Spend Wisely: 3 Ways to Maximize Your Money as a New Engineer

Note: This article is part 2 of Hello $World: Financial Planning for Aspiring Engineers.  The first part covered budgeting, in particular expenses to consider as you prepare to pursue engineering full-time.

These three ideas provided great savings at a time when I was counting every dollar:

  • Bargain.  Most private tech ed companies have the ability to adjust prices.  Ask for information on scholarships and [0% interest] payment plans.  Find ways you might help their business in exchange for a discount.  Bonus points if your way of helping is also a learning opportunity, such as helping with a website or blog or running review sessions.  I offered to copy-edit a lecturer’s upcoming book in exchange for a $1k discount, and he was thrilled with the exchange.  I received free entrance to an expensive JS conference by volunteering to hold down the welcome booth for a couple of hours.
  • Purchase refurbished equipment instead of brand new.  Many companies sell refurbished laptops with the same guarantees and services as new ones.  Apple and Gazelle are two sources I’ve used for Mac products.  You’ll save several hundred dollars, and it won’t make a bit of difference if your laptop came out a year ago vs. a month ago.  Keep in mind that once you get a job, your employer will provide a nice laptop for your use.
  • Use e-books.  Most books about software engineering have a free (or significantly cheaper) electronic version online.

    Note: if you plan to read in an e-reader or mobile app, preview the content.  Some code block formats that look fine in a browser don’t show up correctly in apps and e-books.

What are your best money-saving tips for new engineers?  Let us know in the comments.


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