Sunday, February 21, 2016

10 Weekend Plans for Pitt Students Under $6

It's Friday night, you're broke because you just spent $100000 on textbooks, and there's nothing to do - right? Wrong! Pitt students have access to tons of entertainment options both on and off campus. Check out our roundup of the Top 10 Weekend Plans for Pitt Students Under $6.

  1. Pitt Football, Basketball, and other sports. 2015 Season Tickets for Penn State Football for students $218. Pitt tickets? Only $25! For the six home games on the schedule, that comes out to less than $5 per game, or even less when you count the free Panther Pitt T-shirt. Oakland Zoo basketball tickets are only $5, but they're sold via a lottery system. Tickets for many other sports (like Quidditch) are cheaper or even free - plus, attending less popular games will earn you Loyalty Points that help in the basketball lottery system.
  2. Sketch and Improv at the Arcade Comedy Theater. We love the Arcade because it's easy to reach by bus, they have a wide variety of live comedy every week, and they offer a student discount that brings tickets down to only $5. Better yet, if you're not sure about buying a ticket, you can check them out at the quarterly Gallery Crawls (the Pennysavers will be going down as a group September 25) for free. 
  3. Movie Night at Harris Theatre. Located right next to the Arcade, Harris Theatre offers student tickets indie and foreign films for $5. Their popcorn is also surprising cheap (by movie theater standards), so feel free to splurge on some extra butter. During the Gallery Crawls, they usually offer free short films on a loop. 
  4. Free Museum and Conservatory visits sponsored by Pitt Arts. 
  5. Special events hosted by student clubs and organizations.
  6. Salsa Fridays at CLO (21+)
  7. Pizza and Netflix

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Pitt Pennysavers Guide to Online Thrift Shops

Everybody knows it: thrift shopping is cool! Thrifting can save you tons of money, raise money for charity, limit the impact of sweatshops, and help keep old things out of landfills. You may love going out to your favorite local thrift shops, but have you ever tried online thrifting? Online thrift shops offer low prices and lots of ways to sort through clothes by size, color, brand, and style. Check out some of these websites where you can shop til you drop without ever leaving your laptop!

  • Try ThredUp for upscale and designer items. I found a $130 dress for $10 and a $150 blazer for $11! They also have some new with tags items - I got a brand new pair of jeans for $8. You can also sell your old clothes back to them for cash!
  • Try Schoola for a bigger selection with lots from Old Navy, Forever 21, and H&M with tons of stuff under $10. Plus, they donate 40% of the purchase price to a school chosen by whoever donated the item!
  • Also remember local Facebook Groups: Panther Consignment, Free and For Sale Oakland, Pittsburgh Flea Market, and others are great ways to buy slightly used items from other Pitt students for cheap!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

15 Free Websites & Apps for Students

If you're reading this, you have a phone or computer - why not use it to help you study, keep you organized, and manage your money? These 15 free websites and apps are must-haves for every Pitt student, and help save you tons of time and money.
  1. RateMyProfessors. Getting stuck with a bad professor, or even just one that doesn't teach to your particular learning style, can cost you tons in wasted books and failed credits. Use RateMyProfessors to read reviews on professors, find out how much work you're in for, and whether you need to buy the book. 
    The pepper speaks for itself.

