By Times staff writer
Maybe you're on the verge of moving out on your own for the very first time, either to attend college or to begin your adult life. Or maybe you recently moved out on your own, and you're feeling overwhelmed financially. If so, the following tips can help you save money and avoid debt.
1. Watch what you ingest. If your natural tendency is to gravitate toward $3-a-day cups of coffee and spendy restaurant food, stop yourself before you wreck your budget. Learn to love inexpensive home-cooked meals -- or at least microwavable ones, if you really can't cook.
2. Hoard wisely. When you cook at home, prepare twice as much food and freeze and label your leftovers. Set aside emergency supplies of Ramen noodles, dried fruit and nuts, instant soup and other bargain snacks and meals.
3. Save money on books. If you're a student, compare your college bookstore's textbook prices with the prices for new and used books at BestBookBuys.com (www.bestbookbuys.com). You could save hundreds of dollars.
4. Opt for frugal dates. Options include on-campus cultural events, readings and lectures at bookstores and libraries, visits to local museums on free or reduced-price days, opening nights (with free wine and cheese!) at local art galleries and picnics in parks or on the beach.
5. Rent movies. You and your friends could spend loads of money on movie tickets, popcorn, soda, candy and other theater fare, or your could get together for a movie night and prepare your own snacks.
6. Get outside. In most cases, it costs little or nothing to go hiking, biking, inline skating or strolling on the beach at sunset. It also doesn't cost much to pack up some food and drinks and rent a rowboat, paddleboat, canoe or kayak for a few hours.
7. Decorate inexpensively. Furnish your first apartment through garage sales, classified ads and used furniture stores. Tip: Scour the curbsides on or near your campus right after finals. Many students abandon refrigerators, sofas and other heavy items rather than pay to lug them home.
8. Go thrifting. Raid the thrift stores in your area, or go up a notch and score quality work clothes by visiting consignment shops in high-end neighborhoods. Just beware of spending the same amount -- or even more -- than you'd spend at stores for new items.
9. Avoid credit card debt. As you adjust to your new life, be careful not to saddle yourself with debt or overextend your budget by relying on credit cards. Instead, opt for a debit card, which is limited by the amount of money you have in your account.
10. Remember what matters. You may feel hungry -- and even a little bit annoyed -- due to your current financial situation, but focus on what you do have: your friends, your youth and a bright future. Don't be surprised if you look back on this time wistfully in years to come.
-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey. Sources: MSN Money (moneycentral.msn.com/home.asp); The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook by Shel Horowitz (www.frugalfun.com)
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