Being a “grown-up” in training (i.e. college student) means one foot in irresponsibility and the other in mastering the art of adulting. Like it or not, a a major part of the latter includes learning the ways of financing. College has its range of expenses: beer, concert tickets and of course textbooks. Managing them can be tough. This especially rings true when most of us spent our high school years learning European History instead of how to save money or do our taxes or write a check.
Ready to learn how to save money? You’ll Thank Yourself Later.
1. Make money before you can save it
Not everyone gets blessed with an overly-compensated allowance lifestyle, but getting a job in college is more worthwhile regardless. To save money, you need to make some first. Co-CEO and Founder of Oxygen Financial Ted Jenkin said, “There is nothing more important than learning how to generate revenue for your own household.” Aside from some extra cash in your pocket each week, working in college teaches time management and how to budget on a salary. And hey, it can be fun too.
2. Use cash
It’s a great idea to get a credit card as soon as possible to start earning credit, but if budgeting isn’t your thing, cash can serve as a physical limitation on your spending. Especially when going out or shopping for the day, leaving the plastic behind and bringing cash instead leaves you with no choice but to only spend what you brought. “The biggest mistake college kids made is credit card debt,” Jenkin said. “College kids spend what they don’t have. This is a mentality that should begin early—you just don’t spend what you don’t have.”
3. Plan out your week
Not only will planning your week out ahead of time help your time use become more efficient, but it can also impact your spending too. Laying out each week ahead of time—when you’re eating out or will be doing something that requires spending money—gives you an idea of how much you’ll be spending that week and when. “Usually at the beginning of the week, I look ahead to see how much I’m going to spend,” University of Georgia sophomore Catherine Johnson said. “Especially if I know I’m going out of town for a weekend, I know I’ll be spending more, so I try to save up during the week.”
4. Figure out what you’re responsible for paying for now
Whether it be your dog, your larger-than-Twin-XL bed or a shower you don’t need flip flops in, we all took things for granted at home. Before going to college, take a good look at the new expenses you’ll have. Talk with your parents about what’s on their bill and what’s not so you can plan ahead of time for what new things might take a chunk out of your pay check. Maybe they’ll help cover tuition or you’ll have to pay rent on your own. Either way, better figure that out before school starts.
5. Make a budget—and stick to it
“The primary lack of success for young investors is that they don’t manage their cash flow successfully,” Jenkin said. Allot a set amount money for what you plan on buying (school supplies, gas, groceries, clothing, eating out, alcohol, whatever it may be), decide how much you want to spend on each and stick to that number for each month. If you let yourself slide from time to time, you won’t really stick to it, so be hard on yourself and maybe don’t drop $15 on half-price drinks tonight because it was too good of a deal. Take notes on your phone of everything you buy to hold yourself accountable. And even thought it can feel really, really painful, take a look at your bank statement every now and again to see what you spend the most money on. Re-evaluate if sushi or online shopping seem like worthwhile activities when deciding where to spend the most money.
6. Shop the sales
Love Free People? Shop the sales. You know those grocery store coupons you always throw out? Maybe consider actually keeping them in your wallet for once. Buying at a discounted price not only adds up to huge savings over time but it also feels shockingly easy. At places you find yourself frequently visiting, consider a savings card (i.e. grocery stores or even Starbucks) so you can start earning rewards and saving as you go. When it comes to online shopping, you can find discount codes for almost anything, and items do not take long to go on sale. So, next time Urban comes out with a new line, patience will save you a few bucks.
7. Start investing
Maybe you aren’t a Finance and Accounting double major planning to run the stock exchange one day. So what? That doesn’t mean you can’t master investing just as well. Apps available to make investing even easier (Robinhood, Stash and Acorn to name a few) allow users to invest and trade funds connected to their bank account for low minimum investments and fees. Delete Angry Birds for something a little more profitable.
8. Open a savings account
There’s just no feeling quite like having money in the bank. Having extra money set aside for a rainy day, or better yet, when you graduate and are no longer on the parent’s payroll, pays off—literally. Every once and a while, deposit that babysitting check into a savings account instead of checking or take a percentage of monthly allowance. Set it aside for that apartment or plane ticket to Europe post grad.
9. Buy bonds, government bonds
If you’re thinking really long term here and have reached the point of maturity most college students don’t reach until bonds are ready to be cashed, look into investing in bonds. It’s a long wait until pay day, but it’s worth a shot considering most are sold at half face value.
If all else fails, save the old-fashioned way and set a piggy bank on your dresser. Or maybe something more mature—a mason jar, perhaps? Loose change is something we rarely even use. Let it add up to spending money instead of leaving in your car’s center console.