Budgeting is hard and saving money is even harder. Staying home while your friends go out isn’t any fun, but unfortunately, many college students are already in debt and adding more debt can follow you for a long time. You don’t have to sacrifice everything, but making just a few changes can save you hundreds per month.
Use cash. If you don’t need to build credit or if you think using a credit card will be too much temptation, don’t get one. Even if you do need to build some credit, going into debt right away won’t help. Using only cash will help you budget better, because you can only use as much cash as you have. Don’t even carry your debit card with you. Take out as much per week as you feel you can spend and then don’t take any more out until the week is over.
Write it all down. Even though we have bank and credit card apps that tell us when we spend money, it’s not in front of us all the time, so it’s easy not to think about. Hang up a whiteboard and write down everything you spend (even your $2.00 cup of coffee) so you can see where your money is going.
Limit how many times you go out. No one likes to say no to friends, but if you can’t afford to go out, it will be better for you in the long run. Encourage friends to hang out in one another’s apartments to cut the costs of restaurants and bars. Alcohol is expensive and you may not be able to afford it every time you go out.
Look for free things to do. Especially in cities, there’s always something going on. For example, Boston has tons of free outdoor movie nights all summer. You could get passes to movie screenings or many museums have a free night every week. Pack a picnic and head to the beach for the day. Think outside the box to find something fun to do.
Keep a grocery list and watch sales. A grocery list will help you buy only what you need and not everything you see. When you’re planning meals, look at your supermarket’s sale flyer and see what’s cheap that week.
Keep a savings account. I would suggest going so far as to get a savings account in a different bank. With all the technology and apps, transferring money is easy between a checking and savings. Putting it in a different bank all together makes it much less convenient.
Loose change. Do not throw away your loose change! Keep a jar, a piggy bank or anything. It adds up in the end.
Set aside a little each week. Even if you can’t make large payments, put $20 or $30 per week in a savings account or take it out and put it in a piggy bank so it’s completely out of mind.
Make coffee and lunch at home. Buying lunch and coffee every day really adds up. That’s almost $4,000 per year you could cut in half if you made your coffee at home and brought a lunch to work.
Thrift shop. Thrift shops are great for finding lots of cool clothes for pretty cheap. The internet is also helping out with lots of websites for people to sell their clothes, bags and jewelry with as well. If you’re feeling really creative, you could also learn how to fix your own clothes, so you can sew them up instead of throwing them out.
Netflix/Hulu. Even subscribing to both of them is substantially lower than the cost of cable. You won’t get to watch everything in season, but between the two of them, they have a pretty good selection.
Use a library. Libraries are a free option to read almost any book you’re looking for. If you don’t find it at your public library, most have networks of libraries in the area you can request it from.
It may not sound fun, but saving a little money now will help out a lot in the long run.
(Photo credit to 401(K) 2012)