How to save money on brews, booze, and other beverages when studying abroad
This is Part 5 of my series, “50 Ways To Save Money While Studying Abroad”. It’s been a while since I wrote about how to save money while studying abroad by eating cheap, and part of the delay was a lack of inspiration for my final 10 tips. However, that inspiration just came in the form of the coffee I’m currently drinking, so without further delay, here are The Study Abroad Blog’s “Secrets To Saving Money On Drinks While Studying Abroad”.
We all drink – water, coffee, tea, alcohol, etc., and we probably indulge even more when we’re studying abroad. Coffee flavors are more exotic, beer is consumed at an increased rate, and in some places (e.g. Beijing) bottled water is the only way to go. Whether we need liquid confidence at the bar, caffeine for the cram sessions, or just a little H2O re-hydration, the beverage bill can add up faster than you know, so here are a few hints to help you stretch your beverage budget.
Coffee And Tea
The most obvious tip?
1. Avoid them altogether
Personally, I drink coffee because I really do enjoy it, but I know many college students do it for the caffeine boost. While there’s no doubt you’ll have increased energy, you’ll probably also crash, and depending on how much cream and sugar you use you’re not doing much for your body. Instead of always reaching for a coffee, try eating fruits, veggies, and nuts supplemented with a little bit of exercise to increase energy. That way, you’re doing both your health and your wallet a big favor.
2. Buy a coffee maker/ brew your own
Yes, there’s the initial investment of actually buying the coffee maker, but with inexpensive machines costing between $20 -$30, you can easily see how you’ll make back you’re investment in a week or two. Keep the savings going by purchasing a reusable filter, and instead of ground coffee, buy beans in bulk and grind them yourself. Re-heated coffee retains almost all of it’s original flavor, so put any extra morning coffee in the refrigerator and revive it with a minute in the microwave later in the day.
3. Switch to instant
I know nothing about coffee drinking culture, but if I were to guess, drinking instant has to be the ultimate faux pas. That aside, it’s also the second best way to decrease your coffee spending craze (cutting it out cold turkey being number 1). With no coffee machine and no money, this was what I resorted to in Scotland, and it could’ve been a lot worse. I drank plain, black 99 cent Tesco brand instant coffee, but you can step up the flavor with cocoa or spices like nutmeg, and you can easily turn it into your favorite blended beverage with crushed ice, milk, honey, chocolate, etc. If nothing else, it’ll put a little hair on your chest.
– Note: Speaking of blended beverages, if you’re going to continue your daily drop-ins at places like Starbucks or Dunkins, don’t forget to sign up for rewards programs. If you’re an avid drinker, you can usually earn enough points for a free coffee every week or so.
4. Buy your brew from KFC or McDonald’s
Skip Starbucks and sip a coffee with the Colonel. An avid skeptic of anything and everything that comes from both McDonald’s and KFC, I had a change of opinion during my recent trip down in Shanghai. Wanting to pay less than the 22 kuai it costs for a coffee at Starbucks, but more than the 1 kuai it costs for a packet of Nescafe, I took a chance and bought a coffee for 6 kuai at a KFC one morning. Turns out KFC coffee actually tastes pretty good, and in recent professional taste testings, experts legitimately found that more expensive brands didn’t necessarily translate into better taste.
5. K-cups and Keurigs
Bring a calculator to the store the next time you go shopping, and I guarantee you’ll dispel the myth that a Keurig is just as cheap or cheaper than brewing coffee by the pot. However, in fairness to those that like their individual cup of coffee, start saving money by buying your K-cups in bulk. While you can find bigger boxes in wholesale stores, you can find even greater savings when you buy from websites and online retailers like Amazon. K-cups that usually sell for about $.85 can be bought (in bulk of course) for under $.50 a piece or cheaper. Buy a pack of 100 and you’ll probably save between $10 and $15 total.
Bars, Brews, and Booze
6. Pregame heavily
– Note: I’m not advocating drinking to excess, I’m just saying drink more outside of the bar than inside.
Anyone who’s ever been knows that drinks are expensive at bars and even more so at clubs. In Beijing, for example, a Qingdao beer that costs 6 kuai in a corner store magically costs 40 kuai in a club. What should you do? Revert back to your freshman ways (when you couldn’t get a cup for the keg), and drink before you head out. You’ll obviously buy a drink when you get to the club, but it’s only purpose is to prevent you from being the weird person standing around with crossed arms and nothing in hand. Milk it, and do your best to refrain from spilling it.
7. Don’t start a tab/Leave your cards at home
Although it’s convenient, don’t start a tab if you’re trying to save money. When you’re dancing, mingling, and having a good time with members of the opposite sex in general, adrenaline kicks in and the thought of saving money goes out. You end up buying drinks you don’t remember…until the next morning when you look into your wallet and discover the receipt. Better yet, empty your wallet before you head out for the night. Bring an I.D. and a limited amount of cash, and leave all of your cards at home. You would have to be pretty talented to somehow run up a tab with no debit or credit cards.
8. Go to the bar or club with girls
This is for all the guys who have ever bought a girl a drink, only to be immediately ditched afterwards, or to lose her to someone else before the night is over. Instead of buying girls drinks, search out bars that have special deals or free drinks for women, call up some friends, and mooch off of them for a night. I’ll admit it does sound a little lame/stingy/ungentlemanly, but in the end she’s not actually paying for your drinks and everyone shares the benefits.
9. Hit up happy hour
An obvious but often forgotten money saving method – drink for less during happy hour. While everyone has their favorite spot to get drinks, finding different restaurants and bars with happy hour specials is a great way to mix it up. While the app market is still a little thin when it comes to searching out happy hour deals, the old-reliable Google does just fine for the time being. This is also a great alternative to the in-house pregrame. Find a bar or restaurant close to the club you planned on going to later that night, then not only do you have cheap drinks, you also have a short walk.
– Note: Again, I’m not advocating getting completely wasted, and I’d actually probably warn against it as it can make having a conversation a bit difficult.
Don’t waste on water
10. Stop buying bottled water and bottle your own
Whether it’s flavored, seltzer, or just plain mineral water, everybody loves buying it by the bottle. But seeing as water is the one beverage you probably consume most of in a day (or at least should be), opting for a Dasani or Poland Springs instead of water from the tap can be costly. Just think – 1 bottle of water everyday at $1.50 turns into $10.50 every week, $42 every month, and if you’re abroad for an entire 10 month academic year, $420. Make a one-time investment of a Nalgene, and if you can’t handle water from the tap you can buy a Brita filter too. It’s better for the environment, cheaper, and if you have multiple bottles, it’s more convenient than running to a convenience store every time you get thirsty.
So there you have it, the last 10 tips in my series about 50 ways you can save money while studying abroad. As I’ve mentioned before, I may add more tips along the way, and click the links below to check out the other 40 money saving secrets:
If you have any other money saving suggestions, questions, or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!