Students find ways to meet financial demands in tough economy

Thursday, October 9, 2008 | 6:04 p.m. CDT; updated 11:09 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Geoff Stumbaugh, a staff member at the MU library, locks his bike to the rack in Lowry Mall on Thursday. Since many student, faculty and staff are economizing by riding bikes and scooters many racks at MU are being filled to capacity.

COLUMBIA — College students are noticing a difference in their daily lives as the effects of the economy begin to filter down. Some students are making changes to cut costs such as cycling more and driving less and taking fewer trips home and more trips to the plasma bank.

On the winners' end of the savings trend, the size of the Add Sheet is increasing as are sales at Megabus and used clothing stores.

Top 10 Ways to Save Money in College

1. Buy and sell used textbooks online. Or, try to network with students with your major and borrow their books. Buying books from university bookstores can be pricey, and they have been known to pay minimally for textbook sell-backs. Sites such as are another resource to get rid of used books.

2. Collect coupons. Use Doormail coupons (the ones that come hanging on your door), or take advantage of "The Add Sheet" and weekend grocery coupons.

3. Going to the movies? Student organizations often offer movies for free. Check out the MU Calendar for free events. Another option is going to places like the Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, where tickets are discounted for students.

4. Get a bike (and a helmet), and ride it everywhere. Gas is too expensive. You’ll save money and get fit. Check out the classifieds in the newspaper for a cheap bike.

5. Chat with your friends for free. Using Skype or other online messaging systems can keep you in touch with your friends – for cheap, or for free.

6. Join an intramural sports team. Free socialization and exercise, fun competition, and you’ll be learning a rewarding skill. Or just put on your iPod and go for a run.

7. Make money. Tutor in a subject that you’re good at, or participate in studies run by graduate students and professors.

8. Furnish for less. Living on your own for the first time? Use old furniture from home, hit garage sales for deals, or search listings such as for inexpensive furniture and have fun creating your own look.

9. Make your own coffee. Most coffee shop java is just too expensive.

10. Pay in cash. Credit charges can get out of control, and debts add up quickly. Be safe and only spend what you have.



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"I eat out less, rarely go to the movies and cut back on all the expenses that I can," said Kirsten Weaver, a junior at MU. Although she has always economized, she said that she's now making cuts in expenses that she has never had to make before. That includes keeping her car parked.

"I bike or walk to school every day in order to save gas," she said. Weaver commutes from her apartment at University Village.

With rising gas prices, many students who live in nearby cities — for whom going home on the weekend was once an option — are cutting back, or taking the bus.

"I don't have a car, so taking Megabus gives me the opportunity to go home that I wouldn't have otherwise," said Molly Moore, a student at MU who is from Chicago.

Megabus offers trips from Columbia to and from St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago for fares that range from $1 to about $53.

"College students are one of our fastest-growing demographics," said Dale Moser, president of Chicago-based Megabus. With a daughter at MU, Moser is more apt to understand the economic struggles that come with student travel.

Moser said that over the past year, passenger volume has increased 219 percent on Megabus.

"As the economy has become more difficult, people that want to travel are looking for alternatives that can save them money," Moser said.

Rising gas prices have also been a factor in their increase in business, he said.

Gas prices have also sped sales of motorized scooters.

"When students find out that they can get 100 miles to the gallon on a scooter, it makes them really excited," said Cory Bohn, manager of Vespa of Columbia, which opened about a month ago on Broadway in the former Tucker Jewelry store. "It's the perfect solution for students who are looking to save money on gas."

Plasma Biological Service, which recently moved to 916 E. Walnut St., pays $30 for two plasma donations in a week, and Weaver says she has noticed more students have recently started taking advantage of the quick source of  income.

"I have definitely noticed an increase in people going to donate," said Weaver, who has been donating plasma for nearly four years. "Recently, I went in and had to leave because I didn't have time for the four-hour wait."

"From the money made by donating plasma, it helps some people just fill up their tank of gas for the week," she said.

No one at Plasma Service would answer questions for a news story.

The struggle to make do with strained resources also comes down to when and where students decide to eat. Some students have noticed an increase in food prices at on-campus food vendors, forcing them to choose between eating out and dining in.

And when they do go out to eat or shop for food, they're more likely to use coupons.

"The size of The Add Sheet has doubled in the last year," said Jake Sheafer, co-owner of The Add Sheet. "Advertisers have seen an increase in demand for our product."

While waiting in line at the grocery store the other day, Sheafer said he noticed that nearly every person ahead of him waiting to check out had Add Sheet coupons in hand.

The Add Sheet has also recently created an online version of the publication and has received lots of positive feedback, specifically from students. On-campus distribution has accounted for about 25 percent of the publication that is handed out each week.

Cheryl Guthrie, owner of New Beginnings Consignment Clothing downtown, has also seen an increase in business. The store has a broad clientele, but about one-third of her customers are students, she said.

"Sales in my business have definitely increased, but that could be a result of a few different factors," Guthrie said. "I definitely see effects of the economy, but other businesses similar to mine in the area have gone out of business."

Jennifer Johnson, owner of Absolute Vintage, another downtown vintage clothing store, said, "One thing that I notice is that we do not see the drop in business (as a result of the economy) that other businesses do."

Her store has been open for a year and a half, and the majority of her business comes from students.

"There is an increased awareness of the store and acceptance of the idea behind the thrifty shopper," Johnson said.

The importance of thrift may not diminish for a while, students say.

"I think there is this fear in the back of students' minds that it's not going to get better by the time we graduate," Moore said.

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Laura Schofield October 9, 2008 | 9:31 p.m.

Its funny how some good is coming of these economic troubles. At least people may be getting healthier from the walking, biking and less snacking (maybe even cooking at home more often - it's easier to stay healthy that way). Certainly our environment will get a boost from people driving less. The fact that more people are donating blood is also a plus - someone's life may be saved. Its just a shame that many people depend on their cars when public transport is not available. And ALL food is so expensive. I run a website where we have a huge directory of grocer's online websites. Here you can view the weekly flyers, print store coupons (which you can 'stack' or use in tandem with manufacturers coupons for extra savings) and even 'load' coupons onto your club card for some stores. Check out our online grocery shopping page for flyers, coupons and more at

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