Budgeting Tips

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Okay, so you’ve recently ended your summer job or your hours are getting cut at the start of the school year. Maybe you weren’t working this summer, but you’re on the search for employment for the upcoming school year. For many students, the need to earn and save is understood, but we’re also surrounded by students with varying financial statuses and it can be tough to navigate different social scenes without breaking your bank. As someone who’s been earning and trying to save money since middle school, here are the most useful lessons and budgeting tips that I’ve learned.

Milestones Don’t Have to be Reason to Spend // We all have friends who don’t just celebrate a birthday. He or she commences the outings at the beginning of the month, and continues the shebangs well after their actual date of birth is over. Maybe you, reader, are nervously chuckling knowing that you are that friend. There’s always a reason to celebrate, but that does not constitute the need for booking a fancy restaurant downtown with drinks to follow. Of course, going out in a group is always fun, especially to celebrate a recent promotion or to catch up with an old friend, but perhaps suggest going simply for dessert or drinks. Either way, pick one night to splurge, and if you like group activities, simply choose a cheaper option than a steakhouse. They exist.

Leave Your Debit/Credit Card at Home // This tip may seem unrealistic, but unless you honestly believe you will need your emergency funds, you can just as easily withdraw cash for the day and use that for your outing. While you’re out, you will be forced to question what’s worth spending money on and eventually, you might get into the habit of only spending when necessary. Or you might not and that’s okay! But it’s easier to say no when you don’t have the option to say yes.

Make Drinks Into a Meal // I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with friends and just ordered a drink and maybe a small side dish because I ate before I left the house. Expecting not to order food while at a restaurant is unrealistic and just being hard on yourself, but drinks and sides tend to be cheaper and can be a compromise you’ll be happy you made.

Split Meals // Dishes often tend to be larger than many people end up eating, especially ones that come with a side salad or fries. You’ll still be satisfied and not feel guilty throwing away extra food on your plate. So if you’re really hungry, consider just splitting with a friend so you can still enjoy that yummy entree, but not empty your wallet.

Buy Used Textbooks // Granted, some new textbook editions are actually necessary for classes, but often teachers will not notice if you order the old edition and as long as you check the syllabus and make sure the old version lines up, you won’t be missing information.  Spend the extra 30 minutes browsing your school’s Facebook group, used textbooks websites, and Amazon till you find the cheapest version. Sometimes that means renting instead of buying but, hey, not like you’re reading the book once the class ends anyways!  

Save Leftover Money //  So you didn’t spend a lot this week and maybe your parents were nice and gave you extra cash. Great! Does not mean you should spend all your leftover spending money on treating yourself this weekend. Sure, a cheap treat like ice cream or seeing a discounted movie is totally understandable, but don’t start buying $80 concert tickets for a band you don’t even love that much.

Don’t Spend Just Because You’re Bored // Seriously, I get a mid-life crisis and needing a change of scenery, but that’s no excuse for booking tickets to Coachella when you don’t even like the headliners. If you find yourself in need of some stimulation, challenge yourself by learning about another topic, joining another club, or just calling up friends and suggesting a random, fun activity.

Thrift Stores //  Okay, so for some reason, people either find them unsanitary or swear by them. I, thankfully, am the latter because half my wardrobe is from Plato’s Closet. Not only can you sell your old clothes to this chain thrift store, but there’s a plethora of cute tops and jeans just waiting to be bought. Your peers won’t be able to tell the difference because Plato’s only accepts clothes still in good condition so just throw your items in the wash and look cuter without the guilt of spending.

Student Discounts // I actually don’t use these so much because I haven’t had the need but I’ve heard great reviews about stores on the website UNiDAYS and even using your ID card at various shops in the mall. I’m not a huge clothing or makeup shopper, but if you are, take an extra couple minutes and find which stores accept discounts. Your favorite store might be on that list!