Saturday, December 17, 2011

"How your broke ass can give back"

In the spirit of skint, here's a video showing how you can support charity when you haven't got a dime. He says he'll donate a penny for every comment, so spam him hard.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Freedom from want

In the spirit of Christmas, let's talk about the pressure to buy, buy, buy, and how to avoid it.

Let's face it, we're surrounded by consumerism. Ads and sales and store windows encourage us to buy, buy, buy. Even local media reports on releases of the latest game system or iphone. How is a skint student supposed to get by when everything around us tells us how much we NEED? Basically, avoidance strategies.

Watch not, want not
Don't watch commercial television. Even during the news, flashy ads try to convince us to try a new flavor of Mountain Dew, tease us with buy one/get one sales and get into our heads with repetition. It's what they get paid to do, make you want to buy. If you never see the ad, you have no idea how much you need it.

Ignorance is Bliss
Unless you are planning to go into the tech industry, it's probably safer not to follow technology blogs. it will only make you feel like the phone/computer/game system/mp3 player you already have is not good enough. My brother is a gadget guy, and falls into this trap a lot. of course, he makes more money than I ever will. i say, if it still works, it's good enough.

Lead us not into temptation
Don't go window shopping at the mall for fun. It's a nice idea to "look but don't buy" but the siren call to open your wallet will be strong. Stray not from the straight and narrow path to the thing you went in to buy and hurry back to the cash register. If you're going to Fred Meyer for groceries, enter and leave by the doors closest to the groceries without wandering into the department store section. just keep telling yourself, "I don't need it. I'll get one after I get that high paying job." Or if you're like me, "Hmm, how can I make that out of scraps from MECCA?"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free Fun Day in Springfield

Note: This is my baby. I have wanted to put on a positive Buy Nothing Day event for a long time, and it's finally coming to fruition. I'm STOKED and I hope lots of people can come (hint hint)

Free Fun Day
November 25, 1pm-5pm at The Gathering Place, 230 Main St., Springfield, OR

With help from MECCA, The Gathering Place offers a fun, creative alternative to Black Friday. On the day after Thanksgiving, come with family and friends to make recycled crafts and enjoy a potluck meal. Why chase sales when you can make recycled gifts for your loved ones? Free Fun Day is low stress, no cost to you, and is a great green start to the holidays. For more information, contact me, froregon (at)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Update on banking fees

Thanks to a highly publicized petition through, a number of banks that had previously stated that they would be implementing a debit card use fee have heard their customers. One of my banks that jumped on this boat, Bank of America, has said that it will not charge me $5 every month to use my debit card. That may not be all that matters (Kudos to those who took the plunge and switched to credit unions) but it matters to me financially as a student. Dodged that bullet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Extreme Skint Tip: Change your handwriting

Do you find that your handwriting is usually large compared to your classmates? Are you still using wide ruled notebooks? Are you going through tons of paper each class? You may want to consider changing your handwriting. Make it smaller. Get the letters closer together. If you're using a pen, switch to a fine ball point. If you use mechanical pencils, use .5mm lead instead of .7. With more words on the page, you'll use less notebook paper and confuse handwriting analysts.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Harvest=Savings!

It's fall! It's cold! It's rainy and muddy! That means it's a great time to go to the out of doors and participate in the harvest, that special experience where the earth starts decorating with tasty things to eat, and we get the benefits. That was a little less poetic than I was going for...

This weekend I went to Detering Orchards. A trip requires a car, so if you don't have one, talk up the trip a few weeks before with car-bearing friends. It's on Coburg Road, past the town of Coburg, keep going, enter Linn County, and when you think you should turn around, keep going. On weekends it's crowded with children, but sometimes they have free apple pie and ice cream. Score! Once there, you and your friends grab big five gallon buckets and head for the trees. Most of the rows are labeled with the type of apples. Now, here's the trick to getting the most fruit for your dollar: windfalls. There's a discount if you pick your apples up off the ground, and you should really have no trouble finding rot-free apples. My roommate and I filled up two buckets and paid $16.50.

Now I've got to have an apple processing party for myself. My cousin scoped out some mason jars from a free box, which are reserved for apple sauce and maybe a few jars of chutney. I'm using this website as a reference for all my canning needs: Ball Canning and Preserving I've got my own food dehydrator, but since that one got send home to my parents', I'll be borrowing most of my preserving things from Grandma: food dehydrator, big canning pot, jar lifter, peeler/corer/slicer (these things are amazing!) and jar rings. The only thing I'm going to have to buy out of this deal are the apples and flat lids for the mason jars. Preserving means they won't go bad before I eat them, and I'll have tasty applestuffs through the winter! My after Halloween plans: grab all the unused/discounted pumpkins I can and freeze the pumpkin for pies!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Getting Around Banking Fees

I suppose it was bound to happen. Banks say "Hey, we're going to lose a lot of money!" They get a big shot of money. Banks say "Hm, that was good, but we were making a lot more money when we were being irresponsible lenders, and we're going to have to make up for all the money lost because of these enforced ethics." So they look to their loyal customers, people to whom they promised free checking lo, these many years ago (13 for me, thanks BoA) and say, "We have this about you start paying us not just for new checks, not just the random fees that we've charged over the years, but for EACH MONTH that you spend your own money."

Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo are all hopping on the bandwagon with this monthly fee idea. $5 doesn't seem like a lot, but if you used your debit card every month, it would be $60 a year. As a person who holds on to her 6 year old phone because she can't afford a smartphone plan, yeah, I want to keep that $60. I'm looking into credit unions to see if they can offer me a better deal. It's going to be like Mary Poppins in here.

If there's no better solution, I've got to get really clever. I got used to dealing only in cash while I was in England, but that was because I got my pocket money in cash. Still, I hear that taking money out of an ATM doesn't trigger the monthly fee, so if you don't have to use your card, just take out a handful of cash. The problem is going to come when I have to buy textbooks. Then I'll have to do MATH to figure out if it will cost me at least $5 more to buy my books with cash at the bookstore rather than my so far pretty darn clever online tactics. And I HATE doing math. That means to save the most money, I may have to limit my debit card use to the three times a year that I have to buy textbooks. Nice thing is, once I've already triggered the debit card fee, in theory, I can use my debit card the rest of the month. Bad thing is, then I'll get into the habit and break it out when I'm supposed to be only using cash.

This post isn't all that coherent. I'll make an update when I find out the deal with credit unions. Meanwhile, enjoy some Ben Folds Five.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Make your own flashcards

If you're taking a language class or another where you have to memorize a lot of vocabulary, you probably like to carry around a pack of flashcards. I know I needed them. But using one 3x5 for each word is wasteful, even if you have big handwriting. And the mini flashcards that come on nice rings from the bookstore play on your "paying for cool" weaknesses. Here's how you save trees, money, and space in your backpack:

1. Choose your cards. Staples sells 500 packs of 3x5s for $2.99 and 5x8s for $9.29. 3x5s are the best deal, you'll see why
2. Get friendly with a pair of scissors. It helps to have ruled cards in this case because they're easy to cut straight. For each 3x5, cut in quarters. You'll get 2000 flashcards out of a pack of 500. If you're using 5x8s, and you cut into 8ths, you'll get 4000 out of 500.
3. Money saving math: $2.99/2000=$0.001 per card $9.29/4000=$0.002 per card If you're patient, you could punch a hole in each, get one of those clippy rings, and make your own flashcard book for a fraction of the bookstore price.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Extreme Skint Tips: Gate crash clubs with free food

At the beginning fo the year, especially during Week of Welcome, lots of clubs have their first meetings or socials for new students to meet. If it's a club you're remotely interested in, GO! There is usually free food. In my first term at OSU, I ate so much free pizza that I went off it for six months because I was sick of it. If your'e religious or at least comfortable with religion, groups like Collegiate Christian Fellowship and University Christian Fellowship often have snacks or meals at their gatherings. International Student Association hosts a free coffee hour in their room in the EMU. Bring a mug and meet a bunch of students from all over the word over a cup of joe.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Food Stamp Flop: (hopefully) Part 1

Knowing that my financial need for this school year and those to come will far exceed my means, I submitted an application for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam, SNAP, also known as food stamps. Filling out the form was easy. Oregonians can apply online here But when I got to the DHS office, I was in for a big disappointment.

The restrictions on food benefits for students are strict. A student can only receive SNAP benefits if they are:
A full time student working 20 hours or more a week
A single parent with a child under 12
A married parent with a child under 6
Working any hours of work-study

Ah, there it is, my weird student situation rearing its ugly head again. Since I already have a degree in English, I'm ineligible for work-study (and most scholarships). But I'm not a graduate student, so I can't work a graduate teaching position. Therefore, in addition to paying out the wazoo for school, I also can't eat.

The worker at the DHS office was cold. As I failed to hold back tears wondering how in the world I was going to afford to eat, he passed over a list of places that hand out food boxes and told me it wasn't his decision. Them's the rules. I was really counting not having to worry about where I would find my next meal. It took a hit to my pride to admit that I needed government help, and finding out it was all for nothing is depressing. I don't know how any full time student can manage to work 20 hours a week and still get good grades like I want.

I'm not taking the denial lying down. I'm going back with my employment verification and financial aid in hand, and writing my elected officials to explain how unfair this is for independent students without help from their parents. I encourage other students in this situation to do the same.

