As college students, it’s the first time in our lives we are officially living on our own. Our parents still may be paying the bills, but as students we have to be strictly conscientious of our spending habits. This is call living on a budget, but I prefer to think of it more as looking for ways to save money when you can.
Here are my 10 tips which have proved essential in keep my spending habits in check and more importantly, my bank account happy.
1.) Purchase your groceries at Target. I have shopped at many different grocery stores, and per a trip, the low prices at Target are unbeatable. When shopping, don’t be tempted by the name brands just because they are what you have grown up eating. Store brands, such as Target’s Market Pantry, sell items most often times made in the same factory as the name brand products, and the only difference is the packaging, as well as the significantly lower price. Another grocery store tip is to never shop hungry. It is scientifically proven you are much more likely to buy food items you don’t need when you are hungry. This is your hungry stomach talking, and you don’t really need these extra items. Bringing a list to the store also helps to ensure that you won’t forget any of the essentials, and you will be more likely to deter from buying unnecessary things.
2.) Limit the number of times you eat out a week. You are paying for the convenience and experience of eating out, however eating out is expensive and should be observed as more of a treat. My general rule of thumb is to try eating out only once a week.
3.) Coffee really can be pricy. It may not seem like it at the time, but the amount of coffee you consume in a single month carries a high price. Caffeine may be a crucial aspect of your morning routine, but is spending $80 on coffee in a single month truly that valuable to you? Lavish coffee drinks such as mochas, lattes, and blended ice drinks can cost upwards of $5 in a single purchase. I suggest opting to limit or reward yourself every once in awhile to such drinks, or to simply swap out these pricy, and not to mention, high calorie drinks for just a regular coffee. An even better option to keep in mind is most coffee shops sell reusable mugs which can be filled up for less than $1.
4.) Buy on Sale. I can never turn down a good sale on food or other items. In regards to food, it never hurts to buy food, particularly meats, on sale. You can always freeze it until you actually need it. With clothes or other things, you can’t exactly “freeze them until you need them,” but what you can do is buy what you do need in the off-season and then pull it out once again in the appropriate season.
5.) Coupon, coupon, coupon. Need I say more? Cutting and collecting your coupons ahead of time will save you tons of money in the long run. It may only be 50 cents or a dollar off, but it quickly adds up. I have never been embarrassed to pull out my envelope stuffed with coupons, and nor should you. If you are more into the techy version of couponing, my favorite app to save money with is Target’s Cartwheel App.
6.) Evaluate the difference between needs and wants. You may think there is a fine line between the two, however, what you think you may need is more likely to be masked as a want. Remember to think twice before reaching into your wallet. It also helps me to shop with a friend because the presence of another person keeps my wild shopping ideas, not to mention my wants, strictly in tact.
7.) Quality over quantity. That being said, there are things we truly do need. As young adults, we are taking our first steps into the professional world, and it is crucial to look and dress the part. I suggest investing in staple items which will serve as the core of your professional wardrobe. Look for high quality items made of washable materials (no dry cleaning necessary). Also keep in mind the concept of “mix and match,” so that these pieces can be worn many different ways.
8.) Paint your own nails. I recently attended an event about dressing professionally and holding a more put together image in the business world. One of the components in the session was entitled “attention to detail,” including the topic of groomed nails. However, being a college student, I don’t have $40 to spending on getting my nails done. Instead, I opted for the $4 clearance gel nail polish at Marshalls. If you are good at painting your nails, this method looks the same as having your nails professionally done, and an additional perk is the polish will last about a week without chipping.
9.) Don’t splurge on activities. There are countless free or reasonably priced activities to do, especially, in the Twin Cities. Don’t forget to ask about college discounts too!
10.) Good minds think alike. Surround yourself with people who have similar spending habits to you. Don’t be that person who gets caught up in hanging around a crowd who spends more money than you can afford to spend.
It’s truly up to you if you choose to incorporate these ideas into your life or not. I promise these simple tricks are super easy, you won’t even realize how much money you are saving!
Good luck and have fun!