Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

The Frugal Hoya: Resources for Thoughtful Spending in the School Year

Coming back to school not only requires buying books, course packets and notebooks, but also replenishing your supplies and (for some), staying ahead of the trends. It all costs money, and there’s no way around it.

But how can you manage to still afford not only the latest iPhone, but also Tory Burch shoes and Longchamp bags, without having to eat ramen noodles every meal?

1. Pick your (branded) battle.

Price and quality are most often deeply related, and so sometimes it’s worth just putting in the extra money — and avoiding knockoffs.

But should you pay twice as much for Advil as opposed to a generic ibuprofen (yes — the FDA requires generic drugs to meet the same standards as name-brand alternatives)? Do you need the $50 Monster HDMI cable for your TV, or will the $6 generic cable be just as good? Maybe. When it comes to your electronics, make sure to do your research ahead of time. Do you need to keep on buying Duracell batteries, or can you save by using rechargeable batteries? Look at your purchases and determine which products you want to save on, and which you want to splurge on.

Did you know: Research has shown that students who were asked to take a math test wearing real designer glasses were less likely to cheat (20% cheated) than those who were wearing fake glasses (60% cheated)?

2. Use online-coupons every time you buy online.

Don’t worry — I’m not going to advocate that you start using Groupon for that impressive first date. I get it, coupons are uncool. But when shopping at home, always spend an extra 15 minutes searching for existing available coupons and limited time offers. The money you save will add up.

My favorite website to find deals and coupons is is home to a community of smart shoppers, who post to forums the best deals they find online. Use their labor to help you buy things on the cheap. I’ve personally used this to snag a (completely useless, I’ll admit) Samsung Smart Watch for $80, and a 50 inch Plasma TV for less than $350.

Other notable resources:,

Pro-tip: use the search function. Deal websites like or have great search functions for their forums. Use them to find out about the deals that don’t quite make it to the front page but that might still be good for you.

Did you know: Research has shown that the cheapo stigma that comes with using a coupon even extends to those in line behind you, and makes them seem cheap too?

3. Don’t overspend on eye-wear.

Eyewear is an industry with incredible markups, and unless you’ll be coming in from abroad where prices are reasonable, it’s really easy to spend a couple hundred dollars on an average pair of glasses, and, likewise, for a year supply of contact lenses. Consider buying your glasses online, whether it’s at the popular Warby Parker (with their at home try-out program) or discount retailers such as Zenni Optical (where you can buy polycarbonate lenses for $20, shipped, from them).

For contact lenses, shop carefully. 1800CONTACTS is a good start. Also check out and other discount retailers which can not only be cheaper per box, but also offers 20 percent off coupons for first-time users. I’ve personally gotten a full year supply of Acuvue Oasis lenses for $134 with tax and shipping, which is half the cost of the same lenses at CVS ($270).

Pro-tip: Ask for your pupil distance when you go into a store for your eye-exam. It’s pretty hard to do reliably on your own, and if not well calibrated, you might get headaches.

4. Printer Ink Cartridges – on the cheap.

Companies will not tell you that a cartridge can be reused many times, and that you may even be able to manually refill and reuse a printer cartridge. In some instances, the savings can be substantial: for the HP 920XL cartridges, it can reduce yours costs from $68 (Amazon) to about $15 (also Amazon). Don’t want to deal with syringes? Buy the replacement packs from third-party vendors (e.g., Amazon, while carefully reading customer reviews.

Pro-tip: Careful with bulk purchases. The more you’ve stocked, the more you’ll use. Ever noticed that when you’re on your last set of cartridges, you purposely slow down how much you print? Perhaps even start shaking these cartridges around to see if you can get just a few pages in? Use that to your advantage. Only buy new cartridges when you’re just about to run out, and force yourself to print a little less.

5. Buy in bulk, but make sure you understand the units.

There are some necessities where it’s easy to save, particularly if you can find creative ways to increase your storage (check Pinterest for good ideas).

Toilet paper is one item. Trying to understand “TP math” will give you a worse headache than that Calculus refresher you’ve been postponing to take. A hint: it involves all your new knowledge regarding the relationship between number of rolls, sheets per roll, sheets per square feet and comfort. If you’re going to be serious about this, you’ve got to think about prices per 100 sheets.

Pro-tip: Use Toiletka, the toilet paper price calculator iphone-app for a little in-store help. Your life will never be the same.

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