Watch out for these unexpected money eaters
Are you always broke? Does your money seem to disappear? If you are a student, odds are that you are living on a limited budget, and that every dollar counts. Here are some tips to help stretch your budget and hopefully leave a little cash in your wallet at the end of each month.
1. Make a weekly budget
What is a budget? A budget is a spending plan. A budget shows how much money you have and how much money you expect to spend. You want the money you have to be higher than the money you spend. Otherwise you spend yourself into debt. One helpful resource for setting a personal budget is the U.S. Department of Education’s personal budgeting tool. Making a budget is helpful because it forces you to look at the things you are spending money on.
2. Avoid the “wants” and focus on the “needs”
When you are a student, it may be tempting to go out with friends to Starbucks or to buy a cup of coffee every morning at a convenience store. But remember, these small items add up to big spending over the course of a year. Spending just $3 per day on drinks or snacks can add up to over $750 per year. Cut back by bringing a reusable water bottle to school and skipping the trips to the coffee shop. Focus on the food items that you truly need, and buy them at the grocery store rather than a convenience store.
3. Search for used items when possible
With the electronic marketplace, there are more options than ever for sharing or reusing everything from clothing to electronics to textbooks. Look in local thrift stores for your clothing, and try online sites like Craigslist and ebay to find other items that you need. Your school may also have used items for sale, such as used textbooks. Use your social media accounts to network with your friends and classmates about items you may be able to share or trade.
4. Cut out the vices to save your health and your money
This may be stating the obvious, but smoking and drinking alcohol are both expensive habits! A pack-a-day smoker can spend over $2,500 per year on cigarettes. That equals over $12,000 in just five years. That’s a lot of money! Drinks can be expensive too. You can spend $3 to $7 on a single drink at a bar. That adds up quickly!
5. Pay your bills and credit card payments in full and on time
Credit cards can be dangerous for people who are not disciplined with their spending. When you are a student, you should make sure that you always have enough money to pay off your credit card bills at the end of each month. If you don’t pay off the full balance, you will be charged interest, and this can be a slippery slope that leads to excessive credit card debt. Some people choose to hold only debit cards to prevent themselves from going into credit card debt. The same goes with your household bills. If you don’t pay on time, you will be charged interest or late fees, which ultimately costs you more money in the end.
6. Try to reduce your monthly bills
Monthly payments can dig a hole in your monthly budget. See if there’s any way to eliminate or reduce your monthly bills.
- Are you paying for cable? Try canceling it until after you graduate and find a job.
- Adjust your heat or AC by a few degrees to save on utility bills.
- Shop around for a cheaper plan for your cell phone.
- Shop around for less expensive car insurance.
- Are you living alone? See if you can find a roommate to share the cost of rent.
- Start a carpool to save gas money. Or if you live in a city with a car share plan, see if you can sell your car and use car sharing.
7. Cut back on food expenses
Look at your budget and see how much you are spending on food. Is there a way you can reduce it? Try these ideas
- Eat at home rather than eating out. Limit yourself to one or two “eat out” nights per month, and choose inexpensive restaurants.
- Plan your meals at the beginning of the week, write down what you need at the store, and stick to your shopping list.
- Buy generic items and on-sale items instead of brand name items.
- Join the rewards club at your local supermarket and look for deals.
- Eat your leftovers. Don’t let food spoil in your fridge—that’s throwing money away!
With these tips, we hope you are on your way to living a more budget-conscious lifestyle as a student. Being aware of your budget is a skill that you can use throughout your entire life.
This student advice is part of the American College of Medical Career’s weekly blog. Visit our programs page to learn about the career-focused programs offered at ACMC. If you live near Orlando, you might want to consider career training with us.