- Write down every single thing you spend money on.
I make a budget for myself each month. I have a pretty fixed income and I divide it up into categories like groceries, eating out, entertainment, health/beauty, shopping, etc. At the end of each month I add up what I’ve spent in each category, so for the next month I know I need to eat out less or that I can afford to treat myself and get my nails done [wishful thinking].
However, what helps me manage my money even more than budgeting my income is simply writing down every single thing that I buy. I take note of the date, the place, the cost and what category of my budget it fits into.
So when I’m standing in the middle of J. Crew holding the cutest shirt I’ve ever seen- but it also happens to be absolutely unnecessary AND crazy expensive- I don’t tell myself that I can’t buy it. I do tell myself that if I buy it, I have to write it down so every time I open my notebook from now until the end of the month, I’ll be reminded that I spent a dumb amount of money on a shirt I didn’t need. This works!!!
Writing everything down forces you to be conscious about what you’re spending. $3.00 on a cup of coffee one time doesn’t seem like much. But if you write down spending $3.00 on a cup of coffee five days in a row, you’ll notice how quickly your habit adds up!
- Make your coffee, don’t buy it.
Speaking of $3.00 cups of coffee [my usual at Starbs is $3.87 to be exact]…
Last semester I let myself buy coffee twice a week. Spending $3.87 on coffee one time doesn’t seem like much. But twice a week every week throughout a four-month semester adds up to $124. ON COFFEE ALONE!!!
Maybe for you it’s not coffee. Maybe you’ve got a habit of running through Jimmy John’s or Penn Station on your way home from work a couple times a week. Whatever it is, be conscious of the fact that it adds up fast!
We are in our second month of the semester now and I’ve only bought coffee three times. So I’ve spent around $12, compared to $32 I would’ve spent by this time last semester! And this was just one super small change I made to my routine. I still drink coffee every day, but I make it myself. A large canister of grounds is $6.99 and it lasts for like two months. I don’t care what it is, buying the ingredients and making it yourself will always be cheaper than paying someone else to make it for you!
- Make a wishlist.
I know, I know…making a list of things you want to buy doesn’t seem like something that would help you save money. Let me explain! I have a Pinterest board that I update whenever I think of something I’d really like to have but wouldn’t probably buy for myself, or that I’d have to save up for in order to buy (in case you want to get me a present).
When I’m at Target- usually in the dollar spot or shoe section- and I’m tempted to make an impulse purchase, I’ve got a readily available list of things I know I want more than whatever I’m about to buy. Yeah, I could get this pair of sandals that are so cute even though I already have a pair that are basically identical. But if I don’t, I’m that much closer to being able to get that rose gold Kendra Scott…
And spending $60 on a necklace isn’t exactly saving money, true. But trust me, I don’t buy a $60 necklace every month! And Lord knows if I let myself wander around Target for three hours and walk out with everything I impulsively decide I want, that adds up to waaay more than $60.
Making a wishlist is a great [and fun!] way to keep in perspective what you really want and what it’s actually worth it to spend your money on.
- Use cash, not your card.
I don’t know about you, but it is much harder for me to hand over a hard-earned twenty-dollar bill than it is to swipe my card and move on with my day. Paying in cash as often as possible helps you to be conscious of how much you’re spending. I can use my debit card all week and check my balance at the end of the week and somehow unexplainably have SO MUCH less than I thought I would. But if I’m using cash throughout the week, every time I open my wallet I have a visual of about how much I’ve spent and how much I have left.
I wouldn’t recommend keeping wads of cash laying around. But at the beginning of the week or the month, choose an amount of money you don’t want to spend more than and go to the ATM. Then you have your cash, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Carrying a set amount of cash and being able to leave your debit card at home when you go to Target or Hobby Lobby- or whatever store is your own personal most dangerous place on earth- works wonders for your wallet.
- Save your change.
I got a change jar as a white elephant gift for Christmas. And- full disclosure- I still haven’t remembered to buy AAA batteries so it can live up to its full potential and actually keep track of the amount of change I put inside it. But I got curious the other day so I counted it myself, and since Christmas I’ve saved up $21.47 in change.
It’s not enough to start paying off my student loans but it’s $20 I wouldn’t have otherwise! And let’s be honest- twenty extra bucks in college feels more like a hundred. It’s enough to buy sixteen avocados, if anyone’s wondering [side note: does anyone else feel like they’ve spent half their life savings on avocados?! Maybe just me].
This might also just be me, but I think couponing is SO FUN. I have more than once throughout my college career attempted to become an extreme couponer, but have realized I simply don’t have the skillset or time of day for that. So I’ve settled for just being a regular couponer. And here is what I’ve learned- you don’t have to be extreme to save money!!
Websites like www.coupons.com are great for grocery coupons. It lets you search for what you buy and print as many coupons as you want. So you can be like me and browse through pages and pages because you have nothing better to do or you can search for exactly what you need and print what you find.
Apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 are kind of like coupons but they give you cash back for certain things you buy. They switch up their lists every week, and if you happen to need something on the list, send them a picture of your receipt after you’ve bought it and they add cash to your account [for both apps, you have to accumulate $20 before you cash out]. I got fifty cents back on bananas the other day that cost fifty-nine cents!
7. Collect rewards cards & join loyalty programs.
Probably every grocery story in existence has an app that gives you access to their weekly add and additional coupons and rewards. My favorites are the Payless/Kroger app and rewards card and Cartwheel by Target. They come at no cost to you so why not take advantage?! Oftentimes you don’t get the special deals listed in the ads and in the store unless you have a rewards card. I’ve gotten in the habit of just asking if they offer one everywhere I go! [I’ve saved a grand total of $330.16 using the Cartwheel app, which is really great until I start to think about how much I’ve had to spend to save that much.]
You can get special discounts AND everything from free coffee to burritos to lipstick just for swiping your rewards card every time you come in to places like these!
8. Take advantage of the fact that everyone knows you’re a broke college student.
Last but absolutely not least…STUDENT DISCOUNTS! They’re everywhere. If you’re not sure, just ask. Here are some of my favorite deals!