The struggle is real, trying to save money is easier said than done, especially for college kids.
As a student trying to keep my eyelids open, I’m a coffee fiend with expensive taste. Recently, I decided to calculate how much I spend on coffee per semester, based on my previous habits. I averaged spending a little over $5 on coffee each day I went to work or school. That’s basically every day for me, which is a whopping total of $35 a week. If I keep up that habit, I’ll be spending $140 a week and a grand total of $560 over a four-month semester.
That’s just the amount of money I’m spending on coffee, not adding up other costs like gas, eating out or renting Redbox movies.
So in light of difficult times and the financial struggle we all go through at one point or another, I’ve put together ten ways I’ve started to save money, thanks to advice from americasaves.org.
1. Keep track of what you’re spending money on
Money is so sneaky, one second it’s in your wallet, the next it’s not. So where did it go? Keep a record of what you bought throughout the day, either by receipt or by writing it down. You don’t think about the two dollars you spend here and there, but keeping track forces you to recognize spending patterns.
2. Keep the change
Loose change is underrated, but it can really add up over time. It’s easier to reach for a dollar bill than a jar full of pennies and nickels, which means change accumulates fast. It’s everywhere too, like under your car seats and in your washing machine. Saving 50 cents a day will total to $15 a month. That’s a lot of beer money … I mean, school supply money.
3. Don’t trust the plastic
Debit cards and credit cards are easy to fall back on, but dangerous when bill deadlines come around. If you use your credit card, don’t exceed an amount that you couldn’t pay back in full at the end of the month. To limit the use of my debit card, I took away the overdraft protection for my savings account. You had better believe I’m extra careful about over-spending.
4. Say “No” to impulse
When you’re really tempted to buy something, ask yourself how much you really need it and if it can wait 24 hours. The last time I saw a surfboard that cost over $500, I went home and thought about it. Turns out paying rent cancelled out the impulse I had to drop bank on a new whip.
5. Set it aside
Based on your paychecks, you can determine setting aside a certain amount of money each week into a savings account. It doesn’t have to be big, maybe $10 or $20. It adds up over time without you thinking about it.
6. Lower your standards
Stop being a diva when it comes to buying food and drinks. If you really need your caffeine fix, settle for the basic cup of black coffee instead of that girly, super-whipped, frothy, mocha drink. Staying simple is staying cheap, since a regular coffee is just $2 and the fancy drinks are much more. When it comes to lunch, don’t be afraid to brown-bag it. Buying groceries and packing a lunch ends up saving you money, even if Taco Bell swears its “chicken” burrito is 99 cents.
7. Plan ahead
Usually when I stop paying attention to my car, it breaks down. It’s the same with anything that requires maintenance, even your health. If you keep up on routine maintenance, whether it’s an oil change or a dentist visit, you’ll be less likely to catapult into financial crisis. Clean oil means your engine won’t crap out, clean teeth means you won’t have cavities, and those things mean you’ll be saving money for the future.
8. Goodwill means good deals
Ever since Macklemore pumped out that “Thrift Store” song, it’s socially acceptable to shop for broken keyboards and big, fur coats. Okay, maybe not, but on a serious note, you can find a lot of things in Goodwill for cheap. Anything from toaster ovens to DVD players and beyond. One man’s trash is a college student’s savings.
9. Find your hidden talent and exploit it
When I was getting my associates degree, I offered to help edit research papers for people. It was easy work, I was good at it, and I made a little extra money proof-reading for other students. If you can make a mean grilled cheese sandwich, or understand the complications of college algebra, don’t be afraid to turn it into a side job. Maybe you understand Shakespearean language and you can dummy down Old English to students, or you’re really good at playing the ukulele and livening up pool parties. Whatever your specialty is, try and make a little extra cash from it.
10. Shop Online
There’s a few wonders to shopping online. You can buy in bulk, you can do it in your pajamas, you can relish in sales, and you can avoid justifying spending too much money. When you shop online, adding items to your “cart” constantly reminds you of how much money you will be spending.
So there you go. A few golden rules that will help your wallet survive the precious years we call college. For many more money-saving tips, visit www.americasaves.org and reap the benefits of common sense and financial advice.