  2. Google Drive. Write and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and surveys. After you make a document there, you can access, edit, and download it on any phone or computer. Data loss is real, so keeping your assignments and notes in the cloud is a must! You can also upload any file to the cloud and create PDF scans by taking pictures in the app. Plus, it has great tools for sharing and collaborating in real time.
    Collaborate with partners in real time.
  3. Google Calendar. Same deal - access your calendar anywhere. This is incredibly useful when you have to divide your time between classes, a job, studying, clubs, meals, and Netflix. Schedule in your classes and club meetings as recurring events. Overbooking is incredibly common for freshman, and a good calendar can show you how much time you actually have. 
    College students have busy schedules.
  4. IFTTT (If This Than That). IFTTT allows you to create "recipes" for your phone and online life. Get a text or email when it's going to rain, automatically mute your phone when you get to class, log how much time you spend sitting in your dorm, or keep a searchable spreadsheet of every text you receive. 
    A space wallpaper a day keeps the doctor away.
  5. Doodle. Create polls to find out what time everyone in your group is available to meet up. Since everybody in college has a crazy schedule this is more useful than you might think, especially for coordinating groups with 10 or more people.
    With busy schedules comes complicated scheduling.
  6. GroupMe. Create group chats between iPhone, Android, and their website. This is great for working in group projects and clubs. 
    You can view your messages online or on the app.
  7. Quizlet. Create flashcard sets and then use their different games and quizzes to help you study. This is my favorite way to memorize vocabulary words or formulas, and it's accessible online or on the app. 
    Their Space Race game makes learning fun.

  8. Duolingo. Duolingo helps you learn over 10 different languages with proven study tools. Learn them on your own, or use it to help you study for your language courses at Pitt. It was created by CMU students, and is guaranteed to stay free forever. 
    They even offer Esperanto!
  9. WolframAlphaGet step by step solutions on your math, physics, engineering, and statistics problems. You can also research hundreds of other fields. 
    Hundreds of other fields, like Doctor Who-ology.
  10. Khan Academy. Khan Academy claims it can teach you anything, any that's pretty much true. Browse free videos and study guides to help you study for classes like math, science, economics, programming, and even art history. They also offer free help for graduate school entrance exams like the MCAT or GMAT. 
    You'll go from subtraction to linear equations in no time!
  11. EasyBib. Search for the book, article, or other resource you're using, and automatically create an MLA citation for your bibliographies. If you input multiple resources, it will even alphabetize it for you - all you have to do is copy and paste. 
    Why memorize MLA when you can have a computer do it for you?
  12. PittCat+. The Pitt Library offers free eBooks and research articles. You can also use their catalog to search for CDs, DVDs, magazines, and print books in any of the school's physical libraries. Also check Google Scholar for more free research articles, and if you don't go to Pitt, see if your school has a similar resource of its own. 
    What better way to read free books on the wives of Henry VIII?
  13. Your bank's Mobile Banking app. A study found that over 30% of students avoided checking their bank account balance because they were afraid of what they would see - don't let this be you! Mobile Banking makes it extremely easy for you to stay in control of your money. 
    I wish my account had this much money.
  14. Mint. Mint is a must-have money management app. Input all your bank accounts, loans, and bills, and it will let you track how much you're spending and how much you have left to save. Set savings goals for everything from a next semester's textbooks to a week-long Spring Break vacation. 
    Keep track of how poor you are - on the go!
  15. Reddit's /r/college and /r/Pitt forums. Reddit is a great resource to ask real students any questions you may have. The /r/Pittsburgh subreddit is also useful for staying updated on cool events in the city. If you don't go to Pitt, here's a list of all the other college subreddits
    Talk to real students, eager to answer your questions for imaginary internet points.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

