By Holly Stavarski
Living on a budget is hard for many college students, especially those who relied on their parents for money before going away to school. But with each year at school comes recognition of new and inventive ways to save money. Alli Bernardi, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, struggled to maintain the lifestyle that she was used to at home in her freshman year.
“I completely blew my budget by October. I was out of money, had no job, and was forced to call my parents to supplement my bank account. Eventually, when they realized how much online shopping I was doing, they weren’t as sympathetic and they stopped giving me money,” Bernardi said.
Without the help of her parents’ seemingly endless flow of cash, Bernardi knew that she was going to have to be more careful and creative in the way that she saved money.
“Over the winter break I watched a lot of Extreme Couponing and Extreme Cheapskates on TLC and took notes. With their tips, I completely changed how I budgeted and how I saved. My life hasn’t been the same,” she said.
Since that fateful semester, Bernardi has been clipping coupons, shopping bargain brands, and taking loose University supplies. She now lives in a small apartment with two other girls and a stockpile of beauty and cleaning supplies that lines the hallways, stairs, and fills the living room.
“The majority of my stockpile comes from coupons. I spend 27 hours planning my shopping list, calculating, and cutting coupons weekly. I refuse to spend money on paper towels, toilet paper, and trash bags. Those can easily be found in any Cathedral bathroom and are 100 percent up for grabs.”
As Bernardi was showing The Pittiful News around her house, we noticed her two roommates, crushed by a shelf full of diapers (which Bernardi admits to buying just because they were on sale). Vivianne Polanco and Farah Washington had been trapped under the shelf for three hours before we arrived.
“I love the security of having 30 giant rolls of toilet paper, but I am terrified every time I walk down the hall. Each trip to the kitchen could be my last,” said Washington as we helped her out from under the rubble.
Polanco was visibly shaken as we sat her down on a couch with a blanket and some hot tea and refused to comment as she crossed herself and silently prayed.
Though her roommates struggle with the conditions, Bernardi says its well worth it. “I would rather my two roommates die than loose my stockpile. It is my life now.”