Budgeting is hard. Budgeting is especially hard when your income is small and you want to do as many fun things with your friends as possible. It’s hard to say no when everyone in your friend group decides to go to a music festival where tickets start out at $150 or to eat out two or three times a week, but it’s necessary skill to have. It’s even harder if you’re like me and have more trouble saying no to books than you do food
4 years of being somewhat financially independent (@parents thanks for paying my rent), and I still don’t have it down as much as I would like. It’s important to start somewhere, and I hope that these tips help.
- Keep track of your spending. There are apps that keep track of what you’re spending and give you a budget. Sometimes it’s easy to lose track of what you’re spending, especially when using a card. I find it’s easier to control what I spend if I’m using cash; it feels like I am physically paying for the item and can see the repercussions of doing so (aka I can literally see my money disappearing).
- Make choices. Would you rather go out to eat week to week or save up for that big event everyone wants to go to? While $5-10 expenditures may seem small, they add up and can be the reason you can’t afford to go on a fun trip with your friends later on.
- Apply for scholarships and grants. Everyone knows about applying for scholarships to go to college, but no one thinks about the smaller ones. If you really want to go on that debate trip to Baltimore or the senior bash at Universal Studios, sometimes clubs and local businesses have money set aside for students. This past weekend I competed at a Model United Nations conference, and because I applied for the scholarship my only costs were for food. It’s a worthwhile investment of your time to inquire about any potential scholarships to guarantee your spot on a trip.
- Make eating out or getting coffee a treat. Instead of regarding your daily latte as a necessity, keep it meaningful. Only go once a week and make coffee at home for when you need that daily caffeine kick. Similarly, don’t eat out for most meals. Eating out should be for special occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries, or as a reward for a long week, not an every day occurrence. Find some easy recipes online and stock up on Lean Cuisines and frozen meals from Trader Joes for those nights when you just don’t have the energy to cook.
- Use coupons and look for deals. Sure, no one wants to look cheap and use a coupon, but if the alternative is spending an extra $3 it’s worth it. While coupons don’t seem to save you that much money, if used often enough they add up. Use a coupon that takes $1-2 off 4 times and you can buy yourself a coffee!
While the above list was by no means exhaustive, the most important thing to remember about saving money is that it’s worth it. You don’t want to miss out on fun opportunities because you couldn’t say no to that super cute dress last week, but now have no where to wear it.
For more tips on budgeting and finance, check out our book, The Complete Guide to Personal Finance For Teenagers and Students. This book is particularly useful because it is directed at teens and young adults, meaning that it’s full of realistic ways to spend less and save more.