1. Grocery Shop
Ok, I know you're already rolling your eyes, but hear me out; I swear, this is probably my most expensive lesson learned, and I still see my friends making this mistake: eating out too often. "Eating out" isn't just restaurants by the way, it's also the $5 coffee drinks from cafes and the pre-made sandwiches AT the grocery store. So, try buying ingredients. You probably have more of a kitchen now (at least compared to the dorms) AND more time (via lack of homework) so why not try cooking? But if you're like me, getting some stand-alone snacks, like fruits, cheese, crackers, etc, is grandly important as well. The point is, eating out and buying pre-made food can rack up hundreds of extra dollars a month.
Although there's room for compromise, of course. I recently talked myself into being okay with buying some already-made muffins from the grocery store bakery. Sure, it's not as economical as cereal or eggs or something, but spending $6 a week on a box of muffins still beats out spending $6 a day at the cafe. Baby steps.
2. Take Advantage of Free Amenities and Public Facilities
Yep, I just went there. Already. No, I'm not saying you should steal toilet paper (or stuff your purse with ketchup packets at McDonald's for that matter), but there's something to be said for free stuff. When you're out and about, use the restroom (especially if you're somewhere nice) and use the pretty-smelling soap. Reuse plastic bags that department stores bag your purchases in as mini trash bags. If you're going to go to the cafe, take advantage of their WiFi, water, and free refills. And you better believe you're getting that to-go box for the rest of your food at restaurants. Basically, get your money's worth... without being a teabag re-user (unless you're into that sort of thing, of course).
3. Pay More than Minimum on College Loans
Probably the one you don't want to hear me say, but when it comes to your college (or any other) loans, paying more now saves you SO MUCH in the long run. It can literally add up to thousands of dollars and many years saved from continually paying back loans. Of course, not everyone can pay back more than the minimum due every month, but if you can, you should, even just every once in a while. More $$$ in your pocket later on.
4. Listen to Music For Free
Notice how I say "listen" not "own." I am a musician, as are many of my friends, and I firmly believe you should pay a musician what they ask for their works. That being said, there's plenty of ways to fill your ears from morning to night with your favorite tunes without dropping a penny. The radio in your car, the multitudes of internet radios (like Pandora) at home, YouTube music videos, live music in your hometown, and revisiting your old collection are great places to start. Then of course, there's Spotify. On top of that, there ARE a lot of artists out there who don't mind if you own their music for free, because they're trying to build their fan base. GoodMusicAllDay.com is a good site for this, mostly in the hip-hop genre. Along those same lines, scour facebook for your friends' bands - chances are they've put out a couple free tracks, too. Bonus: you'll feel awesome at having 'discovered' a new band instead of just listening to what the top-pop radio tells you to. Hipster cred.
5. Walk, or Carpool
Pretty self-explanatory. Walk, bike, take public transit, carpool with coworkers, do things close to home, make sure you have your grocery list complete before going so you don't have to make a second trip, or jeez, just pretend your car's broken down if you want. Take up the unicycle. Gas is kinda costing a lot lately, if you haven't heard.
6. Splurge on Small Things
There's that indulgent "advice" you were waiting for. But really, it's important to feel special. Don't go so totally overboard with your new-found thrift that you feel deprived (and end up splurging a huge amount on something ridiculous later on, like a painting of Bob Barker). Just make sure they're actually treats, and only occur every once in a while: a fancy coffee drink once a week, a long drive once a month, a new accessory/toy every once in a while. Or, you know, things that don't cost money. Those are treats too (gasp).
7. Swap Old Clothes and Accessories with Friends
My friends call them Naked Lady Parties, and though they're not quite as exciting as our males friends seem to think they are, we do score some awesome new-to-us clothes for the low low price of parting with stuff we don't want anymore, anyway. It's a win-win! Even if you don't want to have a full-on get-together, see if your similarly-sized friend or neighbor would be interested in looking in your Goodwill-destined bag before you take it in. They'll probably return the favor.
Also, before you take that bag to Goodwill, stop by your local second-hand shop/consignment clothing store first, and see if they want any of it. Sign up for an account, go back later, and shop for free!
8. Drink Water
Because pretty much everything else costs money. And you probably need to drink more water anyway, as do two-thirds of Americans. And invest in a filter, because bottled water often costs more than soda. It's more environmentally friendly, too.
9. Make Your Christmas Presents
Lastly, just in time for the holidays: crafty presents aren't just for five-year-olds. Knit your mom a scarf, give your dad a picture you took in a frame, hand out homemade cookies to your friends. One year I gave my dad a "gift card" for a dozen back massages, and you better believe he used every last one of them. I also have given my niece many of my old stuffed animals and toys over the years, and though they're surprisingly hard to part with, they prove to be some of her favorite toys, and we play with them EVERY time I come over (and I mean every time).
That's it for now. Hope you guys like this! I may have to make a reoccurring line of posts about this particular subject...