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Hey, misfits! Once again, I’m reporting to you live from the world’s tiniest dorm room in London! I’m pretty sure there’ll be a day when I stop talking about the fact that I’m in one of the most amazing cities in the world, but I suppose today is not that day. Anywho, today I wanted to talk to you guys about money. That’s right, cold hard cash, something we college students see just about as often as a student that willingly signs up for an 8am class. If you’re anything like me, you spend most of the year struggling to get by because you had a week or two of spending in which you lost a ton of your paycheck or allowance to Barnes and Noble, concert tickets… you get the picture. Well, worry not! I’m going to give you some of the biggest tips I’ve used this past year to make my year at least a little bit less stressy, specifically concerning my money and spending.
This kind of sounds like the absolute basic tip for college students dealing with money, but that’s because it’s important and it works. When I first got to college, there was pretty much no budget and I had some money set aside that I, ah… squandered away pretty quickly on items I probably didn’t need. Now, I’m a little glad that happened (a little, just the tiniest bit) because it taught me pretty darn quickly just how important a budget is. Since then it’s been pretty smooth sailing!
When considering what kind of budget to use, there are a ton of options right at your fingertips! Yep, online budgeting programs are the biggest rage, and I can personally say that I loved using them! I was a fan of Mint, especially because you could connect your bank account to it so whenever you made a transaction, it popped right up! How easy is that? Right now, I’m using Pocket Expense because I’m dealing entirely wish cash rather than cards (foreign transaction fees — not fun!) and so far, it’s been wonderful! For all these apps, you basically just enter your transactions and how much money you have to spend on various categories and it automatically helps you come up with a spending budget.
There’s also more physical ways of doing this (again, for us cash users!), including the Envelope System (check out an example and explanation on ThriftyLittleMom!), which is basically physically setting aside your money in the required categories when you have it all in cash. I do this with my rent and with my transportation fees, because those are the only bills I pay monthly instead of weekly (like groceries and dining out), so it would make my budget system a little messy.
STAY CLEAR OF CREDIT CARDS
Believe me, believe me, I know you think you’re strong enough to handle a credit card. I know you think you’re going to be good and save up when you need to pay off your bill at the end of every month, and maybe you’re right. Heck, I thought I was right, because I had a constant job and I just thought that I could pay it back at the end of the month, no problem. But then the family I was nannying for had a schedule issue and had to let me go, and I was left with a heap of debt before the end of first semester. I’ll tell you that 95% of the time, like I did, college students go wrong with credit cards, because they focus on the “I need it now, pay later” and the “pay later”s begin to add up faster than they can shell out. If you think you can take on the tidal wave that is a credit card, be sure to find one with a student program/discount to try and waive any fees you might have and stay in touch with someone to keep yourself on track with it.
PENCIL IN BILL DATES
As an artist and an avid TV binger, I normally pay fees for Netflix and Photoshop every month. Now, it’s not the amount of programs I was paying for that was the problem (though I mention a tip in the next section to help with this!), it was the fact that when I had an empty bank account and one of the bills decided to go through as scheduled, it bounced and the bank took away more money — that I didn’t have. You can fix this little problem by writing down the due dates in your planner or calendar or whatever it is you use to keep track of your life! Personally, I like using my Erin Condren Life Planner for my bill dates, along with a monthly alarm for the bigger bills, but use whatever system you need to keep you from forgetting and getting a charge you otherwise could have avoided!
DOWN TO THE BARE ESSENTIALS
I know you might not want to hear this, but you have to sacrifice sometimes. Yeah, it sucks. But if you want to have money to get Chinese takeout every other night, you’re gonna have to give up something. For one, look at your spending habits over the last month — is there anything that racks up an unexpected number? Is there any way to keep that number down?
A lot of times, this will fall under coffee and dining out every night (yeah, Chipotle, I’m looking at you). Try picking up some of your own syrups or a Kurig Coffee Machine and making your own steamy cup of deliciousness every morning! It’s pretty cheap, and it’s for single-cups (though there are other models for more coffee making needs). Believe me, it’s saved a ton of money, plus, it’s made me the most popular person in my friends group because of the little machine.
Well, folks, these are the few tips I have for this month to help you guys save as much money as possible while in college! Of course, these tips can translate to anyone in any walk of life, and I hope they helped point you in the right direction towards a richer life. Get it? Richer? Alright, I’ll just let you guys go, and I’ll see you on Tuesday!