HomeFinancial ExperiencesGoing back to college

Going back to college

I have some exciting news. Girl Ninja and I are going back to college. Well actually, we never left ;). No, I’m not talking about literal college, but college habits. You know, the days of Top Ramen, Hot Pockets, and smelling your clothes to see if they are clean enough to wear? Here are a few of the habits old habits Girl Ninja and I are reppin’…

Plastic Storage Bins:

Once we own a home, we will invest in some nice closet organization systems, but until that day comes we are rocking some plastic storage bins. We got ’em underneath the bed, in the closet, and near my desk. Are they tacky? Probably, but they do the job and save us a couple bucks. Who didn’t use plastic bins in college? You know you did!


Open our fridge any given day and you know what you are gonna see? A big ol Brita filter. I am way too cheap to pay for virtually all beverages (except the occasional white wine that keeps Girl Ninja calm and relaxed). We NEVER buy soda, orange juice, beer, etc. We do buy milk, but only because we put it in our cereal. Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to kick the “water only” diet. It’s good for my body, and great for my budget!

Cereal = Amazing:

How many of you substitute the occasional lunch or dinner meal with a bowl of cereal? This happens for Girl Ninja and I at least once a week, a) because we are super busy b) sometimes we’re lazy and c) let’s just be honest cereal is incredibly delicious and cheap. No better meal substitute than a big bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Now it’s your turn to take a walk down memory lane, and share some of the habits you never let go of after you received your diploma. At what point should we give up the ramen noodles and plastic storage bins?

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  1. Woah woah woah – you actually waste your time smelling your clothes? Just put’em on, man! A t-shirt lasts a week, jeans last 3 or 4 weeks, and socks last 3 days (unless you have a lot of ventilation in your footwear to keep your feet from sweating, in which case they last longer). That’s my system.

    • Woah woah woah – I’m with you on the shirts and jeans, but socks are good for one day. Two at the very most. If I wear socks for three days, you’d have to wear a hazmat suit to do my laundry.

  2. I’ve been out of college for 15 years, so it’s been a while, but some old habits die hard:

    -Shopping for household goods at yard sales (in college, I furnished my whole first apartment using garage sale finds).
    -Doing free activities for fun – I used to hike and camp a lot in college. We’ve upgraded to things like snowshoeing, biking and climbing, but once you have the gear, it’s mostly free after your initial investment.
    -Making things with beans – beans taste good and are cheap
    -House parties – we still hang with friends, drink beer, eat and are merry but not in bars and restaurants but at people’s homes.

  3. I’m with First Gen American-house parties are where it’s at! I also do potlucks regularly-cheap, easy and fun for all, just like in grad school. I have mostly kept my grad school mindset about money too, even though I make a salary now. My knee jerk reaction to expensive stuff is, ” we can’t afford that!” oh, and generic products at the grocery store-except for a few must have brand names, no-name is just fine, and way cheaper.

  4. Don’t forget the library! It’s a vast resource for new releases, magazines and DVD/CDs. If you buy just one book and one magazine per month, you could save that money just by getting a library card. I love the library.

  5. fun post 🙂 We actually don’t eat cold cereal anymore because it’s too expensive. I can make oatmeal, homemade whole wheat pancakes and waffles, breakfast muffins etc, for cheaper than a box of cereal 😉

  6. I am a leftover queen. Back in my college and immediately post-college days, I would not throw out one single leftover because I was always too busy/too broke to grocery shop regularly, so I had to stretch whatever I had. That mentality still lives with me today–I think I have enough spare pizza slices in my fridge to build 5 separate pizzas.

    I would totally live off Ramen and cereal if it were just me, but unfortunately the husband has this pesky desire to eat normal food once in a while.

  7. The hubby and I live this way. Having kids we do have to consider loading them up with fruits and veggies. So we buy in bulk. If you opt for frozen veggies and fruits (still very healthy), you get many more uses. With one bag of strawberries (for example) you can make tarts, healthy ice cream, smoothies, etc. Without a lot of cost or trips to the store.

    Another thing, we use a crock pot to prepare meals. By doing that you get many more meals out of just a few ingredients. One thing we love to do is use containers to freeze our crock pot leftovers for lazy days. Cooking this way we save tons of money and we always have something ready to eat.

  8. My favorite grad school meal:
    Chef Boyardee Ravioli, Bread, & Chocolate Milk
    I would make the ravioli and eat it. Then you take the bread and dip it in the ravioli sauce =)

    Total cost: less than $2

  9. I still go thrift shopping for most of my clothes. It takes awhile some times to wade through rack after rack, but worth it to find something that fits and looks great! I spend a lot for shoes since cheap shoes are terrible for your feet and posture and end up costing a lot more in the end in wellness bills and poor health. Same with food. I buy organics, grass-fed beef, fresh local produce (and I have 2 organic garden beds in my front yard – easy in Florida where the weather is good most of the year). I want to be uber-healthy, mentally clear and physically strong, so, I will cut expenses almost every where else, but not food costs. You can’t put a price on good health! 🙂

  10. I will always keep cereals as one of my favorite old habits! Pancakes and eggs for dinner is sometimes very cheap and fast to make! I like those simple things! Tomato sandwiches are another one that I always enjoy.

  11. I like your ideas. There is nothing wrong with water or cereal. Personally, I am a hot cereal guy which works for breakfast, although I have had pancakes for dinner occasionally.

  12. You guys are young and can get away with eating like a College kid, but that won’t last. You need to eat healthy meals with lots of vegetables. 🙂
    We drink mostly water and tea also. Soda and other sugary drinks are so bad for the weight.

  13. I wasn’t a fan of ramen noodles in college and I’m still not (they are super unhealthy for you). But plastic storage bins are super useful even after college. I bet you’ll have them for years.