30 Insanely Easy Ways to Save Money at Pitt

  1. Keep a budget and keep track of what you spend. You’ll be surprised how much taking a minute to think before you buy and realizing how much money you might be wasting can change your habits.
    You're not this rich, so don't act like you are.
  2. Check our free Student Discount Map to find businesses that offer discounts in Pittsburgh. Not sure if there’s a student discount? Just ask! The worst a cashier can say is no.
  3. You know those survey links on the bottom your receipts? Fill them out! You can get coupons or even free food and other prizes for 2 minutes of your time.
  4. There are many ways to save money on textbooks so you should never pay full price. Buy used books, shop around online, and remember to check the library. Read our article “10 Ways to Save on Textbooks” to learn more ways to save.
  5. If you buy your own groceries, plan out your meals ahead of time to avoid buying things that will just end up spoiling. Learn to cook so you can cut back on takeout, invest in a lunchbox to avoid restaurant lunches, and adopt "Meatless Mondays" - meat is usually the most expensive ingredient in a meal.
  6. Ditch bottled water! A bottle a day can cost you over $600 per year, and Pitt has free water bottle fill-up fountains around campus to quench your thirst. 
  7. Do you use coupons? How about Groupons, LivingSocial, or Amazon Local? You can try new things for cheap or buy half price gifts certificates to your favorite restaurants.
  8. Websites like Cardpool sell slightly used gift cards for up to 30% off what they’re worth. Buy them for stores and restaurants you already love and use them yourself. If you buy from Giant Eagle, you can save big on gas.
  9. Attend Pitt Arts events. Not only do you get to see amazing free shows, but these events also usually include a free restaurant meal!
    Since you get a free meal this (probably) won't be necessary.
  10. Sign up for updates from Campus Connect, Pitt Arts, Pitt Program Council, clubs you’re interested in (even if you don’t have time to join), and other community organizations and follow them on social media so you get information about fun free events.
  11. Pick up a copy of the Pitt News every day to stay up to date on events and get valuable coupons. They include a page of Arby’s coupons every month - why wouldn't you want free curly fries?
  12. Don’t limit yourself to free events put on by Pitt. Community organizations like the Carnegie Library and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offer free concerts, lectures, classes and more.
  13. Attend large events like activity fairs, career fairs, music festivals, parades and orientation events to pick up free swag such as tote bags, water bottles, sunglasses, and shirts.
    You too can have this much swag.
  14. Sign up for rewards cards at your favorite stores to qualify for special sales and earn cash back. The CVS ExtraCare card gives you 2% back on everything you buy and the Qdoba card gives you every fifth meal free.
  15. Want to give a thoughtful last minute gift but short on cash? Make one, regift something you already have, or surprise your friend with a new app.
  16. If you live off campus, saving the planet can save you money! Unplug "vampire devices", turn off lights, take shorter showers, and watch your bills shrink.
  17. Earn money referring your friends with affiliate programs for companies like Amazon and Uber.
  18. Never see a movie without getting a discount. Discounted AMC tickets are sold in the William Pitt Union ticket office and other theatres offer student discounts at the door, sometimes only on certain days. Do the research before you go.
    They got the student discount.
  19. You go to a research university! Sign up for paid research studies to earn easy money. You can find them on flyers posted around campus and on the Volunteer section of Craigslist.
  20. Respect your stuff and the stuff of others. You’re an adult now, so if you break things you have to pay for them!
  21. Check to see if you can get a student discount for subscriptions you already use. If you tell Spotify, Amazon, the New York Times and other companies you’re a student, you can save 50%.
  22. Take advantage of Pitt’s Healthy U program. They offer 10 week classes in dance, fitness, yoga, zumba, pilates, swimming, and more for only $15-$30, as well as free one-time classes throughout the year.
  23. Take advantage of free public transportation with your Pitt ID and know how to use it. Use Google Maps Transit for help. If you do get stuck, at least take Uber instead of Yellowcab. Pittsburgh taxis are ridiculous.
    Have fun exploring London Pittsburgh.
  24. Do well in your classes and don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. Failing a class will cost you when you have to retake it, and raising a B to an A can result in a higher-paying job once you graduate.
  25. Don’t pay for tutors. Free academic help is available through the Academic Resource Center, Math Assistance Center, and Writing Center.
  26. Thrift shop. Macklemore made it cool. Many thrift shops, especially the new Pitt student-run store Thriftsburgh, sell the same clothes you would buy at normal stores. You save money and help the environment, plus many shops use their profits to help others.
    One man's trash, that's another man's come-up.
  27. Repurpose items instead of throwing them away. Check Pinterest for cool ideas on how to make something out of nothing.
  28. Don’t start any new costly addictions and kick the ones you have. Alcohol, cigarettes, and even coffee can really add up.
  29. Don’t do something crazy that can end up costing you fines. This includes torrenting and getting parking tickets as well as more serious crimes.
  30. Join the Pitt Pennysavers to learn more! If you’re too busy to attend our events, you can still follow us on social media and sign up for our email lists for updates and more tips like these.
    We're cool, you're cool, let's be cool together.
Do you have any other tips to share? Write them in the comments below!

