David Levitz: BookRenter.com’s ‘The Rented Life’ Challenge


The Rented LifeInterview By: Emma Martin, Ithaca College

One of the most exciting prospects of entering college is a new-found sense of freedom, but that independence also comes with a price. Literally.

Sure. I love online shopping. In fact, I love in store shopping, too. Okay, I just love shopping. But sometimes—I can’t. I have school loans, a car payment, and grocery expenses. I work for NYS minimum wage (that’s $7.25) 20 hours a week. I am moving to New York City, one of the most expensive cities in America, in about 2 months. My bank account is tight.

David Levitz, is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. This semester, he is participating in a social saving experiment created by BookRenter, entitled “The Rented Life.” David has been allocated a budget of $6803 to live on for the semester, a price that reflects an average student’s spending. However, whatever David does not spend, he gets to keep for his own personal use.

David, a double major in acting and journalism, set forth with a specific plan: save as much as possible to go towards his upcoming semester abroad in London. He began budgeting his expenses as a freshman, but after beginning “The Rented Life”, his tactics have been especially strategic.

Saving money may sound tedious, but David insisted, “So far it’s been pretty fun!”

Every month, BookRenter devises challenges for David to complete with his budget. His first challenge was to buy textbooks (the bane of my existence). He carefully compared various sites to find the best deal. Noting that students often no longer need textbooks after the class has ended, he believes in participating in the “reuse” market, and renting books can save loads of money. Though the process David undertook was time worthy—it paid off. “It takes a little bit more effort but it’s worth it,” he explained.

Since then, David has also refurbished his entire apartment garage sale hunting. He is currently preparing for his next feat—planning a date night without busting the bank. Zoomster, a method to rent bikes, has proved helpful to getting David around without paying for gas, paying for a cab, or purchasing a bus pass.

David was willing to share his secret to success with me, and it included a list of iPhone applications. His suggestions:

–       Coupon Applications: RetailMeNot

–       Music: 8Tracks

–       GSALR.com, Garage Sale Rover: Garage Sale Locators

David even came across an application called, “Rent A Friend.” Though he hasn’t used it himself—he found it indicative of the society surrounding it; “It’s a shared economy, based on a market that rents and reuses.”

His advice further extended to taking advantage of free events across campus. Remembering to check for something like free pens during Welcome Week and at event tables, and keeping up-to-date on back to school blogs can really add up. David now purchases nothing at full price– always searching for coupons when making buying decisions. He suggests freshmen ask upperclassmen for advice on the best deals.

And it certainly is true… little prices do add up. David’s biggest challenge has been his decision to switch for coffee to tea. His addiction to caffeine was hard to break at first, but tea has proved less expensive. He’s even found it really wasn’t that helpful! “I’ve cheated a couple of times,” he admitted, but staying conscious of buying habits is the most important step to staying on task. And of course, not falling into the pressures of peer’s decisions will add up: just because your friends are willing to splurge, doesn’t mean you have to. Sure, enjoy yourself, David explained, but be the “smart consumer” and plan your purchases around your own wants and needs.

“Money is always frustrating, so don’t get down on yourself if you’re not a perfect budgeter right away. Just being aware of your spending is the most important part.” 

David left me with a sense of hope. I, like David, can make it through the rest of this semester without killing my wallet. Sigh of relief over here!

For more tips, follow David’s Youtube channel blog

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