The “Voice of Experience”- How YLS Students Live On A Budget

So last spring, I reached out to our current students (our now 2Ls and 3Ls) and asked them to share with our incoming Class of 2018 their tips for living economically on our student budget.  I can come up with a million suggestions on how to save money but the reality is that it’s your peers who actually live within the challenges of this budget who can best give this advice.   Many of these tips got incorporated into our Class of 2018 Orientation program but I wanted everyone to have access to these creative and innovative “budget saver” ideas:

“If you cook for yourself, rather than buy lunch, you will easily save $5 a day. And it’s easy if you just make a big one-pot meal on Sunday evening”.

“Pack lunch… if you can’t commit to a full week then just try to do it 3-4 days per week”

“Do once a month stock up road trips to Trader Joes, Whole Foods or one of the food warehouses (Costco, Sam’s Club etc.)- post to the Wall to organize a ride.”

“Invest in a thermos and make your coffee at home and bring it with you- I estimate that I save $20-$30/week doing this”.

“Look into signing up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. We used the Gazy Brothers Farm. They delivered a box of fresh veggies for about $25/week, and that was plenty to feed me and my two roommates. Not only is it cheaper and easier than buying a weeks’ worth of produce at the grocery store, but it is also much fresher and gives you an excuse to cook together! Plus, you won’t be as tempted to eat out. “

“Use loyalty cards whenever possible e.g. at the dining hall, arepa cart (where you can also save $1 for bringing your own dish). Save on coffee at the dining hall by bringing your own thermos, or better yet, bring your own tea bags and use hot water at the law school”

“There is lots of free lunch at YLS, but there will be weeks when most of the free lunches are just pizza and pasta, and you don’t feel like eating it for the fifth day in a row. It’s not a bad idea to make some meals ahead of time and pack food in your bag just in case there is no free lunch on a given day or if you’re not in the mood for more pizza.”

“Use the YLS Dining Hall coffee cards. It’s not the biggest budgetary saving, but a free tenth drink (any size or kind of drink!) is sure to make your day after a long week of classes and activities.”

“Host/attend potlucks and have friends over for dinner on the weekends. It will motivate you to learn how to cook meals and allow you to eat a variety of dishes for your meals with less effort. It’s also a great way to meet 1Ls outside of your small group :)”.

“You can reduce food costs by learning how to cook and avoiding going out to eat. (Join a CSA with a friend! Buy a simple recipe book!)

“Buy alcohol at Costco! Go a run at the beginning of the year and buy some wine for all of those dinner parties on the cheap”

“There is absolutely no reason to go out every meal (or even most meals… or even ANY meal) when this school throws free food at you – with interesting speakers to boot! “

“TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FREE FOOD! Don’t be shy. I have saved countless time and dollars from free lunches and dinners. Some students even keep Tupperware in their lockers to save leftovers for dinner”
“The Dining Hall can have good value. The pay-by-weight salad bar is surprisingly cheap and healthy. Breakfast options are good, too. Steel cut oatmeal and egg sandwiches are both about $2 and delicious. Don’t forget to get a coffee stamp card at Peets.”

“Make 2-3 servings of food at dinner, and pack the leftovers for lunch>’

“Stock your locker with snacks like energy bars or chips – these snack items are much more expensive from the dining hall or the vending machine.”

“Keep a mug and nonperishable food in your locker, so you don’t have to buy something if you get hungry. For tea drinkers, there is free hot water next to the vending machines in the locker area. I like to keep canned/boxed soup in my locker that I can microwave for a quick meal.”

“Seek out the free food at YLS–it’ll save you tons of money on groceries and eating out. Also, look out for happy hours rather than hitting bars at the priciest times.”

“There is absolutely no reason to go out every meal (or even most meals… or even ANY meal) when this school throws free food at you – with interesting speakers to boot! “

“Carpool with people (email the Wall to ask) whenever you can.”

“Get a bicycle- it’s cheap transportation and allows access to things (like affordable food)”

“Book travel as far in advance as you can – both Amtrak and flight tickets are significantly cheaper if you book 2+ months in advance. Don’t procrastinate on this issue – you will save hundreds of dollars.”

“Take advantage of the YLS and Yale-wide shuttle systems instead of calling taxis/Uber.”

“Look for Yale-sponsored research studies through the Medical School, Stress Center, and YNH Hospital where you can make money by participating in scientific experiments. “

“Be sure to investigate on-campus employment options (including teaching fellow positions for the undergraduate college – they’re extremely lucrative!) to provide supplemental, non-loan income.”

“I also strongly recommend furniture shopping at thrift stores, though you may want to reserve this for non-upholstered items like tables, desks, and dining chairs. My favorites in the area are Savers and Helping Hands Community Thrift Store (which, as a bonus, has a student discount!).”

“Look for furniture on Craigslist — many of the posts in New Haven are Yale students (sometimes even YLS students!) trying to get rid of their furniture before they move apartments or before new roommates move in, and you will often get furniture at a substantial discount.  If you can wait to purchase some furniture (or if you are looking to purchase furniture before moving into another apartment before your 2L or 3L year), watch for posts by graduating and moving YLS students looking to get rid of furniture. Many of them will be giving away furniture (and much more — casebooks, dishware, coffeemakers and other appliances, etc. — the list goes on!) for free or very cheap at the end of the year and you can get a lot of what you need then if you are free to pick up the stuff then.”

“The Yale Free & For Sale Facebook group is a great place to get affordable furniture and household goods from other students:

“Make an excel spreadsheet at the start of the semester about how much you will spend each month / -keep all of your receipts and confirm the charges on your cards are what you actually spend / -at the end of the month, compare your expenses to your budget”

“Buy winter jackets and boots off season. Online shopping or the Eddie Bauer outlet are great places to shop. Unfortunately you WILL need a winter jacket and boots!!”

“Rent or buy used books in good condition. Amazon tends to be cheaper than the bookstore if you want to buy, but the bookstore may be cheaper if you want to rent. OR get your books from the public interest sale, as long as you don’t mind that the casebooks tend to be heavily used/highlighted.”

“Avoid the temptation to get books asap and pay for it in higher shipping costs (joining Amazon Prime for the benefit of free shipping may be a good investment while enrolled). “

So at this point, I could summarize all this in a “rant” reiterating the need to stay on a budget, to track your expenses, to limit those costs you can control (i.e. food and entertainment) but instead I will let one final piece of advice submitted by one of our students speak for itself:
“Many students at YLS are living on a tight budget and limited means. Don’t be afraid to talk about finances or budgeting with your classmates, especially if money is a concern. We should all be supportive of each other!”


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