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Special Thai Project (ATI): Review

Want to teach English in Thailand? Get some tips and advice and figure out how!
Railay Beach

Whew! I’m nearly two months into my teaching job in Thailand (nearly three months in Thailand overall) and things have been great. I like my students, I like the lessons I get to teach, and it’s been an overall positive experience so far.

I wanted to give a review of ATI’s Special Thai Project. I took part in the April 2016 3-week 120 hour course provided by American TESOL Institute’s Special Thai Project. The course was so helpful and make me glad I decided to take an onsite course rather than doing it online.


Those are the first two things I would say about ATI’s Special Thai Project. When I first starting looking into the program, I was concerned to the legitimacy of it. ATI has a dozen different websites and their social media profiles look like they’re run by a spam robot.

Despite initial concern, American TESOL Institute and it’s Special Thai Project program is real and legit. 


The course I took was the 3-week 120 hour TESOL course in Bangkok. Accommodation was provided for at JL Bangkok Hotel. Class took place from 9am to 4:45pm with an hour for lunch and two 15 minute breaks. Teaching practice days (during 3rd week of course) had slightly different hours.

The cost for the program is frequently advertised as “1590 USD/1142 GBP – -1390 USD/998″ GBP. ATI usually offers a discount of $200 USD, so the course cost me $1190 USD.

A thing to keep in mind is you will not be getting your first paycheck until around two months after your arrival. 

I arrived to Thailand on Thursday, March 31. I didn’t receive my first paycheck until May 31. I arrived on the 31st, did the course April 4-22, had a free week, then started my teaching job on May 2.

While ATI does provide accommodation during course, there are the other fees you have to think about. The costs below, in US dollars, include daily living costs, trips to Pataya, Krabi Town, Island touring, and Chiang Mai, and my deposit for my apartment once I got my placement (the school doesn’t cover this).

  • $515 | Flight (one-way, Texas>>>Thailand)
  • $1190 | ATI: Special Thai Project 3-week TESOL Bangkok course
  • $1400 | (2) Two months of expenses
  • $475 | Apartment deposit (I paid 16,500 baht for apartment deposit. 11,000 baht will be refunded to me upon moving out)
  • $650 | Flight home (one-way)(this is something I’m just over estimating but still planning for)
  • $4,230 | TOTAL 

Yeah, seeing that number can be a tough to swallow, read on below to find out more about it. Course and experience so far has still been super worth it!


One of the biggest benefits of taking the course is the guaranteed job placement. Upon completion of the course, you are guaranteed a job placement with 30,000 baht per month salary and free accommodation/monthly housing stipend.

It’s important to note: you do not become TESOL certified until you complete the course AND the one semester of teaching. 

You don’t find out your job placement right away. It’s usually during the 2nd week of the 3-week course that you find out where you will be placed. This is usually due to ATI working out placement deals with schools based on number of students in course and finding schools to place you in.

The number of students in each course is usually around 25-30. My course had 11 students in it, a lower than normal amount. six of us got placed at a school near Bangkok, three got placed in Khon Kaen, one in Rayong, and one decided to opt out of placement and find a job himself.

The teaching jobs will be standard 40-ish hours a week and involve 20-25 hours of classroom teaching. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

daily schedule for TESOL english teacher
weekly schedule as a Grade 1.3 teacher
weekly schedule for TESOL english teacher
weekly schedule as a K3 English teacher

Job placements can include being placed in more urban areas (my placement) or more rural areas. Most of the people in my course were happy with their placements. Even if they weren’t immediately happy with their new living and job situation, the experience quickly grew on them.

What happens when you don’t like your placement or want to opt-out? A few options.

The first one is speaking with the person who is overseeing the placement process. For my case, it was Pak. She handled the placement process and getting us set up in our apartments and explaining the visa process. Talk with the person and see if there are any other areas you can be placed.

Another option, if you finish the course and don’t like where you are placed, you may opt-out of it, pay $500 to get your TESOL certification and work on finding a job on your own.

