How to save a year’s worth of tuition

Dan Rice

Dan Rice
Dan Rice

When I moved out of my parents’ house while attending CSU, it was a brutal wakeup call. Life is expensive in Fort Collins. Aside from the growing pile of debt awaiting me when I graduate, everything just piles up: bills, food, clothing, gas, entertainment … We accumulate a lot of expenses, and in college, it’s hard to counterbalance that with lots of income.

So, I’ve decided to take the words of Tyler Durden from Fight Club to heart: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don’t need.” Here are a few ways you can save a whole bunch of cash by making small changes to your lifestyle that will make both you and your bank account happier.


1. Kill food costs. Get your food at the grocery store as much as possible (I recommend King Soopers). The more you grocery shop, the more you realize that fast food joints don’t just take your money; they steal it. If you get a $4.50 grocery meal (and you can get lots of meals for much less), and eat that once a day for a year instead of a $9 meal at Panda Express, you’ve saved a whopping $1,642.50.

2. Kill coffee. $4 for a cup of coffee doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, does it? Well not if you take Starbucks’ word for it, but impulse buys are how lots of companies are sucking you dry. Let’s look at the math differently: if you replace a $4 coffee with a $1 cup of water, coffee, or even soda from the grocery store for a year, that’s $1,095 of savings. After all, what do you owe Starbucks?

3. Kill alcohol. I’m 22 and I don’t drink alcohol at all. I don’t expect the rest of the world to do the same, but an average of two drinks a week from a bar is a big pile of savings. If those drinks are $6, you’ve saved $624 this year.

4. Kill your gas. It’s hard to get around on Fort Collins’ lousy bus system, but if I can save $50 a month ($600 a year) on a tank of gas, I’ll happily do so.

5. Kill your parking pass. CSU parking is awful, and I’ve found it doesn’t make a bit of difference if I have a parking pass or not, besides that I have to walk a little farther. I can think of a lot of ways to spend $400 a year that are a lot more useful than parking.

Now let’s do some math, rounding down because humans splurge: $1,500 on food, $1,000 on coffee, $600 on alcohol, $600 on gas, and $400 on parking adds up to $4,100. Multiply that by four and you’ve got $16,400 over the course of your four years in college — enough to pay over a year’s worth of in-state tuition.

What are you waiting for?

Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at or on Twitter by @danriceman.