Ever since I came to college and started living on my own, I've noticed how important it is to be smart with how I spend my money. Learning to budget and only buy things I really need has been hard, but it is an important step of becoming an adult. College is supposed to be some of the best years of your life, but that doesn't mean you should have to worry about every last penny you spend. Learning the balance between saving and treating yourself will ensure you can survive college with a limited budget.
Although this seems obvious, many of my friends don't seem too keen on actually saving their money. Going to the bank and setting up a savings account is so easy, and the earlier you start, the better. No amount is too small to put into savings each month, as long as you put aside some money for when you truly need it. It might seem rough now, but you will thank yourself later.
2. Find a job.
Even though college can be extremely busy, if you find that you have time left over, consider getting a job. There are many employment opportunities on campus, and most are very flexible and sensitive to students' schedules. Finding a job, even if it doesn't pay great, will ensure that you have some extra money in your pocket, and don't have to worry each time you want to treat yourself to an acai bowl.
3. Use coupons.
Couponing can seem like a hassle, but it doesn't have to be. Signing up for rewards programs at places like Publix, CVS, and Target can give you great benefits. Saving a few dollars here and there really adds up, so take advantage of deals and savings, especially by couponing.
4. Consider using cash.
Even though going to the ATM can be a struggle, I find that when I actually have cash in my wallet, I am much more aware of how much money I am spending, because I can physically see it disappear. Using cash rather than your card makes you more aware of your spending habits, making your money last longer.
Making a simple budget for the month can go a long way. Plan out what fixed costs you have each month, and then set aside some spending money. Documenting your expenditures also makes you aware of when you might be spending too much money on things you don't need and can help you cut back.
6. Get a meal plan.
If you are living on campus, consider getting a meal plan. While college meal plans are expensive, they usually offer some savings. Also, being confined to a meal plan can ensure that you don't eat out too much, which helps save your bucks. Buying groceries can also be expensive, so making use of your meal plan can be a great way to stick to your budget.
7. Don't buy things you don't need.
While this one also seems obvious, it can be tricky. Whenever I go shopping with my friends or pass by a cute boutique, I find it hard to resist the urge not to buy a cute top or a new pair of shoes. However, really thinking about what you need and how much use you might have for something, can help you decide if you are spending money unnecessarily. A good way to figure out if you really need something is to leave it in the store, and see if, in an hour, you still want it just as bad.
8. Stop Ubering.
If you don't have a car in college, it can be easy to fall into the habit of Ubering everywhere. Taking an Uber is easy and convenient, but it really adds up. If you are going somewhere that doesn't require a car, consider walking or getting a bike. Making use of public transportation is also a great way to save money, as many colleges have free bussing for students.
9. Cook your own food.
If you are not living on campus, and do not have a meal plan, cooking at home is a great option. Eating out or ordering food is delicious, quick and easy, but it is a waste of money. Buying groceries and cooking goes a long way and can be just as fun and tasty as eating out.
10. Remember to treat yourself.
While there are many ways to save your money, it is also important to set aside some money each month to treat yourself. We all deserve to splurge sometimes, and buying a new outfit every once in a while, or going out to dinner with your friends every now and then, really won't make or break your budget. Just be smart about how you decide to spend that extra bit of cash!