This year has been pretty big for me financially and while I’m excited about all the super adult changes that have been happening, I’m also lowkey scared. I’ve been making more money blogging this year, I got a small part-time job on campus, I got my first credit card, and (unfortunately) I have more expenses. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty overwhelming and I’ve been trying to start better spending habits, because if I can’t be financially responsible now when I don’t have as many expenses on my plate, I’m probably going to be a mess when I have to worry about rent, groceries, and bills.
I think that everyone says that saving money is really hard, but honestly spending it responsibly is even harder. Unless you’ve mastered the art of pulling stacks of green out of the air, you’re probably going to find yourself torn between buying the things you want and need and pretending like it’s not the end of the world if you don’t shell out the cash for a new laptop to replace your fried one. Kinda hurts, doesn’t it?
I know lots of people will probably tell you that the best way to make this pain hurt a little less is to be more conscious of your spending, but that’s way easier said than done. So here are some things that I generally try to keep in mind when trying to be more mindful of how I spend money.
1. Avoid eating out frequently.
Especially if you have a campus meal plan! I know dining hall food isn’t always very appetizing and sometimes you get tired of eating the same thing, but ordering pizza or Chinese food every week means you’re spending money that you wouldn’t have had to spend if you just cooked what you have or used your meal plan on campus.
2. You don’t need to party or buy alcohol because everyone else is doing it.
Going out can be really tempting when everyone else wants to, but it’s also costly. Do what’s best for your budget, not what’s best for someone else’s boredom. Going out every week will definitely kill your wallet, especially when you also have to factor in transportation costs.
3. If you see something you think you really, really want…just wait.
I am SO guilty of always seeing something that I think I need ASAP but then not caring about it two weeks later. Before you splurge on that limited edition eyeshadow palette or that expensive jacket you don’t know what to pair with, give it some time. If you find yourself still dreaming about the item, it’s safe to say that you’re good purchasing it.
4. Use student discounts when you make purchases.
There are so many sites and services that are happy to give students money off on purchases—you just need to find them! I wrote a post about a service called UNiDAYS, which is perfect for saving money on your favorite brands, so be sure to check that out.
5. Splurge once in a while.
It’s totally okay to splurge; just make sure you really want it. I usually try to put some money off to the side specifically for the items I want to splurge on. I really like the idea of saving money with a specific purchase goal in mind, so when I actually use the money I don’t feel bad because I had planned on using it in the first place.
6. Get rid of any subscriptions you’re paying for but not using.
I hear people talk about subscriptions and memberships that they pay for but don’t use far too often and it honestly makes me cringe. I understand the logic behind it—you think you’ll actually use it because you’re paying extra money for it—but when you find that you’re literally just throwing money out the window on something you aren’t using, you should seriously just consider canceling. It’s a waste of your hard-earned cash, and to be completely blunt, if you really wanted it you’d be using it.
7. Make note of what you spend your money on.
But don’t be like me and say you’re going to write everything down and then not (oops). Just be aware of what you’re spending money on if you’re using a credit card. This way, if you see an unfamiliar charge on your bill, you can address it. If you don’t want to get a physical notebook for this, just create a simple Google spreadsheet.
8. Don’t abuse your credit card.
Honestly, I was excited for my first credit card but also kind of stingy about making purchases. Like, I debated using my card for the first time on a purchase that was credit card only because I was so nervous to use it after all the stories of crazy interest rates and all that. Make card purchases that you know for a fact you can pay off completely when your bill arrives. If you only pay the minimum amount on your bill, that’s when you accrue the dreaded interest. So while you may feel powerful with a credit card in your possession, don’t go overboard!
9. Always be aware of the amount of money you have left.
This is pretty self-explanatory but one of the best ways to be smart about how you spend money is to always know how much you have. This will help you decide if you really want to go out tonight, or if you can really afford the handbag you’ve been eyeing.
10. Be a smart textbook shopper.
My freshman year, I spent $500 on textbooks because I bought them all brand new and didn’t open my eyes to a beautiful thing called borrowing from the library. Being smart about where and how (and if) you buy textbooks can help you save so much money. I won’t go into too much detail because I have a full post on How To Save Money In College, but make sure you exhaust all other options before buying a book brand new or even used.
11. Purchase your needs before your wants.
I mean, it’s pretty clear what’s more important here. If you dropped your laptop and need to repair it so you can turn in assignments then you should obviously make that a priority.
12. Travel as cost effectively as possible.
If you can walk, walk. it’ll save you bus fare, a train ticket, gas money—whatever. Always consider all of your travel options before you decide what to do. Transportation fare adds up very quickly over time, after all. For one of my reporting classes, I often have to travel off campus and while I’ve been taking the train a lot, I think it may be more cost effective for me to rent a car and drive to where I need to be. So, I’m probably going to just start doing that instead. So that means no more spending $30+ on round-trip train tickets!
What are your tips for responsible money-spending?