Back From the Dead…

I’m back from my month long hiatus from the blogosphere. I’ve always heard it’s not wise to apologize via blog post for lack of writing but I feel too guilty for this blog disappearing off the face of the earth with no explanation to not show some sort of remorse. I’d also love to muster up some great excuse as to why I didn’t post but honestly, I’ve got nothing. So with that said, I am sorry to anyone who had been consistently following “Saving Sense”and I hope that I have not lost you!

Fortunately, I finally fulfilled one of my college break dreams and traveled! My roommates and I headed up to N.Y.C. for a few days and inevitably blew money on food and tourist attractions…however…I’m justifying this behavior because we happened to uncover a saving gem. Since we refused to shell out a couple hundred on a hotel, staying in a hostel was our next option. I’ll admit it, when I first heard the word “hostel” I thought of the horror movie Hostel where a couple Americans get slashed up in Europe so needless to say I was a little uneasy at first. I’m amazed sometimes at the risks I’ll take in order to save money…

We arrived to our humble hostel, Tone Hostels East in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and were pleasantly surprised. The employees were down to earth and helpful, offering us advice on things to do and places to go, and it only cost $18 each to stay the night. The hostel had a youthful ambiance and everyone we encountered was around our age. We stayed in a room with four bunk beds, a shower, and sink with three other travelers who happened to be from Canada and Argentina. For me, meeting different kinds of people is the best aspect of traveling, so this was an awesome opportunity.

We ventured out into Manhattan to do our own thing for a bit then headed back to the hostel to query the employees on the area’s nightlife. Without hesitation, one guy ordered me to gather up whoever I could and said he had us covered. After recruiting our hostel roommates and those hanging out in the lounge, the hostel worker took us under his wing and led us into an Irish pub. We huddled together behind him, resembling a fifth-grade class on a field trip to the zoo, but once we settled in, it turned out to be a fun night.

We went back around midnight exhausted after a long day of walking and surveyed the sleeping quarters. Our provided sheets, pillows, and blankets appeared to be clean so my only real concern was that I’d get cold in the night but the room was well heated. Since we were on the first floor by the lounge, the noise level got a little high at points but this was nothing an Ipod couldn’t drown out.

In the morning breakfast was provided and we ate in the lounge with our newfound friends. I’d say the hostel experience was a huge success and I definitely plan on staying in more. I’ve been doing my research and almost every major U.S. and international city has hostels. Next time you travel check out and see whats out there. You have my word, hostels are not as creepy as people (and Hollywood) make them out to be.

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The Green Valley Book Fair: Read for Less

Get excited penny-pinching bookworms of the Harrisonburg/Staunton area…The Green Valley Book Fair has opened for the final time this year.

The Green Valley Book Fair is a discount book outlet store with over 500,000 new books at bargain prices 60 picture-244percent to 90 percent off the retail cost.  The book fair provides a multitude of categories including (but not limited to) fiction, history, health and self-help, children’s books, religion, science, sports, cooking, gardening, crafts, art, reference, and nature and outdoors. The vast range of books is also supplemented by a solid poster selection.

I couldn’t resist passing up this opportunity so I made the quick drive to get the first-hand Green Valley Book Fair experience.  What was supposed to be an in-and-out trip turned into an hour of awe.  My viewpoint might be slightly bias since I’m a complete nerd when it comes to books, but this place was utopia!

For some reason I had this preconceived notion that the book fair would be outdoors and that I’d have to rummage through sporadic boxes of books but I was relieved to find that it was inside a large well-organized warehouse.  The books were spread among two floors, divided into categories, and alphabetized by author.  The neat arrangement didn’t test my patience once and I had an easier time navigating through the book fair than I ever have a library.

While the setup definitely impressed me, this quickly became overshadowed by the stellar prices.  I don’t think I saw one book over five dollars.  There were classic novels by Jack London and Mark Twain for $2.50 (including my favorite Huck Finn!) and I wound up buying Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson for $3.50 (originally $15).  This book is a national bestseller and is about how surfing the web, tv, movies, and video games in fact makes you smarter, so I’m pretty excited.

