The college student budget that we’re all familiar with usually consists of surviving on Ramen noodles for a week and getting by on the cheapest, yet very impressive budget. It can be tough tracking all your small expenses, from Friday night Chipotle dinners to that $60 accounting book you had no choice in buying. Although we all can relate being broke college students, it doesn’t always mean you’ll have to live that way your entire college career. As we’re told by parents, professors, older friends and every financially independent person out there to start saving as early as you can, it’s easier said than done when you’re a student living minimum wage paycheck to minimum wage paycheck. No worries though, we have some tips on how to help you start saving early and efficiently without having to sacrifice those sacred Chipotle nights. We understand, it’s the little things.
One of the best ways to see what you’re really spending, where it’s going and how much you’re making is by tracking. You may feel like you’re cutting back on luxuries such as eating out, bar nights or your online shopping addiction, but physically seeing where all your money is going helps you really get a grasp on why you’re not actually saving. Here are some tips and tricks we’ve found valuable to us over the years that have helped us see how much we’re spending and ways to make saving even easier.
Mint – Mint is both an app and a website that makes tracking your spending very easy. It allows you to begin by setting yourself a monthly budget for all the ways you spend. There’s categories such as entertainment, groceries, shopping, bills and much more, even allowing you to choose your own categories. It has the ability to link with any of your credit or debit purchases, transfer that expense into your account and use that knowledge to categorize that purchase and withdraw that amount from that month’s budget. It will also alert you when bills are due and when you receive an unusual account charge. It’s the ultimate budget tracking tool; especially helpful for college students starting to get credit cards in their name or want to know what they’re spending monthly and what categories to cut back on.
Open an “Untouchable” Account – This is a tip we’ve heard from every adult learning how to “adult” the right way. Opening a savings account or just another checking account that you deposit portions of your paycheck into can help you save easily. Most of us, especially young adults in college who aren’t focused on saving heaps of money, can spend money easily when we see it’s there. Having an “untouchable account” where you don’t see the money virtually or physically helps you save easily without even realizing you’re doing it. This is something we suggest you start as soon as possible since it will add up over time whether you’re putting $10 in weekly or $100 monthly.
A Change Jar – This is a simple, easy tip. By creating a change jar, you have an easy go-to spot to dump all your loose pocket change and dollar bills that would usually get lost in the laundry, your jean pockets or would be just handed to your roommate who needs you to spot them. This can be for yourself or maybe all your roommates have a combined one. Keeping it in a convenient spot in your eyesight will help you stay on track and accountable for actually adding to the jar. Watching your jar gradually fill up add a little excitement and keep up the savings. To get even more creative, you can set goals such as dollar amounts or time frames for how much to save. If your roommates want to save, use your loose change jar and put it towards monthly bills. This is a very simple way to start saving and it can help someone learn the benefits of saving by physically seeing how fast things can add up with just pocket change.
Spreadsheets – As college students, we’re all familiar with using applications through Google and Microsoft Office. For someone who just wants a clean cut visual of where their money is coming and going, a spreadsheet is right at your fingertips. You are able to make your own categories you spend on monthly such as food, groceries, and bills, along with adding your own amount available for spending. A spreadsheet is great for the organized person who knows exactly what they spend and how to spend it. The best part is you can download it on your phone if you want daily access to your budget.
Pay Yourself First – This is a great way to treat yourself not only in college but throughout life. Similar to the “untouchable account,” you put money away for yourself before paying your expenses and regular spending. Whether you decide to use that money to save up to buy your dream car or take a much needed vacation, it’s yours to spend how you want and when you want. Caring for yourself is just as important as caring for all your expenses. You will thank yourself in the end.