Meanwhile, I'll have to stop by Kesey Square in downtown Eugene for Food Not Bombs, free food every Friday at 2pm and pull my weight for church dinners at The Gathering Place in Springfield on Sundays at 5:30. This blog may turn into a lot of "eating well on the cheap."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Extreme Skint Tip: Internet Free

Internet can cost $30-$40 per month. Over the course of a year, that could be nearly $500! What skint student has that kind of money? Here's a wild and crazy idea: try living without internet at home. This really only works if you've got a laptop that you can take with you to the campus libraries, the EMU, the Eugene or Springfield Public libraries, a coffeeshop (although if you're really a skint student, what are you doing going out for coffee?), anywhere you can get free wi-fi. It may be a moderate inconvenience, but you're likely to be more productive at home, and if you've got to submit something online late at night, you can always park for a quick second outside one of the public libraries with your laptop. When I first started experimenting without home internet, I would park at the public library parking lot and put in two quarters, enough for 40 minutes. I found that I could pretty quickly get my stuff done if I opened up my email, facebook, and all the blogs I followed in tabs, read them one by one, then when my time was up, I left and didn't waste time on the internet the rest of the day.

Extra tip: Keep a little notebook in your laptop case for stuff to Google later.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saving money on textbooks

The textbook industry can be pretty cutthroat when it comes to college students. They know that we've got to have the books to pass the class, and they charge a pretty penny for it, then come out with a new edition for the next term so the bookstore won't do buybacks. Legally, extra materials must come unbundled now, but a student could easily spend $500 in a term on books. It's shameless, really, but there are ways to avoid spending quite so many hundreds of dollars.

1. Know what you really need. If you think you can get away with it, put off buying books until you get your syllabi for your classes and se what you'll actually be reading. There's not even any harm in emailing your professor beforehand and asking him or her for a syllabus. If you're a third or fourth year English major, you might already have some of the material already, if you saved your Norton Anthologies. There's no point in buying a new book to read a small poem or play you've already got.

2. Use the internet. Materials for which the copyright has expired are usually available for free online. Try Project Gutenburg or Bartleby. Don't buy a glossy copy of Shakespeare's sonnets. Find the ones you need online and print them off for class. Entire novels are now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free for ereaders or to your computer. Historical texts are also out there.

3. Visit your local library. The campus library is nice, and may be the only place you'll find a particular textbook, but it's saturated with students all after the same materials. English and history majors should have an easy time finding novels and poetry collections at the public library. Library cards (and books, and CDs and movies) are free to those living inside the city limits. Just make sure you've got a hold on the book about a week before you have to read it for class so you're not scooped by someone else. In which case, quickly head to the campus library and order it through Summit. And do return on time; overdue fines are not compatible with the skint student lifestyle.

4. Take a class with a friend and share the cost (and the book). This works best if you live with the friend, because you don't want to be chasing someone through Facebook 2 hours before your test. It also gives you a good excuse to study with said friend and quiz each other.

5. Buy used whenever possible. If your professor hasn't made a deal with the devil/publishing company, they'll use a book that has been in print for a while. You've got several options for used books at UO: the UO bookstore, which supposedly gives 32% off used books to students; Smith Famly Bookstore, a locally owned shop with a location near campus with many of the textbooks available, and a general bookstore across from the downtown post office; and online sites like,, and Keep in mind that extra shipping charges apply, which may trumps any savings from buying online. When you buy used from, remember that shipping applies to each book, as they will come from different dealers.

6. If you have to buy new and the price is the same, buy from the UO bookstore during the rush. There's always the chance that you'll win the free book lottery, but this could end up being an expensive last resort too.

Selling back
Near the end of term, shop around online and find the highest price for the textbook you've got. Buybacks at the UO and Smith Family bookstores are often a ripoff for the price you paid. You might actually make a few bucks on a book or two if you do your online research. From what I can tell just by looking online, the best option would be to buy the book on or the UO Bookstore, and sell through through or

Monday, August 15, 2011

School Supplies

School supplies are my weakness. I swear I can spend an hour in the tiny basement floor of the UO bookstore trying out pens, feeling the weight of various notebooks, arguing with myself over a new pair of scissors when I've got three at home. I'm very picky when it comes to what I use to take notes, and having so many choices makes it a bit difficult to settle on the absolute cheapest stuff. If you're an art or architecture student...I can't really help you, but I do have some tips for the average note taking student.

1. See what you can get at home. If you're a freshman, the same kind of people who give socks for Christmas likely gave you some school supplies for graduation. Use them; they're free. Ask your folks if you can take some pencils from the junk drawer. My parents were teachers, so we had a box full of half empty single subject notebooks in the basement. If you've got things left over from high school--rulers, scissors, glue stick, post-its, spare lead for mechanical pencils, your graphing calculator--take them with you, and you won't have to buy new ones.

