Before you graduate you should probably know…

Kelly Skahan

Over the course of your four years at ‘Nova, you’ve lived through the gradual progression toward independence that parents inevitably force upon their children once they leave the nest. Freshman year likely involved successful trips to the mailroom, where an influx of care packages found their way into your loving arms.

Later, you could probably count on the ‘rents to slip $20 in your hand when you hugged goodbye after a break home and for some help with groceries when you were broke. Once you’re handed that diploma, however, things change. While your parents will probably help you out for awhile by providing food and lodging for a few weeks while you figure out what you’re going to do with your life, it won’t be long before they give you the boot and you’re left to buy groceries on your own. Calling for help when you need necessities (“But Mom, it’s cold! I need a sweater!”) won’t cut it either. You’re on your own, kid.

That said, taking care of the little expenses that pile up doesn’t need to be horrific. There are tons of ways to live the high life without going broke.Clothes often eat up a ton of college students’ cash when they’re in school. When somebody else is footing the bill for food, lodging, utilities and the like, why worry about blowing some money on designer jeans? Once the cash flow is cut off, however, things need to change, and that often means sucking up your pride and searching for bargains.

Basics like socks, plain white T-shirts, camisoles and boxers don’t need to come from somewhere pricey like American Apparel. A trip to Target can land you all of the above for a third of the price; if Hanes is good enough for Michael Jordan, it’s good enough for you.

When it gets chilly outside and you decide it’s time to stock up on sweaters, a trip to Lily Pulitzer or even J.Crew likely won’t be in your budget just after graduation. Take it down a notch and pick up a deal at American Eagle, Gap or Macy’s. Their sweaters are often buy-one, get-one-free, and a plain black, white or navy V-neck or turtleneck will never go out of style.

As far as food goes, club cards reign supreme. That doesn’t mean you need to pay for a Costco membership every year. Genuardi’s and Acme have free membership programs that get you deals on nearly everything in the store, and they transfer to grocery stores around the country. Safeway, Albertson’s, Save-A-Lot and tons of other stores will let you save, too. Trader Joe’s, believe it or not, can be pretty cheap as well. It often sells its milk at state-minimum prices, and as long as you’re not picking up gourmet bread or veggies, the cheese, snacks, pasta and frozen meals are often cheaper than equivalent products at the grocery store.

Finally, looking for a good deal doesn’t mean you need to get suckered in. Black Friday sales last week, rather than saving you a few bucks, probably left you hurting for your next paycheck.

The lesson learned: Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Think of it like an infomercial: If you didn’t want to buy one Shamwow, is it really a better deal if you’re getting eight?

The same goes for everyday shopping. If you’re not into Campbell’s soup, a six-for-$1 sale isn’t going to save you any money; you’re just going to walk away with six cans of soup you don’t want and one less dollar.