’t have to be! If you want to find an internship or job away for the summer, I would recommend searching early. Make arrangements in place that’s new, but also has connections—if you know people there it will at least make your summer transition smooth, and less lonely!

If work isn’t your priority but you’re looking for a summer getaway or fun place to explore, check out the bookstore. Look at books, search websites, and most importantly, check your budget. Does it make sense to road trip with your roommates across the country, or can you pick an equally fun spot closer to home?
Whatever you choose, I advise you use the summer break to your advantage. Once you graduate and pick a place to live it will get harder and harder to take trips and explore for the sake of exploring.

– Ring Queen

Meal Plan Running Out?

The end of the year doesn’t just mean your classes are ending, it means the end of your meal plan too.  Many of us get caught realizing this too little too late.  If you are in need to stretch your meal plan to keep you fueled up during final time, check out these tips:

One option is to simply add more to your meal plan.  This is most likely the most expensive but most convenient route.

Does your school let you take a meal to go?  This could be used to your advantage.  Fill up that to go box with the two P’s, produce and protein.  Most dishes can be stretched easily.  Going to the grocery store or local farmer’s market for lettuce to stretch out cafeteria dishes by making them salads.  Some cafeterias I have eaten at have a Taqueria or Mexican section.  Filling up a to go box with shredded chicken and salsa can be stretched by making a Mexican salad in your dorm.  Other dishes can be stretched out with rice or pasta.  Make it healthy and look for multigrain, which sometimes only costs a few cents extra. To go boxes also leave you with more than one meal, even by an athlete’s standards.  This way, using one block or meal can end up providing you with a couple meals.

Pick your meals wisely.  If you have a big breakfast, could you make it to dinner with only a few snacks?  Breakfast is the cheapest meal to eat in your room as you can get cereal, a large tub of yogurt, box of farina, carton of eggs (if you have stove access) or a large tin of oatmeal each of which are not costly and will last.  If you factor out that you can have one meal in the cafeteria a day,  make it lunch.  This way you will be most full in the middle of the day, good for your budget and good for you digestion.  You will need some dinner meals though.  Some cheap but healthy dinner items to stock up on are rice, beans, soup, frozen veggies, and frozen dinners.  A word on frozen dinners: be sure to check the Nutrition Facts to see how much food you are getting for the price.  I have found that Healthy Choice meals give you more food for the same price and quality as Lean Cuisine.

If most of your meal plan is consumed by coffee (and/or tea), price out how much you can save by buying instant coffee or tea packets in bulk.  I know what you’re thinking, instant coffee is nothing to your Starbucks Frappuccino.  Some instant cappuccino mixes are surprisingly satisfying.  General Foods International’s 100-Calorie Packs of French Vanilla Cappuccino Mix is a personal favorite and cheaper than my usual Starbucks order.

Although I am not advising anyone to go on a liquid diet, staying hydrated can keep you feeling full longer.  Make sure to drink water or herbal tea throughout the day.  This is especially important as there is a lot of salt in Ramen, a classic college staple food.
Just think that in a few weeks, you will be home eating as you’re used to.

– TravelBug

The Laptop Fitness Plan

These days, time and money is an issue for everyone. As college students, that problem is often multiplied. With a busy class schedule, who has time to go to the gym? Even summer doesn’t give us a break, since we need to make money to prepare for the upcoming college semesters or an internship instead of classes takes over all our free time. Maybe you just don’t feel comfortable working out in the gym. Perhaps you need some extra encouragement, but your friends can’t put in the effort. An online fitness community might be the right choice for you.

Whether you want to lose weight or tone up, there are lots of options online to target your needs on a personal level while you also engage with a community working towards similar goals.  People seek fitness help online more often than ever before. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found 80% of people online are searching for health related issues, with 52% looking specifically for information on exercise  or fitness. Ted Vickey, a PhD researcher studying the connection of social media and exercise at the National University of Ireland, believes social media could change the health industry forever.

“I believe that social media can be one of most important pillars to fighting the global obesity problem,” he said. “Report after report suggests that the number one reason people don’t exercise is time. Now that technology has given us more time, what if we could create a tool that could persuasively assist a person in finding the time and motivating them to exercise? That would be a great step in the right direction.”

