Brandi LaBarre learned early in her college career that it pays to do your homework -- literally.
For a class assignment, she created the Savvy Student Shopper blog at the University of Maryland in 2010. The blog was all about how to live frugally -- skills she learned from her mom, who had LaBarre cutting and sorting coupons as soon as she was old enough to use scissors.
Three years later, what began as a homework assignment now makes money for LaBarre through affiliate networks and advertising. Today she posts deals and coupons and pictures of her own frugal finds. LaBarre is saving all the money her blog generates to pay off her student loans when she graduates in December.
“I’d also like to have money in my savings for my next car and my future house. It’s always a work in progress," LaBarre said.
With the cost of college skyrocketing to over $20,000 a year for public universities and over $40,000 a year for private schools, saving money has never been so important to the 20 million students who attend college every year.
The Secret to Buying and Selling Textbooks For a Profit
LaBarre also mastered the art of manipulating the textbook market.
“Buying and selling textbooks is all about supply and demand,” she said. “Buy when there’s a supply for the cheapest prices, usually during the off season or a few weeks into the semester, and sell when there’s a demand – not when everyone else is trying to sell their textbooks back.”
She advises checking online retailers like Amazon, Textbooks.com and Half.com, as well as local bookstores when buying and selling. Use an app like BuyBack to find out who’s paying the most for your books. She also says you should buy older editions whenever possible. And consider renting the book from a site like Chegg instead of buying it, or purchasing a digital edition.
Want to learn how to coupon like LaBarre? Take a class.
LaBarre offers occasional coupon classes for about $10-$20 per person, where she teaches the basics: Coupon rules, how to read coupons, drugstore shopping, Target shopping, grocery shopping, doubling coupons, building a stockpile and where to find coupons. If that sounds like Greek to you, consider finding a coupon class in your area. You could recoup your investment in just one shopping trip.
“If you’re willing to dedicate a few hours a week, do your own research, and change some of your ways, then you can definitely be a saver!” LaBarre said. “Even saving $10 a week on your grocery bill adds up.” To $520 a year!
You don’t always have to pay full price
What LaBarre doesn’t buy on sale or with a coupon, she finds at estate sales, thrift stores or flea markets. She makes her own clothing and gifts, and maintains a vegetable garden, raises chickens, and cans her own veggies, jams and applesauce. LaBarre also cooks meals at home rather than dining out.
Splurging on Shoes
LaBarre admits she rarely spends big on anything, but there are a few things she thinks are worth the investment.
“Quality shoes are very important, and every once in a while, I will pay around $100 for a pair of [sneakers], but they fit great and last a long time,” she said.
She also says a good-quality fleece pullover is worth spending on, because it will hold up and keep her warm walking around campus. And, as a blogger, having a Smartphone is a worthy expense “to stay in the loop and connect with my readers.”