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How to get through HBS without Going Broke

Are you at HBS without a paycheck and parental support (I’m not talking love, I’m talking dinero)? Have no fear! Below are several ways to save money while you are undergoing the HBS transformational experience without having to give up your novelty caffeinated beverages or passion for name-brand goods.

Now, if you’re an RC you’ve probably already dumped a lot of money on moving your belongings to Boston, frequenting IKEA, and buying Student Association binders for $5 a pop. If you’re an EC, you’ve probably spent a lot of money already at Daedalus, White Party, and on a new suit for recruiting. It seems like every other day we are getting PayPal links to spend more money on the latest and greatest way to avoid FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for those unfamiliar with the term). I am super guilty of not thinking twice before I spend (explain to me why I am forking over $1600+ to go to Oktoberfest in Munich for 4 days?!?!), but in an effort to be somewhat mindful of my expenses I came up with a list of resources that may help you gain control over your finances.

Stop Blowing Gas.
With section retreats and apple picking weekend trips all the rage this fall, check out www.GasBuddy.com to identify the gas stations in your area that are offering the cheapest price per gallon for your beautiful beamer. The website locates the gas station then maps it out for you. With petroleum prices as fickle as they are now, this site ensures you stop blowing your money on expensive gas.

Maxing-Out is not as fun as Making-Out.
A friend who shall remain nameless once told all her friends, “Only make-out with 25% of the boys you meet.” That was her ‘25% rule.’ My ‘25% Rule’ is a little different. As much as I don’t want your love life to tank, I definitely don’t want your credit score to crumble. My ‘25% Rule’ is to try to use only 25% of the portion of your credit card’s limit. Now, this is very hard, and clearly we all have different credit card limits, but the whole point is to be cognizant of your purchases and to think long-term. Five to ten years from now if you’re buying a house, your credit score will matter, so don’t blow it in B-School.

Someone smart once told me to diversify.
I am shocked by how many smart people and how many ex-Wall Street people don’t invest. Done properly, over the long-run, it’s the easiest trick in the book to generate returns; but for some reason, successful and ambitious twentysomethings don’t do it! If you are investing in yourself and in your HBS education, invest your money! Talk to an EC taking Investment Management if you are clueless, but I think having a good mix of domestic stocks, foreign stocks, mutual funds, and T-bonds is a great way to be involved in the markets long-term.

Love Luxury?
Who doesn’t love to invest in a great pair of stilettos, skinny jeans, or aubergine leggings? Check out Gilt Groupe at www.gilt.com to get access to today’s premier fashion and luxury brands at up to 70% off retail. It used to be the case that you had to have a friend invite you as an exclusive member, but now anyone can request membership. So whether you are looking for some great post-Labor Day steals or gifts check out the website started by two HBS alums.

Eat your way through HBS, not your Savings.
I love trying new restaurants. It’s such a treat to be surrounded with great vino, excellent company, and savory food. As an HBS student a lot of socializing takes place over dinner. Don’t let this eat into your savings though. Check out www.restaurant.com to get discount certificates for many great local restaurants. Bonus: The website will expand your horizons past Harvard Square.

Aim at TARGET.
I come from a small town in California where Target and Wal-Mart rule the city. Growing up all the cool kids hung out in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. Now, the cool kids are at Target. Why? Because it’s cheap and they have EVERYTHING! Target is a great HBS case example of a store that reinvented itself from the giant retailer providing commodity items to the discounter providing chic and trend-conscious items. Check out www.target.com to get great deals on electronics, clothes, makeup, furniture, and red cups.

Happy Savings!
Your HBS Money Honey,

Mia Saini

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY
Mia Saini is a born and raised California girl. She is earning her MBA and plans to be a business broadcast journalist “when she grows up.” She honed her journalism skills at CNN, WB, CNBC, and as a TV reporter at Jim Cramer’s www.TheStreet.com. She is the Founder of HBS TV and is a video host for MBA PodTV on www.mbapodcaster.com. Each week she will write a column about Money, Business, and Personal Finance, so email HBS’s Money Honey your questions, story ideas, and feedback.

September 28, 2009
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