A third option is to opt-out of the placement, abandon your TESOL certification and either go back home or go about looking for a job yourself. You don’t need a TESOL/TEFL certification to teach English abroad, it just helps a lot in getting jobs and getting a better pay rate.


Participating in ATI’s Special Thai Project was worth the investment. I’m really glad I decided to do an onsite TESOL training course rather than an online one. A big positive to doing the course was the teaching practice and networking. 

As part of the course, you get lesson planning and real in-classroom teaching practice. I was able to do four days of teaching practice: two days at an elementary school teaching Grade 5 and Grade 2, one day at a preschool teaching K2, and one day at a 7-11 college teaching 15-16 year old teenagers.

Our course’s teaching instructor, June, gave all of us feedback and advice after each day. Thai classrooms often have anywhere from 30-50 students in them. The teaching practice helped develop classroom management, confidence, resourcefulness, and ways of teaching different age groups.

It was so awesome getting to practice and learn before going and doing the real deal later on at my teaching job!

Networking and socializing with the other course participants was another plus. Discovering Thailand was easier and more fun when around other people starting out like you.

Having Pak from ATI, made apartment finding and signing easier as well. For my placement, I am provided with a monthly housing stipend instead of accommodation. Pak assisted me and the other five with finding apartments, talking to the landlords (who didn’t speak much English), and negotiating leases with the landlord based on our semester teaching contract.

The Special Thai Project offers classes two times per year. Check them out. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

I put together a list of frequently asked questions you may have. Feel free to reach out if you have any other others!

What are the requirements to teach English abroad?

  • bachelors degree (in any major, it doesn’t have to be education)
  • native english speaker

What’s difference between TEFL/TESOL/CELTA?

TEFL and TESOL are basically the same thing. Having either one of them will better help you for a job teaching English.

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA is a more intensive and formal certification for people who are really planning some serious long-term teaching)

Why ATI and the Special Thai Project program?

A big benefit? Guaranteed job placement with a known monthly salary of 30,000 baht. Finding a job, especially for first-timers, is overwhelming. Researching, setting up countless interviews, and trying to see if the school is even real…

ATI takes some of the stress and confusion out of moving abroad to teach English. Getting to be around a group of fun and diverse people was great. The people who worked with ATI, the teaching instructor and placement coordinator were helpful in providing assistance with visa things, Thai culture, accommodation, and more.

Is this only for young people?

Despite many of the people who do ATI, and other programs, being in their twenties, there were many people of many ages who participated in the course. Three of the people in my ATI course were mid-career professionals in their 40’s/50’s!

In the school I work at, there are several teachers in the English program who are in their thirties or forties.

Remember, what’s important is you have a bachelors degree and are a native English speaker.

Is the monthly salary enough to live on?

Yes. Thailand has a relatively low cost of living. My monthly salary of 30,000 baht, which is around $850 USD, is enough to live on.

Monthly expenses:

Food: 7,000 baht

Transportation/Travel: 2,500 baht

Utilities: 1,700 baht (1,000 baht electric, 100 baht water, 600 baht internet)

Rent: 500 baht (my school provides a monthly stipend of 5,000 baht, my rent is 5,500 baht)

Misc: 3,300 baht (toiletries, Thai cellphone, buying new shirts for school dress code color, random)

= 15,000 baht total (per month) | 15,000 baht saved (per month)

Now, this isn’t a perfectly set budget obviously. Keep in mind unexpected costs like visa expense and so forth. I did the course in April, started working in May, and now it’s June. In May I didn’t save any because I hadn’t gotten my first paycheck yet and the month had several unexpected expenses: visa expenses, cleaning and moving costs (buying sheets, towels, mats, and cleaning supplies, etc for apt), having to buy three shirts for school (my school requires we wear certain colors on certain days. Purple, yellow, blue, and gray).

What is it like in Thailand? Is it good? Is it safe?

