Best Ways to Live Cheaply During Grad School at Elon

If you are looking for the best ways to save money on everyday things as an Elon University graduate student, this article should put you off to a good start.  In it, I will discuss some of the cheapest options for things from groceries to gas.  Elon’s finance department does a good job of including cost-of-living expenses in your student loans; but saving money is still a necessity and is a good practice in general.

Groceries

The main grocers in the Burlington area are Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Food , and Wal-Mart.  There is also an ALDI discount market, and a BJ’s Wholesale Club (membership-based).

While ALDI offers great discounts, it is a no-frills establishment and not a traditional store.  The majority of the merchandise is on pallets rather than shelves.  And one of ALDI’s secrets for keeping prices down is to run their stores with minimal staff.  This can mean long lines waiting to check out.

BJ’s Wholesale Club is a warehouse store along the lines of Sam’s Club and Costco.  Basic yearly membership costs $50 and entitles the member not only to the store’s goods, but also to such services as gas stations.  It is not a traditional grocery store, but may be right for you if you do not mind warehouse-style stores.

For the remaining four chain stores, follow this link to a great store comparison by Ande Truman and this comparison by Steve Rhode, The Get Out of Debt Guy. Overall, it seems that Wal-Mart is the winner for cheap groceries in Burlington.

Gas

To keep up with the ever-changing prices, visit this site to find out which is the cheapest.

Movie Theater

There are two main movie theaters in the Burlington area: Carousel Cinemas at Alamance Crossing and Graham Cinema.

Carousel Cinemas is a traditional, first-run movie theater (screening new movies).  First-run movie ticket prices tend to rise by the year; but as of this writing, the price for an Elon student evening ticket is $8.50.

Graham Cinema is a second-run movie theater (screening movies a few months old) where all shows are $3.00.

For an unconventional movie experience, Elon’s Student Union Board offers a free movie and popcorn on Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. at Young Commons (rain location is in The Zone).

Beer

There are a few decent places to drink around Burlington.  The most popular spots are Piedmont Ale House and The Fat Frogg, both of which feature drink specials that change fairly regularly.  The cheapest beer I have found is at University Grill, with draft prices between $2.00 and $3.00.  But watch out.  University Grill was recently featured on Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” because of its poor quality of food, service, and atmosphere. It is yet to be seen if the show’s changes will make an impact.

According to this website, the average cost of living in Burlington is said to be $2,694 per month.  I get by spending about $1,300 while still going out to eat once or twice a week.  With these tips and some research on your specific needs, you should be able to make the most of your money during grad school, whether it be from student loans or other sources.

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