Saving money is hard.
It’s just so enticing to spend. I mean, come on. That’s the entire point of money, isn’t it? To immediately be exchanged for a good or service? Right?
If you’re a college student—and if you’re reading this you probably are—the expenditure of money is your mortal enemy. If you see it in the streets you should be ready to fight it ON SIGHT.
Let us put this into perspective for a moment: In college, if you’re not working a part-time job, or God help you, a full-time job by day and taking classes by night, you more than likely have an income that equals zero (with a “Z”) dollars.
This can be quite a conundrum fiscally, as you also have quarterly expenses involving tuition, rent, food, gas, utilities, etc. amounting to thousands of dollars. This often means one of three things: Your parents are fitting the bill if you’re lucky, you’re scraping by on scholarships OR you’re incurring large amounts of debt.
Regardless of how you’re affording the conditions inherent with college life, one fact remains clear: there are few, if any, instances in which you’ll have disposable income, so it’s critical to your life and well-being to save like a NY pack-rat in winter.
Thankfully for you, OmegaFiis here to pick you up by your shoulders, dust them off, and break down Saving and Budgeting: 5 Tips to Keep Your Wallet Intact Through the Semester.
Let’s start here:
5. Minimize Your Expenses (Stop Eating Out, Make Your Own Lunch)
Unnecessary expenses are akin to a slow poison, gradually killing the health and vitality of a once thriving personal checking account.
So, what’s the antidote?
Easy. Stop blowing money on things that are unnecessary. For starters, we here at OmegaFi all went to college and understand the appeal of readily-available fast food. You’re hungry. It’s cheap. We get it. But fast food by its very nature is supposed to be an emergency food of sorts. It’s a quick convenience with a consistency you can count on. But in reality, as “Supersize Me” has shown us, it shouldn’t be eaten as a regular meal in place of real food. And worse, if you spend 5 dollars a day eating off the dollar menus of various fast-food franchises, that ends up being $150 a month. That’s more than most cell-phone bills—and to be frank, $5 for an entire day is going to leave you more malnourished than a vegan in Texas.
Cut the fast food out or at least dramatically minimize it. Grocery shop, learn how to cook and bring small meals with you on campus. Trust us, the savings are worth the stares.
Special note – Cut out alcohol as well. Buying drinks at the bar is great but ultimately, it’s expensive and that’s not even including the tip. Challenge yourself to have fun sober. It’s safer, you’ll live longer, and your skin will thank you.
4. Take Advantage of Free Resources (the Library for Books, Free Programs to Automate Your Life)
Here’s a place where you can get free books that are both new and recent: the public library. You may scoff at the idea of wading through the people that frequent the public library, but rather than buying a book (or textbook) in the campus bookstore or Amazon, just drive down to the public library, get a library card and get the book there.
Trust us. Most students aren’t doing this, so there’s a good chance the the book you’re looking for will be available. It’s also an earth-conscious way of re-using or reclaiming current books rather than buying more.
You kids are into the whole conservation thing, right?
Secondly, utilize free programs whenever they are available. Here’s an example: Did you know that if you give blood, they’ll often give you free gifts like two tickets to the movies? Did you know that you can rent current DVDs and movies from the library?
Did you also know that rather than going to the same tired college bars, you can take a small group of close friends to places like:
- A public park
- The beach
- And playing virtually any outdoor game/sport
All of which are F-R-E-E.
Take advantage. It feels good to do things differently.
3. Create a Budget for Yourself
Let’s get down to brass tacks: You can do free things and cut your expenses down, but what’s going to ground you and give you a solid foundation is a budget, plain and simple.
In order to create a strong budget, you need to do a few things first:
- Determine your income (if it’s zero put zero, but allot a budget to work with at the start of every semester when financial aid drops or your parents send some money over).
- Determine your spending habits by going through your bank statement line by line.
- Cut out any unnecessary spending and be reasonable in what you allot your “income” towards. For instance if you drive around a lot, give yourself a surplus in your gas budget to account for any overages.
Once you’ve got a clear picture of where your money is going and how much is coming in, you can make conscious choices to cut back in certain areas—like cutting back on the lobster dinners and get that grocery budget down a few hundred dollars.
2. Use the Envelope System
If you haven’t heard of the envelope system, it’s pretty simple: Put the funds for your allotted spend categories into physical (or digital envelopes) and don’t add more money into them. Essentially once you’ve spent the $300 dollars in your grocery budget, that’s it. This will give you a clear picture of how much money you have to spend, how quickly you’re spending it, and will stop you from over-spending if you can discipline yourself.
To make this system work, be reasonable in your allotments. You want to overshoot rather than undershoot your spending estimates, as long as it’s financially viable for your overall income and budget. If you spend $200 on average grocery shopping per month, put $250 in your grocery envelope, and if you have any savings at the end of the month, move it to your savings envelope (yes, you should have a savings envelope for emergencies).
Using the envelope system is great way to stop yourself from overspending while simultaneously teaching you to be a bit more conservative in expenses. You may see that a lot of your food goes to waste because you don’t have time to cook. If that original budget was $200, you may see an opportunity to get it down to $150 by focusing on quick on-the-go foods instead.
1. Get Digit
Here at OmegaFi we can’t stress this app enough. Get digit. Essentially it’s a micro-transfer app that connects itself like a leech to your favorite bank account and siphons off fractions of money (kind of like the embezzlement program in “Office Space”) and puts it into a separate account you can view but can withdraw from casually. An app like this is a godsend to someone looking to save some money without the pain of moving their funds from “spending money” into a savings account.
Due to the small, incremental nature of the program itself, this app is a perfect companion for personal saving and finance—and as an added bonus, it does all these things without you ever noticing.
And now, you have no excuses. Defeat your enemies. Conquer the day. Save.
If you have problems saving money and wish there was an emoji for being broke, let us know in the comments below!