Communities like Blogilates (I personall recommend this as a popster myself), founded by Cassey Ho in 2009, have video workout routines available. Ranging in length fro 10 to 30 minutes, and in targeted zones of the body, you’ll have the opportunity to change your body gradually with a little effort each day. The videos are easy access, posted on YouTube and Ho can be found constantly on Twitter and Facebook, posting workout commands, updates and inspirational quotes to keep you going. The other popsters are also on Facebook often, posting about their success and asking each other questions.

Katy Widrick, another popster, started #FitBlog Twitter chats in 2010. Every week, there’s a new topic, a new discussion leader (usually a health or fitness professional) getting the conversation flowing, and hundreds of participants interacting with one another. If you prefer to blog about your struggles and interact in a more private forum, Roni Noone’s BlogToLose might be the motivator you’ve been searching for. Noone started the platform after she found blogging about her fitness journey in 2005 helped hold her accountable and ultimately got her into shape faster—the community gave her the support she needed and kept her on task with her fitness goals.

Even though this all sounds dandy and fun, you have to be weary of the sites you turn to for help. Anyone online can post about whatever they want to, whether they’re an expert or not. Some people will take it to far, to an extreme of being unhealthy; avoid looking at images of super skinny models as a weight loss goal or blogs focused on thinspiration. Also steer clear of any negative comments. If people come into the online community talking smack about being overweight or unhealthy—especially anonymous comments—you have to keep in mind these people feel good by putting others down.

Ultimately, being online is a balance of the good and the bad. You have to inform yourself and keep on top of the legitimate sources. The best aspect of online fitness is accessibility, time management, and the community, but there’s also some harsh commenting and bad imagery out there. So use your best judgment, put on your sleuthing hat if necessary, and have fun while you get fit.

Happy exercising, friends!

-Toony Toon

Traveling on a College Budget

Nothing beats a nice weekend trip to a not-so-far-away city or a mini vacation to another state after a long week of tests and due dates. While it’s fun to travel, it can be hard to coordinate if you don’t have a car with you on campus. Even without your own chauffeur, you can still travel fairly easily these days with a variety of options. And you don’t even have to dig in your couch cushions for some extra money!

MegaBus has become a popular option for college students looking to get from one city to another. They have routes that go virtually anywhere, including the ever popular NYC to the more obscure like Frederick, Pennsylvania. Though ticket price varies, you can travel from your school to another state for as little as $50 round trip. That definitely beats filling up your car with gas multiple times or searching for plane tickets at the last minute. Just remember it is a bus with a lot of other people—be prepared for a neighbor if you’re traveling alone and make sure your iPod is charged!

If you’re planning your trip ahead and traveling a bit farther, plane tickets might be your best bet. Besides Orbitz and and Priceline, you have another option that can often find you tickets for an even better price: Student Universe. This site is dedicated to giving students the cheapest plane tickets possible. They also offer deals for hotels and activities, much like Orbitz and Priceline—though with this site, you really do get the best price possible. So when you’re searching for your tickets, don’t forget to go to this site and fly for less.

Though many people don’t really think of it today beyond being in Sherlock Holmes movies, the train can be a relatively cheap way to travel. Yes, it takes longer than the plane (but what doesn’t?) and often the bus, but it could be more efficient for your bank account and less worrisome when going a long distance than having to confusingly transfer buses. Amtrak offers a variety of reservation options and departure times so you can figure out the lowest cost trip for you. Plus, traveling by train just sounds fun and old-timey.

If you do have a car, an easy way to save money on your trip is to carpool. Since you’re likely not going on a vacation by yourself, pack your car with your friends. Not only will all of you pay little in travel expenses by splitting the gas fill-ups, but you’ll also have a lot of fun while you’re traveling by playing car games. This option will also give you more freedom in terms of departure times, and you won’t have to worry about missing your connections.

Besides saving money on your actual travel costs, you can pad your bank account by getting good deals on where you crash for the night. Bed and Breakfasts are usually cheaper than the average hotel, though some of the really fancy ones can eat up your budget. Check sites like BNB Finder for deals on stays anywhere in the country. And don’t rule out hotels either. There are plenty of chains and other hotels who will offer deals for the amount of nights you stay, number of people in your group or just depending on the time of year. Factor Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz into your search. Hostels are also a cheap way to spend a night on your stay…but make sure to thoroughly do your research first so you don’t end up in a horror movie.