Thailand is great and very safe. I love the beautiful landscapes and personality of Thailand. Remember patience is necessary. Patience is key

“Thai time” is a popular phrase used in Thailand. It’s a funny thing that can be taxing at times. When the people at the visa office were being unhelpful and slow, when people at the embassy were being unhelpful and slow, and so on. The key is to be patient. Understand that you are in a new place and there is an adjustment period.

Why choose to teach English in Thailand? 

Since you’re researching teaching English in Thailand, I’m sure you’ve read about other places to teach English. South Korea is a popular one.

So why teach in Thailand? Thailand is a good place for first-time TEFL/TESOL English teachers. You are able to get experience in lesson planning, classroom management, and learning to teach to certain age groups in a small amount of time.

Thailand is a good place to “get you feet wet” in teaching English abroad. The contracts are only for a semester (4-5 months) rather than the typical 12-month year long contract you would find in other places (like South Korea).

How much money should I bring?

I would have around $4,500 USD saved up. Keep in mind this includes the course fee of $1190-1390 USD, see the cost breakdown in the above cost section of this post.

What type of visa did you get before coming to Thailand?

I got the single-entry tourist visa. It cost $40 USD to get from my local Thai consulate office. This is the type of visa ATI will probably suggest to you and it was the most common one when coming over for the majority of people in my course.

How is the accommodation during the course?

I can only speak for the course I did, which was the 3-week TESOL course in Bangkok. Accommodation was provided at JL Bangkok Hotel. The hotel was good and clean and decent free Wi-Fi internet was provided. No breakfast provided.

Many of the students in the course didn’t completely like the Ramkhamhaeng area where JL Bangkok was located because there wasn’t much to do. Not many bars/nightlife or general things to do. They were happy with accommodation, just yearned for more to do. We often had to take taxi’s to other parts of the city.

There is a mall, internet cafes, grocery stores, and lots of other places to keep you satisfied for day-to-day stuff.

After finishing the course do I start teaching right away?

It depends on your placement. For me (and the other five placed with me), we had a week break in between finishing the course and starting our teaching job. I traveled around to different islands in the south during the break.

One woman in our program finished the course on Friday and started teaching the following Monday. Other people in our program had as much as two or three weeks off break between finishing the course and starting their teaching jobs.

Accommodation is provided, right?

Yes, sort of.

Either accommodation will be provided or you will be given a monthly housing stipend. My school gives a monthly housing stipend. The housing stipend is 5,000 baht per month.

The cheapest apartment I could find that ATI showed me was 5,500 baht. So I have to pay 500 baht per month in rent (around $14.20 USD per month), nothing big but worth mentioning since ATI often touts free accommodation.

I have a one bedroom apartment I live in by myself. Some of the other ATI members share an apartment.

How does banking work?

You don’t need to switch to an internationally recognized bank before coming, although it certainly helps. Check with your bank and set up a travel plan so you are able to use your debit card to withdraw money at Thailand ATM’s.

So far, I have not, and don’t really need to, set up a bank account in Thailand. This may be different based on your placement and paycheck distribution method (my school just gives us cash every month on payday).

Have more questions? Let me know below!

Traveling While in Debt

Traveling while in debt is possible if you remember three important things. Find out how

Traveling while in debt, is it sensible? When thinking about it from surface level, there appears to be only two options. The first is to be the aggressive saver and the second is to be the minimum payment payer.

When making debt repayment a priority involves the usual getting on a budget, tracking and cutting expenses, and looking for ways to make more money. Traveling and taking vacations is usually one of the big areas done away with.

However, your wanderlust vibe may not need to lay dormant while you finish paying off debt. When I started paying off my student loans, I originally thought travel would have to be put on the back burner. I soon realized it didn’t have to be that way.

While travel is usually costly quest to set out on, with planning and tenacity it can be a possibly while still in debt.


If you have credit card debt, student loan debt, or auto debt, then paying it off in a timely manner is important. If you have high interest debt over 5%, consider a plan of action about how you will pay off more of it

The biggest thing to remember when you want to travel while still in debt is figuring out a way to stay on track with repayment. If you’re making aggressive debt payments every month and don’t have much money left over, the refocus on what type of travel you want to do.