The Green Valley Book Fair is open from now until December 18 so make sure you catch it before it’s gone.  Up until December 14th the book fair is open 9am to 7pm daily and from December 15-18 it’s open 8am to 4:30pm daily. 

Directions: From I-81 take exit 240.  Turn left onto VA-257 E.  Stay straight to go onto Friedens Church Rd for 1.2 mi.  Turn left onto S Whitesel Church Rd. Turn right onto Green Valley Ln. 



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Frugal Traveling

I get pretty idealistic whenever an extended amount of time off from school approaches.  I see this span of time as a golden opportunity to tour the northern cities of the East Coast, head out West and camp in the Grand Canyons, or maybe even jump on a plane to Europe.  I’ll usually find an equally unrealistic friend to map out a travel plan with and we’ll spend hours in the library googling different locations around the world.  Finally, our long sought after break from school arrives, and ten times out of ten, the furthest either one of us makes it out of our house is five miles up the street to the local McDonald’s.  While I can’t really pinpoint exactly why our optimistic hopes and dreams to see the world turn to dust once we get home, something tells me it might have to do with money, or the lack-there-of.

Anyways, it’s that time of year again where I’m sitting in the library looking for things to distract me from my end-of-the-semester work load, so naturally I’ve been surfing the web in hopes of making my visions of becoming the intrepid traveler a reality.  I’ve gone as far as typing into Google “traveling for free” (who am I kidding) and while I have yet to find a free airplane ticket, hotel, or cruise, I did stumble across a site with a rather interesting travel concept.

Vagabondish is a site set up to offer travel advice to vagabonds (those who travel continuously without a permanent residence).  What intrigued me on the site was 8 Tools to Help You Travel Forever and Live Rent Free.  The article described and offered links to eight networking sites created for different types of travelers looking for rent-free places to stay.  Some sites required some sort of exchange-for instance Caretaker’s Gazette is a network designed for people who care for the elderly, house sit,work on a farm, etc. to receive free lodging.  Other sites such as Couch Surfing and Global Freeloaders consist of travelers and hosts, who are willing to offer up/stay in a home for no exchange.

I’m familiar with Couch Surfing and know a few people who have done it.  Basically they went anywhere they wanted to go in the United States and found a person on the site who lived in the area and stayed on their couch or in a guest room.  Everyone I’ve talked to who has tried this has had nothing but positive experiences but I can’t help but wonder about the trust factor involved in this.  However, it is tempting because housing tends to be the most expensive aspect of traveling and couch surfing eliminates this hefty cost.

Besides the eight sites, the vagabond site had a lot of other useful articles and tips on how to travel frugally.  So, for all you doers out there who actually plan on making it out of your town over break, give it a look, and let me know if you’d ever consider couch surfing.



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Priceless Sunday: Why can’t we be friends?

I love being home for a multitude of reasons.  Besides getting to spend time with my family, enjoying unlimited access to food, and experiencing a regular sleeping pattern, I am graced with the presence of two dogs, two cats, and two birds (I’m starting to notice a Noah’s Arc trend here).  In my house it’s pertinent to have a camera on stand-by because our pets can be caught doing something candid at any given moment.

Below, my cat Tiger makes his way to the top of our birdcage.  It could be that he chose this spot as a resting ground solely for its comfort, but intuition tells me that he most likely had an ulterior motive concerning the cage’s residents.  I guess we’ll never know (atleast I hope not).


  • Cat: $10
  • Birds: $180 each
  • The cage that separates them: $260
  • Knowing the importance of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer: Priceless


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A Break to be Thankful For

With Thanksgiving upon us, many are starting to make the trek home from school to unwind and bask turkeyin the holiday spirit with family and friends.  I’ve been counting down the days till this break for a while and am elated to finally be home.  However, I’m starting to feel wary because if history repeats itself then my bank account is in trouble.

