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Bargain hunting: the college student's financial survival

Sept. 3, 2003

By Adriana Garcia, columnist

We're all pretty much in the same sinking boat here at Baylor when it comes to money. Well, that may not be the case because I've seen a few 350Z's around campus, and you people with Hummers ... those things are way too big to only hold about five people. But for the most part I think many of us are typical college students in need of some financial help. Along the way, I've learned a few things that are in every student's best interest to know.

I've acclimated myself to try and find a bargain in everything. While a bottle of water from a vending machine costs 75 cents, filling up an empty bottle at home is a better deal.

I never order sodas at a restaurant because they usually don't come with free refills. I prefer going to Sonic on Tuesdays, better known as half-price burger night. There's also the Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's that's only $2.99 from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can't ask for a better bargain than that one, if you ask me.

I also refuse to buy a new cell phone despite the fact that the one I have now is about two years old, does not have games, a color screen or even a built-in camera. It still works, though, and it beats having to take out a loan in order to afford some of the phones on sale right now.

But the one thing I've never been able to get around is gas prices. They have continued to soar and have turned my gas card into a melted piece of plastic.

I take great pride that my Sentra gets about 35 miles to the gallon on the highway and about 28 miles in residential driving. And just to set things straight, that's in complete accordance with Nissan's estimates on its Web site.

But although I'm proud of my car's performance, I need something more, something better. I need a better bargain.

Then I found a way to save about $170 a year in fuel costs. My new dream car is a Volkswagen Jetta TDI. It runs on diesel fuel and gets an estimated 49 miles to the gallon on the highway, according to the motor company's Web site.

So, after I went really crazy and did some math to figure this out, I realized what I'd be saving if I switched to a diesel engine, even after I took in mind that diesel sometimes is more expensive than regular grade fuel.

Honestly, what more can a poor college student like me ask for? It's money in the pocket, and I can't stress enough how important it is to learn how to save money.

Sooner or later, every one of us will need a little extra to get by, and I've given up waiting for a phone call from President Sloan that goes a little something like this, 'Hello, Adriana. I was just enjoying a cold Dr Pepper, but I wanted to thank you for being such a great student and an overall nice person. You know what else? Your tuition is on me. Sic 'em Bears!'

He's got bigger fish to fry right now, I suppose, so I'm finding my savings elsewhere.