The stereotypical broke college kid sounds like a cliché… until you turn into one, that is. As a first-year student, I’ve had to come to terms with the idea of keeping to a budget. We all have to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with our wallets when we leave home for the first time. Learning how to keep your spending under wraps is tough but necessary. I asked a few other college students to share their methods for keeping their finances in check.
Caroline said that we should take ourselves back a few decades when it comes to our wallets. Although the use of debit and credit cards is convenient and widespread, she said the answer to the problem of going over budget is breaking out cold, hard cash.
“Keeping your spending money in cash keeps you from charging excessive amounts of unnecessary purchases to your easy-access credit card,” Caroline said.
Paying in cash may seem silly or archaic for millennials at first, but more than one college kid has adopted this method. Charles had a similar suggestion.
“I try to keep small bills in my wallet,” he said.
If you limit your payment options, it’s easier to keep a clear idea of what you’re spending. Dollar bills are tangible. You can watch cash disappear more quickly than you can watch the balance tick downwards on monthly balance statements.
If you can’t bear to part with your debit card, you aren’t alone. Cards are easy and convenient to use. Plus, with many banks now offering smartphone apps and online services that update your balance statements as soon as you make a purchase or a deposit, it’s easier than ever to keep track of your balance electronically. If you’re trying to keep a strict budget and your debit card, Kyle had a suggestion. With diligence, he said, you can keep yourself in check.
“Sit down before school starts and say, ‘This is how much I can afford to spend every month,’” Kyle said. “Only transfer the amount you give yourself in your budget from savings to checking every month.”
Amber wasn’t sure that she could stick to that kind of plan. College kids can’t think that far in advance. She offered a short-term system.
“Sometimes it is hard to take the time to sit down and set a full budget,” Amber said. “I find that it is easier to do something as simple as setting a weekly limit on the number of times you go out to eat each week.”
Caroline agreed. “Exploit free food. College is full of it,” she said, referencing meetings and receptions that offer a meal to encourage attendance.
Limiting meals out can save more than just your food budget. You spend less money on gas by walking to a dining hall or cooking for yourself. On the subject of meal plans, Olivia suggested taking full advantage of the money you spent at the beginning of the year on that university-required meal plan.
“Use your meal plan wisely,” she said. “Don’t spend all your money buying food out if you have a meal plan.”
For those of us who don’t trust our self-control, Kristen had a suggestion. She admitted that she has a hard time saying no to things she wants. So, she said, why even tempt yourself?
“Don’t expose yourself to opportunities to spend money,” Kristen said. “Like, when people ask me to go to Target, I just say ‘no.’ I don’t have the money to spend, so I don’t go places where I see things I want!”
These college kids seem to be doing all right, so hopefully their budget-saving strategies can help you as well. Good luck!
Image credit, Reuters