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How I Saved $20,000 as a Non-Traditional Student


Guest post from Cheri of CheriRead.com

When I started college (in my late twenties as a single mom) I had no idea where to turn for extra financial help. Pell grants and student loans were readily available, but I knew I needed more. I couldn’t live in the dorms or share an apartment with a bunch of co-eds, nor did I want to.

I started out my first year working two jobs at a time and never getting to spend much time with my kids. I needed an easier way to save and make more money so that I could complete my degree quickly but still have a life.

Thankfully, after doing a little digging I found $20,000 in extra savings — here’s how I did it:

I found a college with family housing.

Total savings: $14,400.

This was my first requirement when I transferred to a four-year university. The average rent costs, including utilities, at that time where I lived were about $700 on the low end.

Our university housing cost was $300 per month, including utilities. That’s a big savings!

I found a need and filled it. 

Total savings: $5,400.

Seriously. You would not believe the things you can do on a college campus for money. All you have to do is ask!

After a few months of living in my campus apartment, I noticed the trash was always running over in the laundry rooms and the light bulbs were always out. So I went to my housing department and asked if they needed someone to take care of those issues. It paid off big time.

They offered me the job of apartment manager and knocked half off my rent (including utilities) for the rest of my time there!

I asked for hidden money.

Total savings: $2,000.

Most non-traditional students don’t realize that there are scholarships available that they can qualify for, and institutions don’t always make that information readily available.

I received a $500 scholarship each semester for my last two years by asking my School of Business office if there were any extra scholarships I may not have heard of. No one else had applied, so my requirements were minimal.

I asked for local discounts.

Total savings: over $1,000.

My college town, along with every college town I know of, has a slew of businesses that offer ongoing discounts to college students. Some businesses have signs posted, but a lot don’t.

I got a list from the student activities office, but I also wasn’t afraid to ask if a business wasn’t on it.

These are just a few of the things I did to shave thousands of dollars off of the cost of my education, but there are many more.

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to ask!

Are you a single mom thinking about going back to college? If so, what are your concerns?

Cheri Read is a Christian blogger and freelance writer with a passion for helping women discover their callings and fulfill their dreams. You can find her blogging over at CheriRead.com about Christian living and lifestyle improvement.

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Brigette’s $59 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6



1 large Pumpkin – $2.99

2 Butternut Squash – $2.58

2 Spaghetti Squash – $2.98

2 Acorn Squash – $2.58

1 bunch Bananas (2.69lb @ $0.38/lb) – $1.02, plus receive $0.25 back from Checkout 51 – $0.77

I bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.29

1 head Cauliflower – $1.99

1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.99

1 bag Spinach – $0.89

1 3-lb bag Honeycrisp Apples – $3.99

1 3-ct pkg Romaine Hearts – $1.99

1 bag Greens Trio – $1.99

2 5-lb bags All Purpose Flour – $2.70

1 pkg Grape Tomatoes – $1.69

2 32-oz tubs Greek Yogurt – $7.38

2 16-oz cartons Egg Whites – $5.58

1 16-oz Cocoa – $2.19

1 8-oz Baking Powder – $0.99

Total: $46.56


Harris Teeter

1 gallon Milk – $2.99

2 12-oz pkgs Frigo Cheese Sticks (B1G1) – $5.19, used 2 $0.50/1 printable (doubled) – $3.19/2 after coupons

2 8-ct Grands Biscuits – $3.00, used $1/2 printable, plus $1/2 evic, plus receive $1.00 back from SavingStar – FREE after coupons/rebate

2 pks Crab Classics – $3.00, used 2 $0.50/1 printable (doubled), plus receive $0.75 back from ibotta – $0.25 after coupons/rebate

1 box Fiber One Bars – $2.50 – $2.50, used $0.50/1 printable (doubled), plus $0.50/1 evic, plus receive $0.50 back from SavingStar – $0.50 after coupons/rebate

1 box Nature Valley Granola Bars – $2.50, used $0.50/1 printable (doubled), plus $0.50/1 evic, plus receive $0.50 back from SavingStar – $0.50 after coupons/rebate

1 box Pronto Pasta – $1.50, used $0.70/1 printable (NLA) (doubled) – $0.10

3 Larabars – $3.00, used $0.75/3 printable (doubled), plus receive $0.75 back from SavingStar -$0.75/3 after coupons

2 dozen Eggs – $4.58

Total after Coupons and Rebates – $12.86

Weekly Total: $59.42

Weekly Menu Plan


Oatmeal with Fruit (from the freezer) x 2

Homemade Granola (this is what my kids ask for EVERY morning!) x 4

Cinnamon Rolls and Scrambled Eggs


Baked Potatoes with Cheese, Roasted Cauliflower, Apples

Peanut Butter and Honey on Rice Cakes, Mini Peppers, Bananas

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce and Cheese, Oranges x 2

Leftovers x 2

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Mini Peppers, Tossed Salad


Upside-Down Pizza, Tossed Salad, Homemade Applesauce (we still have apples to use up)

Fried Egg and Cheese Sandwiches (meatless), Roasted Butternut Squash, Orange Smoothies

Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Baked Potatoes, Carrots, Pumpkin Crescent Rolls

White Chicken Chili, Pumpkin Crescent Rolls, Carrot Sticks

Eggroll in a Bowl, Fried Rice, Peas

Leftovers x 2


Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars, Apples and Peanut Butter, Popcorn

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