This post was written by Angelica Walker, 2015 VP of the Pitt Pennysavers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

10 Student Discounts Every Pitt Student Needs to Take Advantage Of

One of the main reasons I chose the University of Pittsburgh was because I wanted a school in the middle of a city that would always have something to do. As a Pitt student, you have access to over 400 student clubs and organizations (including the Pitt Pennysavers, please sign up!) that are constantly hosting fun events and your Panther Card ID gives you access to tons of Pittsburgh museums and discounts for plays and concerts through Pitt Arts. Student discounts are also offered in lots of places you might not expect - check out our list of the top 10 below!

  1. Museums, plays, concerts, dance performances and more through Pitt Arts. Pitt Arts is a program that is funded with tons of money, yet surprisingly few students actually take advantage of it. Their most utilized program is Free Visits, which includes free admission to local museums and the Conservatory. Those are all great places to check out, but the best Pitt Arts programs are only advertised through their Weekly Newsletter. Signing up for the Newsletter gives you access to free trips to plays and concerts, which also include free meals at some of the hottest Pittsburgh restaurants! These events are often worth over $50, but as a Pitt student you get to go for free. Pitt Arts also gives you discounts to other events through their Cheap Seats program.
  2. Free bus, train, and incline rides through Port Authority. Afraid of riding the bus for the first time? Google Maps is your friend, and it can tell you what bus or train you need to take just by knowing your destination. Port Authority busses are now equipped with sensors that feed real-time tracking data to the web, so you can find out exactly when your bus will arrive. 

  3. Discounted movie tickets at almost every theater. $7 tickets to AMC Waterfront are available in the William Pitt Union Ticket Office. Harris Theatre also offers $5 vintage, indie, and foreign films in its intimate Downtown location (also be sure to check out live comedy at the Arcade Comedy Theatre next door for $5). In Squirrel Hill, you can see similar films at Harris' sister theatre, the Reagent Square Theatre, for $5 as well. Also in Squirrel Hill, you can see blockbusters for $6.50 during matinee times or $8 at primetime in the historic Manor Theatre
  4. Free software through Pitt's Software Download Service and discounts for online subscriptions, including Spotify and Amazon. Free software is available through your My Pitt Portal. This includes Microsoft Word, Windows 8, Lojack anti-theft, Mathematica, Minitab and more. They will also try to fix your computer for free if you have any problems. Being a student also entitles you to a half-price Spotify Premium subscription, discounts on Adobe products (Photoshop and more), and 6 months of free 2 day shipping through Amazon Student. Also, if you're buying a new computer, showing your student ID can save you hundreds of dollars.
  5. Free and discounted fitness classes, plus access to gyms, swimming pools, and awesome massage chairs in the Stress Free Zone. Pitt's Healthy U program offers 10 week classes in dance, fitness, yoga, zumba, pilates, swimming, and more for only $15-$30, as well as free one-time classes throughout the year. You can also join free teams for intramural sports, as well as club sports if you're serious about it. The Stress Free Zone got a brand new facility in 2014 with massage chairs and mindful meditation tapes. It's a great place to check out, even if you only have 20 minutes between classes. They also offer free Yoga and Meditation classes in the Zone.
  6. Free academic help through the Academic Resource Center, Math Assistance Center, and the Writing Center. People spend tons of money on private tutors, but as a Pitt student, you have access to one-on-one tutoring sessions for free. Even if you're doing well in your classes, it's always great to meet with somebody to get your A up to an A+. The Academic Resource Center also offers workshops in goal-setting, time management, and other things every student needs to know. The Writing Center offers help not only with papers for class, but also essays for scholarships and other publications. There are also various other tutoring services within individual departments, such as Chemistry, that your professors can tell you about. Also be sure to check out Pitt's Career Center for help with resume, cover letter, and personal statement writing, as well as free mock interviews and help finding internships. 
  7. Discounts on restaurants including Chipotle, Qdoba, Subway, Arby's, and more. Student discounts are offered at tons of restaurants both on and off campus. Chipotle and Qdoba both offer free drinks with the purchase on an entre, and many other places offer 10% discounts. Even though it may not seem like much, it adds up. You can check our Student Discount Map to find more food discounts. If you're not sure if there's a discount, don't be afraid to ask! 

