There's nothing worse than being broke, especially in an expensive city like Charleston. You don't want to miss out on the fun because rent's due next week, so here are some ways to stretch your buck and keep you out on the town.
Permission to park without worries
Finding that dreaded yellow piece of paper tucked under your windshield wiper can ruin your day and your bank account. To avoid getting tickets you could always remove your wipers, or more sensibly, get a residential parking permit. For only $7.50, you'll have six months access to unmetered parking between those green and white residential parking signs around town. Visit www.charlestoncity.info.com for details.
If the extravagant King Street shopping district is a little out of your budget, and by a little we mean a lot, another option is North Charleston's Tanger Outlets. There are over 90 different stores including The Gap, GUESS, and Banana Republic, with factory and clearance prices. It's worth checking out — and so are the consignment and thrift shops in the Charleston area. Community Thrift Store in North Charleston is a good bet. Also check out Plato's Closet, a consignment shop in West Ashley, and the area Goodwill stores.
It's in the water
Although Charleston's drinking water is perfectly safe for consumption, naturally occurring compounds can give it an undesirable taste or smell, causing many to feel as though they have no choice but to support America's $8 billion bottled water industry. Get an $11 BRITA filtered pitcher or a filter that fits directly on the faucet for only $20.
For some, alcohol is a big part of college, but if you're not careful, you can end up blowin' all your money on pricey booze. Total Wine in West Ashley and most area grocery stores carry wide selections of wine and beer at affordable prices. Try to avoid places with expensive admission charges. If you plan on staying at one bar for a while, start a tab and settle up at the end of the night, adding a reasonable gratuity to your total consumption instead of tipping on every drink. An unexpected costly tab can be a buzz-kill, so don't be afraid to periodically ask the bartender where your tab stands and let someone else volunteer to buy rounds for the entire bar.
Conserve and recycle
On top of helping the environment, you can save on monthly bills if you pay attention to energy and products that you're using at home. Here are a few things that you should do that can lower bills:
- Turn off lights, televisions, and computers when leaving a room.
- Turn the AC off when you leave the house and set the dial a little warmer than you like just before bed.
- Replace regular light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.
- Fix leaky faucets.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
- Reduce the amount of water used with every flush by placing a brick or a half-gallon jug of water in your holding tank.
- Do laundry when you have full loads — or hang clothes to dry.
- Use dishcloths and linen napkins instead of paper towels.
- Save glass containers and invest in Tupperware or other durable containers for storing leftovers instead of foil and plastic wrap.
- Re-use plastic grocery bags as trash bags.
- Re-use ink cartridges with refill kits.
Refuse to re-fuel
Walking, jogging, biking, carpooling, and bussing can make a difference. You'll find that if you drive only when necessary, one tank of gas can go a long way.
Save on food
With a little strategy before you shop, you can save big.
- Get out your scissors and start clipping those coupons!
- Cards that matter: Harris Teeter's VIC, Piggly Wiggly's Greenbax, Food Lion's MVP, BiLo's Bonus Card, and CVS's Extra Care Card are just a few of the many savings cards you can get in the area. Combine cards with coupons, and you're practically buying food for pennies.
- Benefit from the Christian charity organization Angel Food Ministries, which provides food packages each month containing $100-plus worth of groceries for just $25. One package contains enough food to feed one or two people for up to four weeks. There are 13 different locations in the Charleston area that anyone is welcome to order from. This month's package includes chicken, ribs, turkey, ground beef, pork chops, potatoes, fresh vegetables, muffins, waffles, and dessert — all for $25. For more, visit www.angelfoodministries.com.
- Bring your own lunch and snacks to school or work. Consider: lunch costs an average of $8 at most sit-down restaurants in the area, and packing your own lunch costs an average of $2. If you bring your lunch only one day out of the week, you can save over $400 by the end of the year. If you bring leftovers from last night's dinner, your savings are doubled.
Buy in bulk
When it comes to everyday items like toilet paper, you can never have too much of a good thing. And if you find necessary items on sale, it doesn't hurt to stock up. Some of the best places for buying in bulk are distribution warehouses and department stores like Sam's Club, Costco, and Target.
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We hope you're not buying your favorite glossy mag at a gas station for $4 or $5 a pop. Individual magazine prices are exorbitant in comparison to the deal you get with a year-long subscription, which often costs less than buying three magazines off the rack. Order from the magazine's website or from www.magazines.com and you can save up to 85 percent on subscriptions. Browse the publication's website for featured articles that are posted for free. Don't forget what the public library has to offer — most have everything from magazines, to CDs, to hard-to-find movies. And, remember the City Paper is distributed free every Wednesday.