And don’t forget, depending on where you’re traveling to there’s always camping—meaning you can get rid of hotel costs all together! Just make sure you remember the bug spray. And pay attention to where the bathrooms are (if any). Also make sure you all stick together and don’t follow any strange noises in the woods.

As always, be safe and have fun on your travels while you save some Benjamins!


I’m reading Am Gov 2011

Drugstore Finds to Look Fab on a College Budget

Sometimes, in a burst of feminine energy, I am thrilled to be a young woman with myriad options to improve my appearance: make-up, flat and curling irons, lotions and creams, eyelash curlers and nail polish.

7 AM on a Saturday morning  is usually not one of those times.  It costs a lot to look good–and that’s after you figure out what works.  A regular weeding-out of my bathroom drawers tells the same tale.  I feel guilty throwing out items I’ve spent hard-earned cash on, but if I were not greedy with my counter space, I would be forced to either buy an off-site storage unit or kick out my roommate.  Clearly throwing them out is the only viable option, despite my deep aversion to throwing away dollars,

Fast-forward four years from freshman year and I have learned that generally speaking, paying a fortune on the expensive stuff is an exercise in futility.  Even if I could afford to splurge once or twice on the $40 shampoo, it was unsustainable.  Invariably the next time my shampoo bottle ran low, I was broke and bought some Herbal Essences crap that dried out my hair.

My new spot for trolling for new Beauty products is Allure’s Yearly Top picks, which are generally awesome.  Lots of (expensive) cult classics gained ridiculous popularity after publication on that list, and sometimes you get a fantastic cheapie (like a sangria lip gloss I bought one year) that you find you can’t live without.  Some excellent knock-off notables are available at your drugstore and I’m truly excited to share these, as they have been literally life-changing for me.  Think about rolling out of bed with great hair after always pulling it up into a bun in a rush to class.  Yeah, that falls into life-changing category.

HAIR: If you have naturally gorgeous hair in the morning, you ma’am, are part of the 1%.  I have no more advice for you 🙂

For the rest of us, try Organix Blow – Dry Straight.  Just try it.  The results will speak for themselves.  My hairdresser refused to talk about this stuff and I’m suspicious that it’s because it does exactly what the salon Brazilian treatments do for about 5% of the cost.  The mechanism is the same, it first strips the hair cuticles, then infuses them with keratin—the lack of which causes frizz and breakage.  Just know that it’s more like a two-week result you’re getting, but if you have medium to short length hair you’ll have extra in the bottle to work with.  The best part is, you can play with how straight you want it to be.  You can run the iron over it once or twice and get it stick straight, or just blow it out and have bouncier, smoother hair for a couple of weeks.

Then try Organix Moroccan Hair Oil – The Organix line, in my experience is under-hyped and uncategorically the only truly great value I have come across in a long time.  I literally thought to myself one day as I was driving (with the windows down and the wind whipping through my, by this point, awesome mane of manageable hair) this is he first time in a long time I feel I’ve underpaid for something. Specifically their hair oil will save you upwards of $25 on the original brand and it works beautifully.  When I haven’t used the blow-dry straight product in a while, I toss this into my hair after my shower, sleep on it and it’s soft, wavy, impervious to humidity and pretty.  NICE!

SKIN:  Neutrogena put out a more affordable version of the Clarisonic (Allure award-winner) that in my experience does the exact same thing and works with any old face wash. In my experience, your skin will look brighter and fresher, and ALL of your make-up will come off.

MAKE-UP:  Garnier under-eye roller w/ built-in concealer.  This is a no-brainer that I can’t believe they just now came out with.  All the vitamin-infused caffeine goodness that comes in other eye rollers with concealer already in it.  Boo-yah.  That’s at least 2 minutes off your 5-minute face.

My one splurge?  A good face lotion.  It is MUCH easier (and less expensive) to spend time and money on a product that keeps your face looking great, no breakouts, no redness, irritation and more even skin tone, than it is to try and cover up your beauty sins later with make – up.


I’m reading Discovering the Humanities