For a lot of us, break consists of reuniting with pals from high school by going out to eat, grabbing coffee, or seeing a movie.  By the end of break I’ll find that the Starbuck’s barista has memorized my name and order, I’m ten pounds heavier from all the dining out, and I could give a solid review on every movie out in theatres.  If I’m not with friends, I’ll often make trips to Border’s for books to read during my downtime or I’ll take advantage of the fact that I have a decent shopping mall within driving distance.  When break wraps up, I’m always struck with the harsh reality of all the cash I unconsciously squandered away.

I’m wiser now.  I’ve learned from the past and am determined to maintain financial stability.  At first I considered shunning my friends and remaining in the confinement of my home to avoid spending a dime but I realized the toll this might have on my emotional well being would outweigh the damage I’d do to my bank account otherwise.  So, I did a little brainstorming and came up with some ways to save money during break without sacrificing the social life and guilty pleasures.

Utilize theater deals.
Always go to matinees.  At AMC theaters a matinee (before 6 p.m. Mon-Thurs and non-holidays; before 4 p.m. Fri-Sun and holidays) is $8.50 whereas a night showing is $10.50.  AMC also has a $6 special for all shows before noon on Fri-Sun and holidays. Whether you go during the day or at night, bring your student I.D. just in case because some theaters depending on location offer student discounts.

Go out to eat at the right place, at the right time. Some chain restaurants offer discounted appetizers during certain periods of the day.  Applebee’s 500354082_6f76f96adeoffers a late-night special where you get 50% off of all appetizers (with the exception of the Sampler) after 9 p.m. Sun-Thurs.  Chili’s has a happy hour special 3-7 p.m. Mon-Fri where customers can receive a free basket of wings per table or check.  I’d call a restaurant in advance to find out about specials because they’re usually not spelled out on the menu and can vary by location.

Hit up the local redbox.
The box never ceases to amaze me.  Get a group of friends together, convince someone to offer up their living room or basement for movie night, and rent $1 movies from your nearest redbox.  You could even go as far as making everyone split the cost.  Just think: Four friends, one movie, and maybe even some board games could equal a great night for only 25 cents.

Make a trip to the public library.
I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before.  Every time I’m home I make a mad dash to the bookstore and unnecessarily shell out money for books I could most likely obtain for free at the library ten minutes up the street from me.  Not anymore.  I got a library card that took two minutes to fill out paperwork for and thanks to the internet I won’t have to worry about late fees because I can renew books online from the comfort of my home.  If you have a book in mind you’d like to read, check the website of your public library to see if your desired book is in stock and you might even be able to reserve it online.

Find free museums. I realize some of you might hear the word “museum” and think lame but this is a lot better than sitting at home watching America’s Next Top Model marathons or spending hours on Facebook stalking friends.  Virginia is abundant in history and offers an array of interesting museums, some of which you can access for free.  I found a List of museums in Virginia that gives locations and descriptions of museums as well a link to their website so you can check out the admission.   I’m going to try to make a stop at the National Museum of the Marine Corps since it’s free and 8 minutes from my house.


Well, those are some of my suggestions for a frugal yet fun Thanksgiving break.  Let me know what cheap activities you guys plan on doing.  I hope all of your funds survive the week!



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Craig Saves Best

Whoever said nothing in life is free really needs to check out craigslist.

Last week at a hair cuttery, a woman told me about her daughter who moved to California and furnished her entire apartment with free furniture she found on craigslist. As a loyal Ebay user, I’ve been reluctant to give craigslist a shot, but this evoked my curiosity enough to at least visit the site.

I got on the site, found the Virginia link, clicked on Harrisonburg, and sure enough my attention was immediately drawn to the free link. At first, I was pretty disappointed by the selection. The only things people seemed to be giving away were cats and large appliances. Unfortunately for me, my apartment complex does not allow cats and already came equipped with the appliances I need. However, I checked for more free stuff today and someone was trying to unload a year’s worth of the magazine The Economist, so I sent an e-mail and am now crossing my fingers that I’m the only person in Harrisonburg who saw the ad and who would want a year’s worth of the Economist. I think the lesson here is be persistent; there are diamonds in the rough.