Travel doesn’t have to be a big, expensive thing

You don’t need to stay in high-end hotels and go to popular tourist areas. If you live in the U.S., destinations like Canada, Mexico, and Belize are great options. Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand have hefty plane ticket prices but the costs once there are really inexpensive. Many people are able to travel in Vietnam and Thailand for $30-40 dollars a day. Awesome, right?

Cruises can be another option. I went on two in 2015, one to Mexico and the other to The Bahamas. Lots of free activities and food was provided.

Exploring National Parks and Canyons is something I’ve been wanting to do. I’m a diehard watcher of Parks and Recreation, so Ron Swanson’s love of National Parks rubbed off on me. I’m planning to go on a road trip through Arizona and Utah in the next year or two, visiting The Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Upper Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion!


Have a separate savings account for travel 

Create a separate savings account specifically for your trip. Consider opening a high yield savings account with places like Ally or Synchrony Bank which offer around 1% APY.  It’s better than the 0.01% you are getting at a regular bank.

Remember than every little bit counts. Using automation apps like Digit, which periodically pulls a few dollars from your checking account, is a great way to trick yourself into saving more.

Give yourself a timeline

When I started with my student loan repayment, I gave myself a rough timeline of when I wanted to have a specific amount of money set aside for a trip. I didn’t even know where I wanted to go yet, but I knew it was somewhere!

It took about 15 months of saving, stashing away small amounts of cash, and automating my savings. Eventually I was able to reach my goal and got to take the travel trip I wanted this past March.

While I have been traveling while still making solid progress on my student loan debt, I understand the challenges of wanting to travel while in debt. If money after debt repayment is tight, really try to consider locally exploring to parts of your state or nearby places. Monitor flight deals to see where you can travel to cheap.

With some savvy planning and commitment, you might not have to wait until after you’re debt free to take a trip.

How do you feel about traveling with debt? 


Does Life End at Age 30?

Does life end at age 30? You don't have to "do it all" while you're in your twenties. Life and adventure don't magically end when you turn 30.

Does life end at age 30? I’m legitimately wondering because all around me it seems like it. The do it while you’re young and free phrase has been repeated, whether directly or indirectly several times.

Last week I turned 22. I went to work, people sang happy birthday and I ate a bunch of macarons instead of a birthday cake. Taylor Swift’s newfound rite of passage pop song ’22’ got played on repeat. It was awesome.

It got me thinking about the elusive milestone of turning 30 years old. Turning 30 is seen as this big, life changing thing and the benchmark age for “getting your life together”. What does getting your life together even mean?

What should you “have done” by age 30? Does it mean owning a house? Does it mean already gotten started on having 2-3 kids?

Society and expectations are tricky things to understand. The common things associated with turning 30 and getting your life together include: owning a house, being married, having kids, and working a respectable job.

Just like an infomercial for a useless product, but wait, there’s more! It’s not enough to have a house, you have to have a big house. You know, one that has a fancy master bathroom suit and two living rooms. A house that is big and modern looking with cool appliances.

Being married and “settled down” is expected when turning 30. Buying anything other than a robust engagement ring is considered odd. Not getting married with an expected timeline or not wanting to get married is considered odd.

So you’re considered odd if you’re 30 years and not married with a mortgage and kids. This has given way to celebrating your twenties and living it up while the fun lasts. Instant gratification starts to surface.

People are frustrated. They feel they have to be working a dream job, have discovered and done something amazing, own a home, and/or be married and having kids by the time they are 30 years old. They blow money on unimportant things and don’t plan for the future. They thing they need to get all of their adventurous things out of the way by the time they are 30.

It makes sense in some ways. Why put off doing something when you can do it today? If you have a yearning to start something or do something, make steps towards it starting today.

However, instant gratification works in negative ways. When you’re in your twenties and constantly hearing about friends getting married, having kids, and buying houses, it starts to wear you down. Even when you hear about people doing their dream travels or working a fabulous job, it wears you down as well. You want for your life. You want it now.

