Top 5 Ways to Save Money in Architecture School

As I head to the cash register with 12 pieces of basswood at $4+ each, I said to myself, dang school is expensive! And not just in terms of cost, either. It is expensive time-wise as well. But never fear! Since I began architecture school a while back, I’ve come to a few cost-saving solutions for one and all!

Number 5: Live Close

It is the easy green concept of the decade: live close to where you work or study. I have known people here in Denver and people from when I lived in Boston who would regularly commute 45 minutes or more each day, one way. In school, time is precious. By living close by, you can cut down on time spent doing non-productive things like that second run for materials.

Number 4: Raid the Woodshop

I recently took this photo of the woodshop after the spring semester was complete. I planned to take a summer class, so this was a goldmine! So many materials were left over. Particleboard, OSB, cardboard tubes, dowels, even several sheets of plexi! These were all ripe for the pickins’, as they say. I have done this other times during the semester, with mixed results. But if you just need a bit of material for a sketch model, a trip to the woodshop might save you time and a few dollars at the local materials shop.

Number 3: Don’t Print Boards

This is an ongoing frustration of mine: you work, work, work and then go and print your boards. But lo and behold, they colors look awful! Was it that giant coffee at 3am messing with your eyesight? No! It is just how the printer prints. And you just spend a good chunk of change to print these large sheets of paper. Why not do what the professionals (literally) do? Project your presentation! By projecting it, you can save on printing costs AND you will always have it saved digitally. Not to mention, you can animate diagrams in your presentations and look super fancy.

Number 2: Borrow, borrow, borrow

This is more of a convenience item than cost savings. A fellow student somehow inherited tons of wood dowels–the good tiny ones for making mullions. “Use as many as you’d like,” was the answer I got when I asked if I could borrow one or two. Boy was this a lifesaver! I’ve also borrowed lots of other things: a dab of specialty glue here and there, a scrap of plexi occasionally, etc. Don’t be a mooch, of course, but keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and return the favor when appropriate.

Number 1: Free (and legal) Software

I’m a big proponent of free software. For me, having a student-version-watermark of commercial software on all four sides of a drawing is prohibitively annoying to chop out or dxf-out. One could venture into the pirated software world, but there are always caveats (where’s that help file?). Or you can check out open source software. Here’s the analogous breakdown of full-version, FREE open source software:

AutoCAD=Draftsight (an amazing clone program for free)





MS Office=LibreOffice or OpenOffice

The best part is that if you need to print at school/work/friend’s computer, you can just install these programs. No hassles with licenses or registration. Happy saving!

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Ways to Save Money in Architecture School

  1. True, but the educational watermark really bothers me when you go to print. In school, where graphics are scrutinized to the Nth degree, the watermark will only draw distracting comments from the studio teacher or jury. And to photochop it out is just an extra step in addition to everything else we do. Come on, folks, let’s break the Autodesk monopoly!

  2. I haven’t tried Gimp or Inkscape in a few years, but I remember nothing but problems, bugs, and force-closures, often when all I’m trying to do is pan or zoom. Have they gotten a lot stronger recently?

  3. They have gotten a LOT better. There is even a distro called “Gimpshop”, which is Gimp set up like photoshop. I have noticed Linux distros are a little more robust than their windows counterparts, but I couldn’t comment on the mac distros. It takes a little getting used to, but they are great programs.

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