A No-BS Guide
You may notice a sense of sterile optimism and cold calculation while reading financial advice online. But let’s get real, we're not computers and we’re certainly no Warren Buffet. We make mistakes, we have bad habits, and are cursed with the uniquely human proclivity to ruin everything.
So for the college student who's looking for mo ramen and less problems, here are 5 simple budgeting tips I wish I knew as a freshman.
1. Time Management (Chores)
Pinching pennies is not the only way to promote financial stability. Along with budgeting your money, you will need to budget your time. Plan your week outside of class and make sure that you have time to do the things that will save you money. Wash the dishes rather than using plastic ware, precook meals and freeze them rather than waiting to have dinner at 2 am in a Wendy’s parking lot. It is also important to plan your groceries and shopping time. Stick a notepad or whiteboard on the fridge and write down what you need as your run out of it. After your grocery trip, write down all your delicious meals so you know what you have and don’t waste food (or get tempted to make that McDs run).
2. The Cost of Caffeine
It’s time for the big talk. Let’s say you have school five days a week and the only way to physically live through your professor’s droning stories about the days of yore is to slug down 12 oz of concentrated adrenaline. At almost $3–7 dollars a pop for your average energy drink or Starbucks coffee, this habit can add up to over $140 a month or a whopping $720- $1680 a year, depending on your drink of choice.
Monster, Red bull, and other popular brands are available in bulk at membership stores like Cost-Co and Sam’s Club. Heck even buying the 12-pack at your local grocery store can save you boatloads over time. Even better, any brand of energy drink that’s worth a darn has a generic knock-off. For example. Aldis sells “Red Thunder” their re-imagining of Red Bull enjoyed by starving students and dive bar owners looking to cut costs all across the Midwest. A standard 'Bull of the 12 oz variety at $2.84 will cost you more than a 4-pack of Red Thunder. It may not taste exactly the same, but at that price, you’ll get used to it. The same goes for coffee, get a Keurig single cup, at $79.99 it will pay for itself with about 15-20 Starbucks trips Research some recipes and make a copycat of your favorite mocha-venti-chino from home.
3. Budget Bad Habits
Much like with caffeine, the most common reason for taking the fly-by-night attitude and buying your bad habit for a premium daily is the mindset of “I’m going to quit tomorrow, no wait, next week!’. Why would you buy a bunch of something you’re quitting anyway, what a waste of money right? Look, I would never discourage you from quitting something if that’s your goal. I will however ask you to be realistic, think about how long you have been doing this, how much it costs, and how effective it is in its desired result. Smoke? Buy by the carton. Vape? Discern how much of each product you use and plan your purchases online, this way you can include it in your budget. If you don’t have a rock-solid plan to quit said habit within a certain time frame: BUY IN BULK
4. Trust me, You Have Enough to Save
I’m no stranger to the ramen every night, nothing everyday lifestyle. the mental state of resolving any financial question with dad jokes such as “I can’t afford to pay attention” is a hard one to shake. However, after coercing myself to complete an updated budget I found that I had over $500 in extra funds each month (extra as in not explicitly for bills). It may sound crazy as you are reading this, but take the time to think about where your money goes and I can guarantee you will find something that could be better spent towards your future.
Start with $20-$50 a check every time you get paid, even $5 a week can add up quickly. Try using investment apps like Acorns, and start small. A dollar here or there may feel like nothing, but I promise it adds up and you will not regret having money that you cannot access on a whim. Saving is about your mindset. Saving that quarter off the ground or from the bottomless depths between your car seat and center console may seem like a waste, but the 4 seconds it takes to pick up and pocket that quarter pays over $200 an hour.
5. Don’t Ignore Student Loans
College seems so long and arduous before you start, doesn’t it? Maybe that is why it’s so hard to believe when graduation day comes around and slaps you in the face. Not only do you have to start making grown-up decisions but surprise surprise, it’s time to cough up all that sweet student loan money. No, I’m not saying to undertake the Kevin Gates methodology and get six jobs to pay off your loans early, but I do recommend that you be aware. Take the time to see what you owe so far, is there any interest? Come up with a plan of how and when you will pay your loans off. Finally, please, for the love of God, remember, that disbursement you may or may not get deposited to you at the beginning of the year is not “bonus money”. 9/10 times this is money that will have to be paid back with interest, do not blow it on Gucci bags and Playstations, invest it.