  8. Discounts at clothing stores including Goodwill, H&M, and Forever 21. Goodwill offers a 10% discount at every store, and many other stores offer student discounts on certain days - be sure to sign up for their email lists to know when. If you're new to the thrift game and weary about buying from Goodwill, be sure to check out Pitt's own thrift shop, Thriftsburgh. Although they don't technically offer a discount, the store is open only to Pitt students and you can find fashionable clothes for up to 90% off retail - and they take Panther Funds! 

  9. Discounts on tickets for Pitt sports, as well as Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates games. Student tickets to Panthers football and basketball games are a fraction of the price than tickets for normal fans. You can get season tickets football tickets for only $25, which includes a free shirt. All of the Pittsburgh sports teams also offer some sort of discount for students, and Pitt Program Council usually hosts trips to a few games every year for less than $10 or even free. 
  10. Amazing events hosted by Pitt Program Council and other clubs, either steeply discounted or free. Pitt Program Council receives about a third of the Student Activity Fee, which comes out to hundreds of thousands of dollars, so be sure to attend as many of their events as possible. In my freshman year, I got to see Keenan Thompson, Hoodie Allen, and American Authors absolutely free. I also saw the Rainbow Alliance bring in OITNB's Laverne Cox and Campus Women's Organization bring in SNL's Sasheer Zamata, attended Black Action Society's Annual Step Show for $5, made a free bouquet on V-Day, got free food from the Vegan Carnival, went to talks by world renowned professors, saw free movies, got an airbrush tattoo and rode a zipline at Fall Fest, and got free massages and manicures at PPC's Day at the Spa. There is ALWAYS something going on! We publicize all the free events we hear about in our weekly newsletter, "What's Free This Week at Pitt?Also be sure to pick up a copy of the Pitt News every day and follow clubs (including us!) on social media to see what's up - or just walk through the Union and there's a decent chance you'll find something cool.
This post was written by Angelica Walker, 2015 VP of the Pitt Pennysavers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

10 Ways to Save Money on Textbooks

For our first blog post, we're writing about one of the first thing every student rushes to buy as soon as they arrive on campus: textbooks. College textbook prices have risen over 810% in the past 30 years, even faster than tuition.
Because of this, students (and the textbook companies) have began searching for more creative ways to get the textbooks they need. Most students pick up on this by their sophomore year, but freshman are often woefully unaware of alternative textbook-buying methods and flock to the most convenient, and most expensive, textbooks they can find.

Last semester, I spent under $100 for a full time schedule worth of textbook the book store estimated would cost me over $500. My friend still hasn't spent anything on textbooks, besides one $15 book she figured would make a nice gift for her grandmother after the semester was over. This post will explore ten of the most important tips we believe every college student should know when searching for textbooks.
  1. Don't buy textbooks before going to class! This is the single most important tip there is. Even while trying hard to save money on my textbooks, I still ended up buying two textbooks throughout my freshman year that I later found out weren't even the right books for the class. It wasn't just that they "weren't required to get a good grade", but the textbooks listed on PeopleSoft literally weren't even the right books! I arrived in class and realized that the two or three chapters from the book we would actually have to read would be given to us by the professor for free. Never buy textbooks without attending the first class, listening to the professor, and reading the syllabus. 

