CouchSurfing Review

Having nailed the interview and received the job offer, I thought I’d make the best of the two weeks I had before my start date at the beginning of the second quarter – it was time for that road trip I had always wanted to take. There was only one problem: I had no cash flow. Having quit my day job two weeks prior, I had slowly but surely whittled away my checking account. The thought of dipping into my savings to finance such a spontaneous venture left me sour, a feeling that would certainly taint the entire experience. But then my buddy Joe reminded me of CouchSurfing.com, an online community network of people who generously welcome travelers into their homes – for free!
CouchSurfing Review

We had both independently heard of the service before, mentioned in passing by a handful of our more adventurous extroverted friends. Discussing their experiences, we found not a single negative report. Everyone we knew had come back with exciting stories they were eager to tell. We thought we’d give it a try.

Signing up was easy. Facebook has a direct tie-in, so we didn’t even have to fill out any forms to get our names on the network. To ensure the authenticity of its members there is an optional verification process via credit card (they recommend a $25 donation), however, in our experience, simply having a single positive reference in the network is often enough for members to open up their home. In the spirit of the community, you’re asked to post a little blurb about yourself and some general interests, which actually end up being quite helpful for finding a suitable host. After all, most people involved in the network are in it to meet new people and broaden their horizons.

Within the week, we had been offered couches by three people from Cincinnati, OH and two from Madison, WI, with requests still pending for Chicago, IL. To think, a few days earlier we were worried about not having enough money or having a place to stay, and now we had to choose who we would most like to stay with. A day later, we were on our way West out of New York.

Of course at first, it was a little odd finding yourself about to fall asleep in a random person’s guest room, the thought of possibly getting robbed or something creeping up in the back of your mind. But the more and more people we met through the network, the more positive experiences we heard of – and in the unlikeliest of places. One of our hosts had first heard of CouchSurfing after finding herself stranded without money for a night in South Africa. She was in a park lamenting about her situation and a stranger mentioned the site. She was able to find a safe, honest host on a day’s notice, and was hooked ever since.

All-in-all, the CouchSurfing experience was nothing short of incredible. Each of the homes were clean and tidy, we always had at least a futon to sleep on. Our hosts were more often than not eager to spend time hanging out and getting to know us, treat us to meals and drinks – we were their guests after all, they would say – and share their favorite local spots with us. They were happy to hear about the places we had traveled, what life was like back home, and to hear about our aspirations and life goals. What turned out to be simply an economical decision delivered a uniquely human experience that not even the most luxurious hotel-resort could compete with.

If you are particularly strapped for cash, I would also recommend pairing CouchSurfing with the MegaBus service, which offers the first open seat on any given bus for $1. Plan your trip early enough in advance and you can literally travel the U.S. for a month with just a few hundred dollars. With services like this, what are you waiting for? Traveling has never been so easy – or economical!

Where to Find the Cheapest Cap and Gown?

When graduating from high school or college, one of the most commonly missed expenses is the cap and gown. Without one, you as a student would stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd of grads, and mom and dad wouldn’t be that happy with you in pictures. So it’s best to go ahead and be sure to have one on hand. But watch out, because a cap and gown can set you back around $100; if you shop around you can save a bundle.

cheapest cap and gown

With that said, there are many places to find a cap and gown cheaply these days.

Here are some options:

Buy Online: Try searching online for your school’s specific cap and gown (ie. “Boston University Cap and Gown”). This will give you the top result for your school and often the best place to buy it online.

Some of the best places to check out online are:

http://academicregalia.herffjones.com/index.cfm

http://www.gradgowns.com/

http://www.graduationsource.com/

http://www.willsieco.com/

Each of these offers some advantage, so try finding the one that has your school listed and or the correct color combination. Then select the one with the lowest price that can guarantee delivery in time for graduation.

From a Friend: Ask around! Often older friends who have already graduated will be happy to pawn off their old cap and gown on you. Be sure that the size fits all right. For girls, this isn’t as big of a problem, but for boys a gown made for a 6ft 4in person will look terrible on a boy who is only 5ft 11in.

From a Prior Student: Check with people outside of your friend zone who may still have their gown around and would be happy to let you borrow it.

From a Mobile Popup Store: Keep your eyes out for mobile cap and gown stores. These will start to appear on campus as graduation nears, and they sell the same outfit as your school’s brick and mortar bookstore, but they are often a lot cheaper. Depending on your situation, this is often the best place to pick up your outfit.

From Your School’s Bookstore: The last and most common option is simply to order it from your university bookstore. This allows you to easily pick it up so you know its on time. Also when ordering, they often measure you to guarantee it’s a good fit. However, be sure to order early to lock in discounts. Also, watch out for the often gimmicky bundles they try to sell you on, such as including “free printed graduation invitations” or offering that you pay more for other value adds. It’s often not worth it.

Lastly, be sure the cap and gown match your school’s appropriate colors. If possible, even call and check with online retailers to see that it matches. At my school, my college within my university had different colored tassels depending on your major. If you were part of any special groups or associations you also had to buy more tassels, so be sure to find ones that match so you aren’t the odd student out come graduation day.