Tips for Navigating College Carless


Do you have a car at school? While on urban campuses you likely don’t need one, there isn’t a ton of great public transportation options here at the University of Alabama. It is a large state school with a college town. I do not have a car on campus, and to be honest? I don’t really need one. While it would certainly be nice to have at times, it isn’t necessary. Throughout the past four years, I’ve learned how to manage being at a school 12 hours away from home without a vehicle and feel like I’ve finally mastered it.


Alabama is a pretty big campus, and our local Target and Walmart are not really convenient to walk to. It would be nice to have a car to get groceries or stock up on random necessities like toothpaste, but I’ve learned throughout the past four years a few ways to be more self-reliant and plan ahead to eliminate trips to the store. I’m lucky to have quite a few friends with cars who are generous to drive when we go out for dinner, but in regard to errands, I wanted to share a few tips that have helped me in my carless college experience.


Stock up before and during move in

Before I leave Chicago, I work with my parents to think of things I will need consistently throughout the semester. If your parents have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, this comes in super handy. I get the value pack of things like makeup wipes, lotion, body wash, deodorant, etc. because I know I will always need those items. Not only are the prices better because you’re buying the value pack, but it’s great to never totally run out of necessities.


When my mom helps move me in at the beginning of each semester, we do a necessary Target run. While our list includes anything we may need for moving like Command Strips, I also have a list of items that I’ll need down the road and stock up on items I’ll need. Whether it’s laundry detergent, toothpaste or my favorite coffee, stocking up at the beginning of the semester is helpful, especially if I don’t begin classes right away and will be responsible for meals if my sorority house is closed.


Stocking up eliminates the need to go to Target or CVS/Walgreens all the time because I always have things on hand. It also helps me be mindful of how much stock I have left, so I can order accordingly and with enough time before I run out.


Of course, I recognize space can be an issue when you live in college housing. Under bed storage always is a great place for your stockpile because you don’t need to access it often. Also, get rid of as much of the packaging once you get the items in your space, this often makes a big difference in how much space it requires.


Utilize Amazon’s student discount

The Amazon Prime student discount is likely my favorite student discount available because the first six months are free and heavily discounted after the six months. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir considering how many people use Amazon, but I recently found out that you can take advantage of special discounts using the student account. For example, you can get a $5 credit right now on personal care and health items. All you have to do is activate it for your account here. Easy as 1-2-3.


Another great perk of Amazon Prime is the Subscribe and Save service. For items I need frequently but can’t buy in a value pack, I set up the Subscribe and Save option so that I get a small discount on each order. The one I use most frequently is for my contact solution. It is set to send me a new order every month, and I can review it before it ships or pause a month if I have not run out yet. I don’t have to worry about remembering to order a new one every month and get to save a bit on each. I definitely recommend activating this if you find yourself forgetting to buy replacements in time for whatever beauty/personal care item you may need.


Use a delivery service for groceries (if needed)

Now that I have a kitchen and can cook on the weekends (and also have a full fridge), I need groceries to do so. Earlier this year I got Shipt which is Target’s grocery delivery service. Shipt works at several grocery store chains too, but our Target has a full grocery section so it works best for me. About once a month, I place an order for groceries and can have it delivered later that day right to my apartment. 


One thing to note is that the order must be at least $35. If you don’t need $35 worth of food, there are plenty of other items that you can include in your order to get meet the limit. I often like to add makeup items, Advil or tissues if I need to get to $35. 


While you can order non-perishables online and have them shipped, Shipt is a great way to get items like fruit, refrigerated items and other items more quickly.


Keep a running list for a spontaneous Target run

I’ve been very lucky to have friends who do have cars and have been kind to let me tag along for spontaneous trips to the store over the past few years. Because I’m not the driver, I don’t get to choose when to go. So, it’s helpful to have a working list of items I’d like for my next Shipt order if I’m invited to go. I keep a list in my Notes app of things I’d like and always check for the items I routinely order. It’s great when I can tag along, so having an idea of what I’d like beforehand is helpful to make those spur-of-the-moment trips productive and efficient.


Get the exercise

While the Target here in Tuscaloosa is not walking distance for me, there is a CVS and Publix that are not too far away. Though it can feel like a hike, getting the exercise is so good for me. I like to remind myself of that and use that time to call my parents to catch up or listen to a podcast. I’m hoping it will prepare me for always walking when I live in a city someday. If I need something in a pinch and it’s a nice day, walking is not a bad option. 


Ask in times of need 

Though I do try to walk when I can, there are times when the weather isn’t great or it’s too late to walk alone. Lucky for me I lived in the house at the same time as my big and little “sister” who both had cars and were generous enough to run me to the store should I need something quickly. It can be easy to feel guilty asking, but it’s a good skill to have. You can always offer to get them something when you run in the store. If you really feel like you’ve asked too often, do something nice for your driver like pay for their coffee when you are out.


If you do not have a car on campus, I hope you found this post helpful! And even if you do, hopefully you enjoyed a few money saving tips in here as well. I’d love to hear other tips you may have if you don’t have a car on campus either.

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