  14. I actually live on less now than in college. Still have roommates, make my own food, and bike for the majority of my transportation. I’ve become more efficient at eating (pressure cooker) and biking (panniers), so it’s net cheaper. But, still just as much fun!

  15. I’m a huge fan of water – no soda, juice, or any such expensive nonesense in my fridge. I do buy the cheap packets of iced tea mix and mix up a gallon jug of that stuff though – that’s my big splurge. For quick snacks, I tend to hit the light yogurt. Nice to have a big tub of that in the fridge too. Can’t really think of anything else frugal that’s a carry-over from my college days because I had a meal plan the whole time and ate at the cafeteria. Except mixing cinnamon and sugar to shake onto buttered toast. MMMM.

    I’m trying to eat healthier, and that’s expensive. There was some article about how it was a luxury to eat really healthy – I think it was on Bundle about foodies in NY. Anyway, as a single guy it’s tough doing fresh produce because if you don’t feel like eating it, it goes to waste and I refuse to throw money away like that. Canned veggies are not as good for you (I don’t think) but I’m doing a pantry cleaning before ANY more grocery shopping, so canned beans and corn – here I come!

  16. Peanut Butter sandwiches are just as good of a “meal substitute” as cereal and nearly as cheap. More convenient to eat on the go too.

  17. Hmm, when I was in college I don’t remember seeing any Brita filters in many (any?) refrigerators. I do remember beer, however.

    Drink tap water! The water filter and bottled water companies have built an entire business on persuading the American public that tap water is somehow unhealthy.

  18. It’s been almost 6 years and we still have a ton of college furniture. I also have problems paying for a soda from a restaurant…just can’t get over paying more for a drink than some of the food itself…

  19. I am in college, and I know exactly what you are talking about except it’s slightly different for me. I do enjoy the noodles and hot pockets, but there is nothing like the Mcdonald’s dollar menu. 2 double cheeseburgers a small fry and a sweet tea with light ice and you are full for the rest of the night for 4 bucks.

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  21. This is such a timely topic…I’ve been looking at ways to squeeze the budget this year and attempting to stop buying (soda) pop was at the top of the list. I got a stylish reuseable cup for Christmas that convinced me to try doing water for just a month. I estimated I could save almost $45 bucks/mth doing it…how crazy is that??

    Oh, and I think plastic bins are awesome. They will ALWAYS be useful!

  22. My college foods that stick with me are the 12 pack of burritos that you put in the microwave for three minutes and you got a meal. They are $3 for a pack of 12 and they are good for at least 4 meals.

  23. Hilarious. These back to college habits aren’t bad on the pocketbook at all! You can easily throw in an egg, some lettuce and green onions to some ramen noodles and have an instantly more nutritious meal. Plus, the plastic bins look better with a table cloth over top hiding its true nature 🙂

  24. Mac n’ cheese, baby! I still rock it every once in awhile. Although I do drink a little too much wine, otherwise it’s pretty much strictly tap water and green tea for me. I don’t really enjoy juice or pop and am figuring out lately that I’m a little lactose intolerant so I skip out on milk.

    I haven’t bought much furniture since my university days, but I also tend to move every six months and hate moving big items. That’s where roommates come in handy!

  25. I am with ya on the Brita filter. It really does make a difference in the taste of the tap water at my last two apartmentand I do love a bowl of ceral for lunch or dinner now and then. My other cheap eats include apples with peanut butter, scrambled eggs, and stir fried veggies with rice–cheap, fast and delicious. Other carry-overs from college days: hunting for second-hand books, hitting up art shows and museum openings (used to go for the free appetizers; now I go for the art!), community concerts and activities, and yes–plastic bins. So handy!

  26. Hey- my 3 and 5 year old LOVE ramen!! And I love spending 30 cents on supper. 🙂
    When the kids get tired of it- we’ll kick the habit. They also love pb&j almost anytime, hot dogs (8 for 50 cents with my coupons) and cereal ( sometimes for as low as a dollar a box using coupons/sales) anytime of the day! I do get stuck buying between 4-5 gallons of milk a week because my youngest drinks at the very least 2 gallons a week by himself.
    My personal downfall is soda- I didn’t drink any in college and after having my first baby I can’t kick the habit (why did I start? because I puked all the time with morning sickness and sugary soda made it taste less gross to puke all day long). I only buy it on sale and never from a vending machine.

  27. Love this post! One of the things I doubt I will ever let go of is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I just can’t get over it! It tastes so good and reminds me of home!

    • a 4lb bag of elbow noodles (macaroni) from costco: $4. A 2lb block of velveeta also from costco: $5. a 12 pack of tuna (chunk, in water, thank you very much) also from costco – $13. For $22, tuna mac and tuna-casserole for 2 for more than 3 months! Yes, my husband did threaten divorce, but it was cheap!

  28. I like making egg scrambles in my cast iron skillet. It’s super cheap and is a good way to use up mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc. that are about ready to expire. I used to do this a lot on college, too – “breakfast dinners.” Pancakes, egg scrambles, eggs ‘n toast, oatmeal & raisins, etc. All cheap and really fast to cook. I’m not much a fan of cereal for meals, but generic Chex and Cheerios can come in handy for snacks or making a good trail mix.

    I love plastic storage bins, plus they’ve come a long way in designs and colors so I really don’t find them tacky at all. I’ll keep using them for clothing / stuff storage in my closets as they keep everything neat, organized, and the rest of my apartment decluttered.

    Drinking primarily water is a good habit no matter what age!

  29. Box of noodles and a can of spaghetti sauce and a box of jello for dessert! All items found at the dollar store could feed me dinner for a week! (I lived for about 6 months off of $5 a week for food)

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