There was recently Saturday Night Live sketch about a frazzled millennial who came to her boss, asking for a promotion.

Boss: How long have you been here?

Millennial: Three days

It leads me to the first point…

Crappy jobs teach us lessons 

Nobody likes having a bad boss, dealing with office politics, doing mind-numbing work, working long hours, having a long commute, or even the horrendous act of someone stealing our sandwich from the office fridge :). But these jobs usually teach us lessons in some way.

Crappy jobs motivate us for change. They put you in a tenacious mindset of pursuing something better. You develop a thick skin and staying calm when dealing with nightmare situations and bad co-workers.

The coveted “dream job” is touted a lot. It lead to instant gratification problems of people wanting to quickly find an occupation that leaves them satisfied and fulfilled. But dream jobs, no matter how great they are, still require work. Having a fulfilling job takes time and experimentation, and realizations about what matters most to you.

Don’t get hung up on not being able to travel 

Ah, ladies and gentlemen, we are in the “quit your job and travel the world” era. You ever see those people on Instagram who have lots of followers and they’re always traveling and posting pictures of beaches and you aren’t really sure exactly what they do but their photos do spark your wanderlust vibe?

The importance of travel has become more prominent in recent years. It often goes hand in hand with the saying of travel while you’re young!

Does travel suddenly end when you’re 30? I don’t think so. Travel is more about mindset than hitting destinations. 

As you get older, your living costs will increase. Mortgage’s and kids might come into play. Why does that have to stop you though? If being adventurous and discovering new places is important to you, then make a plan for continuing it in some way, even after you hit 30.

Traveling, no matter if your 22, 30, or 80, is going to be a great experience. Don’t get so hung up if you can’t do it right this second.

People achieve success at a later age 

From young dudes wearing hoodies who start social media companies, to teen authors, to young activists, it can seem like if you don’t reach some big milestone by age 30, you are a failure. No.

Plenty of people have achieved greatness at a later age. Things will work out.

Your twenties are a time to live it up and experiment with things but don’t let the thought of having to follow a certain life syllabus hold you down. From what I’ve seen, life doesn’t seen to magically become unadventurous and incapable of trying new things once you hit 30.

Be patient, be intentional, and be active (both in the physical and intellectual sense, I have a feeling your 50 year old knees will thank you). As Parks and Recreation can show you, you’re never too late to do something new.


I’ll Never Stop Telling People to be Frugal

Frugality is not one size fits all. Money management is centers around understanding your behavior habits towards money. Frugality makes you conscious+better at understanding your behaviors and getting financial confidence

Frugality is not one size fits all. It’s something more. It’s a mindset used to be conscious of spending and priorities.

Every person’s financial journey comes to a point where they put more emphasis on either saving more or spending more. These two opposing perspectives are not mutually exclusive. Frugality isn’t something that has to be tossed aside in favor of making more money. They can co-exist.

Throughout my varying levels of frugality (broke college student frugal, entry level salary frugal, all encompassing general broke-ness 🙂 ) there have been critics about my level of frugality. Every step of the way. Some were simple joking around while many were bitter comments on my lifestyle.

Last summer

My car squeaked as I pulled into the driveway to park. Along with the periodic squeaking, my car would do a series of beeps when I turned the ignition off.

Why don’t you just get a new car already? You have a job, stop being cheap. 

My older brother looked in disdain at the car. Like others, he keep insisting I needed to get rid of my 12-year old car with 190,000 miles and go ahead and get a new car. Not another used car, not a pre-owned car, but a ~new~ car.

You want to buy a new car because then you know everything is brand new and you don’t have to worry about constant repairs. 

This was mentioned to me over and over by several people. Buying a new car was a “good” buy, they said, because it was reliable and making the monthly payments would help my credit score.

Being a person who focused on the “making more” approach, the thought of getting a new, better car started to creep up.