I also had success when I clicked on the Northern Virginia link. I figured I’d check out this location since a lot of Virginia college students (including myself) come from the area. There were more listings here for one day than Harrisonburg had in an entire month. People were giving away quality things too- couches, desks, big screen TVs, clothes, and all sorts of other useful items. If your heading back to Northern Virginia for Thanksgiving break, this could be a good opportunity to scrap up some free things from your community.

For those of you with the mindset “if it’s free, there’s something wrong with it”, craigslist provides an ample amount of “for sale” categories. There’s listings from electronics, cars, clothes, furniture, and tickets to more obscure things like musical instruments and motorcycles. I did some browsing today and saw a mint condition laptop for only $75 and a new loveseat for $10.

If you haven’t jumped on the craigslist bandwagon yet, I’d go ahead and do it because the saving possibilities on this site are endless. Besides giving you an opportunity to accumulate more things, craigslist also provides listings for jobs, housing, and events in the community.

Let me know what you guys stumble across. In the mean time, I’m going to continue stalking my e-mail until I find out if I got those free Economist magazines or not.



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Priceless Sunday: A Physical Toll

I went down to Richmond this weekend to participate in the McDonald’s Half-Marathon. I signed up for it a month ago figuring I love running and I love McDonald’s, so why not?

Unfortunately, I had been too idealistic because there were no McDonald’s coupons in my race packet and I had neglected to train for the race. So, I woke up at 7 a.m. on Saturday completely unprepared and made my way to the starting line praying that my body would miraculously compensate for the lack of training.

I was doing everything I could during the 13.1 miles to keep my mind off the pain of running when I started brainstorming for my blog (I have no explanation for the things that cross my mind when I run). I decided that I’d like to add a “Priceless Sunday” edition dedicated to the things in life you can’t put a price on (think of that one credit card commercial). Since Sunday is considered by many a non-working day or day of rest, I found it appropriate that Sundays be set aside for the lessons that money can’t buy. This blog decision occurred right before I hit a figurative wall at mile seven.

I guess since the longest run I’ve done in the last couple months has been seven miles, my body knew exactly when to start shutting down. I ran the next six miles with the chills, nausea, and feeling like my running shoes suddenly turned into 20 pound bricks. At this point the only thoughts that ran through my head were how much I hated running and myself for letting this happen.

Finally, I spotted the finish. I was more comforted by the ambulances waiting there then I was the actual finish line and people cheering. When I dragged myself across the finish, I found a secluded spot on the sidewalk so I could curl up in a ball and erase the memories of the most painful race I’ve done. Eventually the endorphins kicked in and I was able to see the race in a more positive light even though I was unable to walk properly.

So, to sum up the McDonald’s Half-Marathon:

  • Race Entry- $80 (Running is my one weak spot when it comes to spending money)
  • Filling up the gas tank to make the trip- $21
  • Pre-race bagel- $2.19
  • Realizing it’s desperately time to get back in shape: Priceless



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$1 Movie Rentals

Cancel your Blockbuster membership because there is a more convenient and cheap method of renting movies in the form of a red electronic box.


The redbox is a self-service DVD vender that allows you to rent the newest releases for only a dollar.  My favorite aspect of the redbox is that they can be found in most grocery stores (I love the efficiency of being able to get food and movies in one trip) along with Wal-Mart and McDonald’s (as if Big Macs aren’t tempting enough).  The process is simple: use the touch screen to select whether you’d like to rent or return a movie, pick your movie (sorted by release date), swipe your credit card (the redbox doesn’t accept cash), and out slides your DVD.  There is no real late fee, you are just charged an additional dollar for each day you keep the movie. If you don’t want to risk the possibility a DVD being out of stock, you can reserve a DVD via the redbox website.  Also, once you are ready to return a DVD, you can choose any redbox location to do so.

