Monthly Archives: August 2014

Keeping the Coffee on the Cheap

With the start of the semester come early mornings, late nights, and long drives (well…at least for me as I hit the road between University Park and Carlisle on a regular basis).  This can only mean one thing:  COFFEE!!!!

I’m a big fan of this miracle elixir.  But I’m not a big fan of paying more than necessary for it.  The best way to save money on coffee is to make your own at home.  Every morning I brew a pot of Trader Joe’s Dark and leave for work with my favorite travel mug full and a backup Thermos to refill it from.  Sadly, sometimes this isn’t enough.  I keep a box of K-cups in my office just in case I need a little extra to get me through the day.  While K-cups aren’t as cheap as brewing at home, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a ready-made cup of Joe.

Coffee mug

But there are definitely times when I need to buy a cup of coffee, all ready to go.  I’m not a fan of the fancy coffees with the flavors and espresso shots and whipped cream.  I like my coffee black, with a bit of sweetener.  That definitely helps to keep the costs down.  But I’m always looking for a way to shave a bit of money off the cost of my java.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to bring my own travel mug.  The Sheetz store I always stop at on my way to Carlisle charges only $0.95 to refill my own mug, but at least a quarter more for a small in a cup they provide.  Plus with my My Sheetz Card I get a free cup after purchasing ten.  Kind of a frequent coffee drinker discount.  And for students at University Park, you won’t want to miss this special offer from Au Bon Pain.

Enjoy the start of the semester.  And keep your coffee on the cheap!

Start of semester budgeting ideas

The beginning of the semester is a bit of a whirlwind.  You need books and parking passes and ID cards and you’re trying to get settled into your apartment and read your assignments for your first classes.  And on top of that you have to deal with money.  Tuition bills to be paid.  Student loans to be disbursed.  Student aid living expense refunds to be budgeted.  It can be a bit overwhelming.

Many students are receiving large student loan refunds at the start of the semester to fund their living expenses for the fall term.  In order to make budgeting a bit easier, I encourage you to deposit this money into a savings account and regularly “pay yourself” by transferring a designated amount to a checking account.  When that pay is gone…don’t let yourself access any more funds until the next scheduled “pay day.”  This will help you better budget your money to last the whole semester and avoid a diet of pasta and ramen noodles during exams when you’ll be needing proper nourishment the most!


If you need help figuring out a spending plan that works for you, there are several helpful web sites you can refer to.  Access Group offers a budget calculator designed specifically for graduate students.  This Wall Street Journal article also provides helpful tips on how to develop a spending plan.

Challenge yourself.  Do you see places that you can reduce expenses?  Try it!  You may be surprised at how frugality can become fun.