Why not get a new car? If I focus on making more money then I will be able to afford a car payment. A new car would be more reliable…

BOOM. Lifestyle inflation.

My frugal mindset quickly snapped in. I didn’t want to buy a new car. My 12-year old, 190K+ mile car was running fine. There was the repair I would have to do ever so often but the repair costs didn’t come close to what I would have been spending on a monthly car payment.

At the time, I was working my first full-time job out of university. With lots of student loans and an entry level salary to boot. I didn’t want more debt. I didn’t want to buy a new car because it was “the right” thing to do. I didn’t want to have a more costly “nice” apartment, mindlessly go to the movies every two weeks because “it was something to do” and charge $12 drinks to my credit card. I didn’t want any of that.

I want to pay off my student loan debt in a timely manner and focus on the writing and design projects I did in my free time.

During my first year out of college, several things weren’t a priority to me:

  • Going to the movies
  • buying a new, “nicer” car
  • getting a ~cool~ apartment that took 40% of my pay
  • Mindless hookups and hangouts
  • “get together” lunches and dinners
  • extravagant vacations
  • shopping
  • and many more…

Frugality stems from deciding what you really value and want in life. For me? I wanted to be debt-free. I didn’t want to buy a new $29,000 vehicle and have payments hanging over my head for six years. Student loan debt was not something I wanted to carry around with me throughout my twenties.

I wanted to live a life on my terms. Working a job I enjoyed, being debt-free and having time during the weeknights to work on my writing and design projects. Weekends being able to be used for adventuring and being active, both physically and creatively.

Although, as many know, building your ideal life can take time. So frugality helped me implement strategies to get there.

For over a year after college, I lived without a massive rent payment, didn’t go to the movies or get drinks or brunch constantly, and I aimed to live a more simple life.

I would come home from my job, exhausted, then got to work on my passion projects. Every month I saved a good chunk of my income, threw it towards debt repayment, some towards retirement and some towards my emergency fund.

All the while, family and various people kept commenting on why I wouldn’t buy this or do that. I nodded my head politely and went on my way.

One day, an opportunity presented itself: moving to Southeast Asia, Thailand to be exact, to teach English.

Leaving my full-time job, moving to Thailand and teaching English for a monthly salary of about $850 USD? It seemed crazy, until I looked at my current situation and saw it could actually work.

Due to my frugal ways in the months leading up to leaving the U.S., I was in a good financial standing to take the plunge.

I didn’t have a car payment, wasn’t bound by an apartment lease, and I hadn’t succumbed to lifestyle inflation after graduating university. With steady progress made on my student loan debt, a moderate amount of savings. and not a lot of personal possessions, I was able to quit my job, move abroad and experience a new lifestyle.

People are different. They have different personalities, goals, and lifestyles. So why does frugality still carry this stereotype of being cheap and missing out on fun?

I didn’t clip coupons, reuse paper towels or do any of the other extreme measures people often associate with frugality. I made it work for me.

Following the various personal finance advice of cutting lattes, cable didn’t entirely fit for me. Neither did the opposing advice of “don’t focus on spending less, but making more”.

If I had focused on making more while ignoring the spending less, I would probably be sitting here with a hefty car payment to my name.

Frugality helped me understand the importance of being money conscious. It helped me understand how delayed gratification can sometimes be a good thing.

The debate between spending less and being frugal or instead focusing on making more money is a hollow. It assumes money management is about following rules. It isn’t.

[tweetthis]Money management isn’t about following rules, it’s behavioral. [/tweetthis]

I’ll never stop telling people to be frugal. If you are not conscious with your spending, do you think making more money is the ultimate answer? It most likely isn’t.

If money management were as easy as just following what financial experts said, then everyone would be great with following a budget and saving 10%, 20%, or 30% of their income. Making more money would be the key towards solving our money woes.

Making more money does have it’s place. It’s easier to put more towards retirement, save 50% of your income, and ramp up your emergency fund when you’re making $60K versus $30K.