In Harrisonburg there are redboxes at Martin’s off of East Market Street and the Wal Marts off of Burgess Road and South High Street.

So when Wall-E, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, and Tropic Thunder come out on November 18th, I’d suggest making a trip to your local redbox.



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Your Closet Has Value

Two things you should know about me are that I have a passionate hate for clothes shopping and that I love getting paid for doing absolutely nothing (but then again who doesn’t).

However, with the opening of Plato’s Closet, the latter stepped up to challenge the former. Plato’s Closet, which opened last Thursday in the Spotswood Valley Square Shopping Center, buys and sells name brand clothing at 70 percent off the original retail cost. Plato’s Closet buys your inconspicuously used clothes or accessories that they consider the “latest” trend or “hottest” brand then sells them to their targeted customers- teens and the twenties crowd.

This weekend my curiosity (and the fact that I still wear clothes I had from high school) got the better of me and I went to see what Plato’s Closet was all about. Unfortunately, I donated most of my old clothes to Good Will a couple months ago so I had a limited selection of what I was attempting to sell. I brought in a bag of jeans and shirts and handed it over to an employee who was very meticulous in picking which items the store chose to reuse. She tossed aside any shirt with the slightest sign of being washed and jeans that had fray at the bottom (even though I was always under the impression that the rugged look was “in”). In the end, I was paid $5 for a Hollister polo and Urban Outfitters shirt. This amount fell short of my desire but I figured beggars can’t be choosers.

Five dollars richer, I ventured through the store in hopes of finding a good deal, making note of the impressive selection of jeans and tank tops. I ended up buying a pair of American Eagle jeans for $12 that were originally $39.99 and an American Eagle shirt for $6 opposed to it’s original $20. I realized that my detest for shopping didn’t necessarily stem from a weak fashion sense but more from an inability to find good deals on good clothes. Inspired by the amount of money I saved, an enthusiasm for shopping was born. I could have really gone to town in there but I had to remind myself that despite these great deals, I was still on a tight budget.

A couple other things I made note of- Plato’s Closet was overwhelmingly comprised of female attire but fellows don’t be discouraged, there was a corner in the back of the store dedicated to you. Like I said before, the extensive amount of jeans and tank tops were the store’s strong point. An avid fan of hoodies and zip-up jackets, I was a little disappointed by their selection in this area but the fact that the store had a good deal of shoes, jewelry, hats, scarves, and belts compensated for this. If your trying to sell back clothes, go at an odd hour during the week like first thing in the morning, or you’ll have to face a longer wait behind other enthusiastic sellers.

Plato’s Closet is located at 1790 East Market Street off in Spotswood Valley Square of Rt. 33 adjacent to T.J. Maxx and Fashion Bug. It’s open seven days a week, 10 am-8 pm Monday through Saturday, and 1 pm-6 pm on Sunday. You can contact the store at 540-432-8648 or at If your coming from 81- Take Exit 247A and follow Rt. 33 East for about 1 mile. Spotswood Valley Square will be on your left across the street from Valley Mall.

So next time you need to fulfill a clothing void, bypass the mall and check out Plato’s Closet first.



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Financial Optimism

Hi! Welcome to Saving Sense!

I created this blog as a class assignment to take a look at ways for college students to save money. As college students, we’re already in this financial limbo since our parents are less accessible and we don’t have the time to hold a sustainable career. The fact that our country is in economic turmoil right now doesn’t exactly help our situation either.

So, as a JMU student with a tight wallet, I’m going to take it upon myself to offer saving tips and scope out the array of cheap dining, clothing, entertainment, and other miscellaneous sources of saving through out the Harrisonburg area. I know that the fate of our bank accounts are looking dismal right now, but I want to convey through this blog that there is hope in crawling out of the financial holes many of us have found ourselves in.

Thanks for checking this out and feel free to leave as much feedback or ideas as you want!



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