2. Troll Week of Welcome: Clubs and companies love to get their names on something you'll carry around all the time. At Oregon State, Campus Crusade gave away weekly planners for free. You'll probably be able to find soem pens and highlighters at a booth too. If you don't like the logo on the front of your free notebook, you can always cover it up with someone else's free sticker, or close to free craft stuff from MECCA.

3. Only buy what you are going to carry around in your backpack. If you restrict yourself to things you'll use every day, you'll save a lot of money that you'd be tempted to spend on a colorful assortment of post-it notes. Believe me: post-it notes have a way of multiplying; you will never need to buy them. The absolute basics can be cut down to three things: notebook, writing implements, and a planner. If you didn't manage to snag a free planner from some club, UO sells slim weekly ones for $5 that work really well, and you can cover the school seal with one of those free stickers. You might also check the Dollar Tree. Otherwise, shop around in the rest of the bookstore, Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, and Willamette Stationers, though the last one might be a bit expensive for the skint student, and office supply stores may not have a great selection of academic planners. Choose the best price, not just the best in the store. PS: You'll probably also need some printer paper. Keep an eye out for buy one, get one free sales, and you'll probably have paper until you graduate.

4. Shop during the regular back to school sales. By the time college students head out, the K-12s have had their pick, and prices have gone back to normal. Watch the newspaper for good deals. My dad would buy tons of single subject notebooks for his students, and he would get 10 for $1 at BiMart or Fred Meyer. When my church put together packs of school supplies for students in our community, I found paper, portfolios, and rulers for pennies with coupons at Office Max. Packets of pens or pencils can be found at similar prices if you know where to look. While you're at it, get a memo pad to keep track of your spending for the year.

5. Don't pay for cool: This is college. No one cares if you've got a rad Trapper Keeper. You shouldn't pay more than $1 for even the best single subject composition book (if that's your thing). If the neon pencils are cheaper than regular, by all means, get them, but don't splurge on a notebook with Garfield on the front just because it's ironic.
6. Refill your ink. New printer cartridges come about half full. There are plenty of Rapid Refill places around Eugene that will top up your ink.

My choices
Like I said, I'm very particular about what I use for school, but luckily for my wallet, they aren't all that extravagent. I use a 5 subject notebook, preferably with pocket dividers. Even as an English major with lots of ideas and dates to write down, the one notebook lasted all year. I put my syllabi in th pockets on the first day of class so I don't loose them. Being eco-skint, I look out for 100% recycled paper when I can find it. This year's is coming from Office Max. I use mechanical pencils so I don't have to worry about sharpening, and if I manage not to lose them (I've got a used pencil case this time around), then I can easily refill them with my choice of lead. I keep a couple of #2 pencils that I stole from the junk drawer in case I need them for a test. I found a small weekly planner while I was in England for 99p (about $1.50) and I may decorate it with something from MECCA. With careful unbinding, my notebook can be transfigured into "Hogwarts: A History" and my planner into "Advanced Potions" for pennies.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grand Opening of SkintStudentLife!

Welcome to SkintStudentLife! I am Hannah, and this September I will be rejoining the ranks of penniless students at University of Oregon. I graduated in UO in 2006 with a BA in English, spent 5 years figuring out what I want to do with my life, and it turns out that what I want to do with my life requires a Master's degree in Communications Disorders and Sciences. That means 3 more years of school. My BA puts me at a disadvantage for scholarships and funding, so even though I am already very used to living within my means, I'm going to have to put a lot more effort into it this time around. I have made some choices based on emotions that were financially unfavorable, and living frugally is soon to become a matter of survival, so I plan to use this blog to keep myself well disciplined. However, I still believe in voluntary simplicity and mindful anti-consumerism, so my plans for saving money aren't always going to be about the bottom line. I've got a backlog of blog posts that I've been working on, including topics like saving on school supplies, apartment hunting, and Extreme Skint Tips: slightly ridiculous ways to pinch pennies. This blog may be a little Lane County-centric or University of Oregon-centric, because that is where I will be living/studying, but I hope all readers can take away some advice that will apply to their situations.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Online book buying tip

Get on the email lists for and Barnes and Noble. They send occasionally notices for special sales and sometimes really great coupons. In what I usually dismiss as junk mail was a 50% off coupon for one item from (RIP). I used it to buy a new $120 book for $60 (free shipping for people signed up for Borders Rewards) which would have been $76.75 used in the UO bookstore. When I sell that puppy back for $100, I'll make nearly enough to buy two more. (I had calculated this out to where I was going to be out $20 and was pleased...which is only proof that I'm doofus at math.) If you start looking for books as soon as the lists come out, you'll probably get some coinciding coupons in time for the next term.