Nowadays, it seems no matter how responsible you act, money disappears faster than ice cream during finals week. Your drinks out, weekly grocery shopping and morning coffee evaporates your cash in seconds. Everyone wants to spend their money wisely, but sometimes that doesn’t mean refraining from spending any money ever. Instead of turning down a night out with your friends, buy cheaper beer or order something strong so you can sip slowly. With these tips and tricks, you won’t let your empty wallet control you ever again.
1. Choose Between Ephemeral or Permanent
Do you want a purse or a five-course meal for your memories? While you may wear your University sweatpants with pride, the memories from a dinner with friends lasts longer than a few months of cold nights. “Money that I think is the best spent is money spent on experiences, such as going to a baseball game or even something small like coffee in the cafe hanging out with friends,” Swarthmore College senior Zora Kosoff said. Try to find a balance based on your personal tastes and your favorite memories. Are images of a good night enough? Or do you want something tangible to take with you? Evaluate yourself and be able to choose one without gaining FOMO for the other.
2. Always Seek Discounts
Don’t let your fears of talking to people prohibit you from pulling out your student ID. They’ve all been there. See if you can get a buck or two knocked off an entrance fee or an extra round of appetizers for the table. Also, try branching out. Grab the weird on-sale wheat bread the next time you grocery shop instead of your usual classic baguette. Why not? You might just find a new favorite.
3. Be Careful with Your Credit Card
While waking up in the morning after a night out includes a blaring headache, dry as bone mouth and a sticky tangled mess that used to be hair, checking my bank account balance fills me with the most dread. Drunk you said, “I got paid yesterday! Let’s drink!” but sober you is a little more like, “Wow, that was three days of work I spilled on my shoes last night.” When you go out, bring cash. If you leave your credit card at home, you can’t overspend.
4. Plan it Out
During the age of online banking and apps for literally everything, you don’t need to be an accountant to make yourself a budget. You can easily join programs to set aside money for different aspects of your life. Set goals for your month. Tell yourself, “This month I’m going to try and spend $__ of food, $___ on entertainment and $___ on my guilty pleasure.” If you’re not sure how to start budgeting and what numbers will work for you, take a look at what you currently spend. “The best advice I can give on spending is to always know what your constant costs, stuff like groceries, will be and make sure you have that put aside. I then split the remainder between going out and savings,” Skidmore College senior Luca Mobilia said.
5. Track Your Spending
When I studied abroad, after every meal my friend would add how much she spent onto a long list of numbers in her notes section of her phone. “I kept track of every purchase starting the day my plane touched down in Italy,” recent Iowa State University graduate Jayne Durnin said. “I would say I wasn’t any more conservative with my money than usual (disclaimer: I’m generally a pretty thrifty person)… Although it would have been nice to feel the security of having more money saved up, I never felt cheated out of anything while living on a budget.” Although tedious, this will help you get a feel for where your money goes. “I just realized I spent 68 euro on gelato, oh my god,” Durnin said. Maybe it’s worth it, maybe it’s not, but when you see it all written out it’s much easier to tell.
6. Ask yourself: Would I use this?
Before you commit to a purchase, make sure you don’t just want or “need” it, but that you’ll use it. “I think I’m good at avoiding feeling regret over something because I am able to talk myself out of unnecessary purchases,” Kosoff said. You might not need that new purse, but will you use it tomorrow? What about the day after? Next week? If you’ll use or wear the item equal to or more than every dollar you spent on it (so if I spent $15 on a bag and I use that bag 15 different times) you’ll not only save money, but you’ll feel good about what you bought.
7. Take Shortcuts
Once familiar with your budget, it’s easier to see where you spend the most money. Ask yourself, can you live without what you’re spending the most on? Transportation and food tend to be make up most people’s budgets. While you probably can’t cut those cold turkey, you can try to cut back on them for a month. Instead of eating out or meeting friends out, invite them to your place for a cooking party. Even making your own drinks at home can save tons. “I also recommend eating cheaply from the grocery store—I ate pasta for every meal, but it’s okay because I was too cheap to pay for public transport so I ended up walking it all off,” Durnin said. While this may not be the option for you, renting a bike for a month or walking to class instead of driving can cut down on gas and monthly metro card costs.
8. Understand that Money is Meant to Be Spent!
In all your wise buys and money precautions remember: It can be worth it. “Don’t let the money stop you. That’s usually what holds people back or sways their decision…But traveling the world is the best education you could possibly get. You’ll learn things that you never could in a classroom, and it helps you develop as a person and figure out who you want to become, and what you want your future to look like. Then you can come back and point yourself towards that path,” University of North Carolina Wilmington junior Sarah Sullivan said. The same goes for experiences at home. Maybe that online textbook costs three times more than you want to pay, but what if your class inspires you to change the world?
9. Hold onto Your Coins
Yes, that beautiful vase full of pennies is actually worth something. Even if at the end of all your collecting it’s only $5, that’s $5 you can guiltlessly spend on that amazing bakery you salivate past on your way home every day. Quarters seem like nothing, but they add up so fast. “I’m also a big fan of putting all the coins I get in a jar to save… It is helpful for laundry because it usually means I have quarters around,” University of Virginia senior Dana Lueker said. By using your change to leave yourself with dollars instead of random coins, you also feel richer.
10. Get Crafty
Having money isn’t just about keeping it around—find ways to bulk up your bank account. Whether it’s putting a portion of your earnings into a savings account or applying to scholarships to help cover costs, every bit counts. Lueker recommended, “Try to find study abroad/research abroad programs where you can apply for grant money.” Get crafty with a GoFundMe page or even start your own business. Lueker sold bracelets to help fund her trip to Panama as a freshman. She said, “The friendship bracelets were not the best way to earn money in college just because the time to money ratio wasn’t the best. [but] I really appreciated that my friends were willing to support me by buying some.” Hey, even if it crashes and burns, it might help you figure out your next big business scheme.