  2. Go to the library! Lots of people don't know this, but it's very likely that the textbook you need will be available in a school library (whether Hillman, another school library, or the public Carnegie Library) for free. The most popular books will require you to stay in the library while you read them, but many will allow you to check them out like a normal book. With renewals, these can easily last you the entire semester. Feel free to ask the librarian at the desk for help if you need it. Also, if you do have to stay in the library, this doesn't mean you aren't allowed to make copies of the book. You are given 900 pages to print with every semester, so use them! Be sure to also check PittCat+ for eBooks and other digital media.
  3. Download PDFs for free. When we say this, we are absolutely not encouraging you to "steal" textbooks by torrenting them - you can get fined and kicked out of school for that. In college, especially in classes such as english, philosophy, and political science, you can often find books online for free. Many of these books are so old that they are public domain, so when you buy the book in the store, all your money is going to the publisher to pay for the paper. Beginning your Google search with .pdf: will limit results to PDF files. Then, add the name of the book in quotes with the author, for example- .pdf: "Mill" "On Liberty" will yield a PDF of the book posted on McMaster University's archives. This method works best with literature, but you may be able to find modern textbooks as well.
  4. Use Google Books and Google Scholar. This is similar to #3, but  you have to flip through pages on the Google website instead of downloading the books. Often, they include only certain parts of the books, so be sure to check that before deciding not to purchase somewhere else. If nothing else, I find this useful for searching for quotes to use in my papers and finding their page numbers. Google Scholar centers around research papers, so it's great if you're doing a research project and need to find credible sources.
  5. Buy from other Pitt Students. Have some school spirit and help not only yourself, but also your fellow students. Buying from other students is a great way to get books conveniently at a great price. The best way to find books for sale is joining the Textbook Exchange group on Facebook. Just be sure to compare with other stores first and check the book for major damage, because like I said in the introduction, most freshman are woefully unaware - and most upperclassmen know that. Also, don't forget to sell your books to other students (or online) when the semester is over. You can also try swapping books with friends if you have one of the books they need.
  6. Buy books online! There are tons of websites looking to make a buck off of textbook sales. The best are eBay and Amazon, where you can compare prices between multiple sellers. I have found books on eBay for under $10 that retailed at the book store for over $100. If you're buying on eBay, be sure to check the shipping times - if a book is coming from overseas, it can take up to three weeks to arrive. However, many are sold domestically. Often, the cheapest textbooks on eBay are sold by local Goodwills across the country, so it's for a good cause too! Sidenote: Be sure to sign up for Amazon Student so you can get free two-day shipping plus exclusive deals on textbooks and other items.
  7. Rent books online. In addition to buying, you can also rent books online. You can rent from Amazon and Chegg for a fraction of the price it costs to buy. Just remember that if you damage the book, write in it, or return it late (check that the return date is after finals!), you will face hefty fines. 
  8. Buy used books and older/international editions. Professors are often required to list the newest book on their syllabus, but this doesn't mean you really need it. New editions of books usually change next to nothing, adding maybe a new paragraph about some current event and some pictures. Check your syllabus to see if you will need to do problems out of the book, in which case you will need the newest edition, and if not, save tons by buying the older edition. If you're buying on eBay, you may also be able to buy the International Version, which may be exactly the same with a different cover. As for used books of the newest edition, there's really no reason not to save - your book will be dirty by the end of the semester anyway. 
  9. Use coupons. One incredibly simple tip that lots of students forget about is using coupons. When you're buying anything online, it's likely that you will be able to find a coupon on RetailMeNot. This may only save you a couple bucks, but those bucks add up! 
  10. Know when you do need to go to the book store. Let's face it - sometimes, you just can't get away with any of the above methods. If you have a test or homework due the first week of school, buying books online might be a bad idea. Many science classes require unique codes to unlock the online homework software, which is included only with brand new textbooks. Although some are available directly from the publisher online (OWLv2 for Chemistry includes the software and eBook for less than a print book), be sure to check this ahead of time. If you buy textbooks from another student or online and they don't include the software, you may end up spending more than if you would have just bought the bundle from the start. And of course, there are special Pitt Edition textbooks, including lab manuals, that are exclusively sold at the book store. At least the interior design of the store in nice. 
Do you have any other tips to share? Write them in the comments below!

This post was written by Angelica Walker, 2015 VP of the Pitt Pennysavers.