Venkat Viswanathan is a first year MBA student from India. These are his tips for students just moving to Nashville and trying to save money.
During these last 4 months at Vandy, I have come to realize one thing. Things are not that different in the US if you are an international student. But some international students have a unique situation to deal with when they travel down to the U.S. Such as, what is the best way to live in the US on a shoestring budget? Listed below is some info we gleaned through prolonged pain and suffering but which (due to the whiteness of our hearts) we give away for free. PS: This post is only for those who are really so hard up that you can’t listen to Dire Straits without tearing up.
Lunch at Vandy: There are various strategies you can adopt to save some pennies here. The general tendency is to start off by getting a nice boxed lunch of some good ol’ whole wheat bread and some pieces of lettuce. But when lunch time starts dragging inordinately long, you know it is time for change. This change is provided in the form of free pizza at information sessions and club meetings. I have developed quite a liking for pizza from Mellow Mushroom while I learnt strategies to job hunt, network and work a career fair. Sometimes when the information sessions are few and far between, like a drowning man clutching at a straw, I have settled for a burger from Wendy’s. Many a disparaging remark has been said about the greasy burger which increases cholesterol but when you bite into that one dollar burger, you not only care for your wallet but also increase your incentive to exercise.
Commute to school and getting around Nashville: When a car is what you want to get but what you can’t afford, a bus is what you must take. The friendly Nashville MTA runs buses in approximate intervals of …….. 20-40 minutes on Weekdays and……. 40-90 minutes on weekends (rides are free on swiping your Owen ID card). I like to think of it as my way of helping the environment. Knowing your bus schedule by heart is also a great way to impress your fellow students. The biggest problem arises during night times. For all those times we spend in school burning the midnight oil on assignments, you cannot get a bus back after around 11.15 on weekdays and 9.15 on weekends. Cabs aren’t cheap in Nashville either. The local students can generally be tricked into giving you rides during emergencies. The good part is that most times when you are standing on the pavement looking like a lost sheep a classmate will generally pull over and drive about 6 miles out of his/her way to give you a ride (Reminds me of the times back home when my friend dropped me off at his house and I had it soldier it home by foot from there.) But like all good things don’t make this a habit.
Housing at Vandy: Housing near Vanderbilt starts from 500$ for a room and generally costs about 700$ for a 1 bedroom and 1400$ for a 2 bedroom. If you gasped while reading these statistics, you are reading the right information. The best houses are available along West End. This should be the first place you look at when you come to Nashville. Apartment Selector is a great tool to use when you are searching for an apartment. The more you drive away from school the less you pay for your apartment. The tradeoff being the need to master the bus schedule. Tentatively I can say that rents reduce by a 100$ for every mile from campus. So for someone like me living 4 miles off, you would typically pay about 500$ for a 1 bedroom and 700-800$ for a 2 bedroom. I heard it is really difficult during the winters here, what with catching the bus and everything, but I can’t comment on that since I haven’t experienced my first winter yet.
Tax Free Weekend: This brings back fond memories of my first 15 days in college when I was the only student without a laptop. This is a great time to buy a laptop for school since you shave about 10% off the price of the laptop. The tax free weekend in Tennessee starts on the first Friday of August and end on the following Sunday night. I bought my cheap laptop at Best Buy. This is generally regarded as the best place to go during tax free weekend.
Shopping in Nashville: Two names spring to the lips: Wal-Mart and Target. From my initial impression I would say shopping in Walmart is a great option when you are a person who follows trends very closely i.e. buys new stuff every 15 days, because that’s how long those products lasted me. Target is more expensive but the products last longer. Target’s been my last word for household necessities. For my groceries, I go to the friendly neighborhood Krogers. You can get your vitamin C by stocking up on all those fruits and veggies there. For those of you with a taste for home cooked dinners, but with no patience to cook, there are a number of international markets to tap. For Indians, I recommend Patel Brothers and Shreeji International Market (Farmers Market) to get those ready-made parathas you can heat and eat.