However, it’s not the be-all answer (check out #26 on Broke Millennial’s post). Being frugal, no matter how much or how little you earn, is important. [tweetthis]Frugality targets behavior and willpower, big components to understand on the path towards financial confidence.[/tweetthis]

Everyone should be frugal in some aspect. It doesn’t have to involve obsessively clipping coupons, reusing paper towels or living without toilet paper. It’s flexible.

Frugality is adjustable. Make it fit your lifestyle. 


Do you practice frugality? How have you analyzed your behaviors and habits towards money management? Let me know! 



Weird Things I’ve Done to Save Money

Weird things I've done to save money. I lived in my car, stocked up on fast-food condiments and more.

What weird things have you done to save money? The personal finance blogging world often throws around different ways to save money. Cut cable! Brown bag your work lunch! Unplug things when not in use!

What do you value most? What are you okay with getting rid of? I’ve heard of people even going as far as taking toilet paper from public bathrooms in order to save money. Ummm, okay, not for me.

Saving money all comes down to your own personal taste and priorities. It’s always funny when I see articles about saving money and in the comment section, there’s usually some disapproving comments about how saving money on this or that isn’t worth the effort, dumb, and so forth.

Why would you do that to save money! It’s not even worth it!

What? That’s crazy! No way I would do that. 

Well, if there is a thing living in Thailand so far has taught me, it’s that 1. hot water is not necessary for a shower 2. 20-30 showers are not a necessity and 3. Many Thai people either don’t have internet at their home or their internet isn’t fast enough to sufficiently stream Netflix *gasp* *chills* 

Let’s go through some of the ways I’ve gone about saving money.

1. I lived in my car for my first year of college

Probably the most extreme thing I’ve done to save money. During my first year of university, I didn’t get enough financial aid to cover room and board for the school year. Rather than take out some private loans (with crazy interest rates), I decided to live in my car.

It wasn’t ideal but I made it work. I hung out in the university library a lot, which had air conditioning, wi-fi, and big desks to work on (the necessities 🙂 ).

2. Getting a job that provided a free meal

Going through university usually means the rite of passage of working low-rung, minimum wage jobs. When I arrived at my college town, I started looking for jobs. I quickly found one at McDonalds (you want fries with that?) and got a free meal with every shift.

Usually I got to add extras to the food and even take some home. It made living the broke college life a little easier.

3. Saving condiments from eating out

Most of the saved condiments came from McDonalds that I took after finishing a shift.

4. Dollar Menu loyal

Sadly, the McDonalds dollar menu no longer exists in most places. Back in college though, it was alive and well. There were McDoubles, side salads, sundaes, small fries, large drink, pies, and 4 piece chicken nuggets, all for $1.00 each. I would usually pair up a “main dish” with fries or a salad for $2.17.

5. I kept store cups

I only kept a McDonalds cup. I would keep it in my backpack, order my food, then take it out and fill it up. It’s stealing, I know, I know. The habit died when I graduated from university.

6. Not washing my hair as often

This can be gross for some people, but it worked for me. I usually washed my hair around two times per week while in university.

7. Getting a “dumbphone”

The opposite of a smartphone. At one point a few years back, I decided to cut more expenses and felt I needed to get rid of my “expensive” $38.50 cell phone bill. I opted for a flip phone and got on a $10 a month plan for several months.

I now realize my “expensive” cell phone bill was probably half the cost of what most paid for theirs. You live and you learn.

8. College campus move out days=gold

At the end of the semester or school year, lots of students would throw out or leave a bunch of the school supplies, appliances, furniture and more (that their parents probably bought them).

Me and a friend went through at the end of one year and gathered up a bunch of school supplies, a small table, and a microwave.

Looking back at the somewhat weird things I’ve done to save money, it makes me curious as to what others have done. During my serving days, I know a big one many people seem to do: ghetto lemonade.

Ever heard of it? It involves getting the free water, then asking your server for more lemons (I can confirm, waiters hate this), then adding sweetener and the lemons to your water. Wha-la! DIY lemonade.

What weird things have you done to save money? 

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