For all my friends who wish the amount on their bank account had at least two digits… In front of the point. How am I supposed to buy something with $0.64 left? I know, I know, it’s all my fault: I wasn’t responsible enough and I didn’t pay enough attention in Personal Finance. If I had known what a college students has to pay for food and entertainment to get over the frustration of homework and classes, I would have started to save money from 6th grade on.
I am just kidding. Taking care of money is not easy, especially when you alone are responsible for it. It’s all about the balance because you certainly don’t want to miss out on anything, but also it takes a good evaluation of what is real and what is not. College is probably not the first time you will meet people who own more money than you do. Therefore, they can spend it with less care. Nevertheless, we all face times when we wonder where all our money went, no matter how much we started out with. So writing this blog, I can help you, the reader, as well as myself with the problem of money spending in college. My researches gave me some ideas how to find a balance without being that cheap person that never spends a penny!
I divided the problem in three subcategories: activities, food and shopping (including school material).
1. Of course, you want to go to the movies tonight, go to the Haunted House or the Pumpkin patch, and drive home for Thanksgiving. Even though gas is cheap, all the other things charge you a lot. First rule, don’t let anyone pressure you to do things you can’t afford. Borrowing money is not cool, but being I debt is embarrassing – at least for a trivial reason like that. Instead of going somewhere you could do something at home. Get a big group of people and play board games or have a jam session. Another idea is to go outside and take pictures or discover parks in the area (there are actually a lot of cool places to go in and around Kansas City like ). You can also visit people or look if there are any sport events going on. You can also go with the classic movie night in the dorm.
2. Going out for dinner is a trap when it comes to spending money, don’t fall for it! If you are on a meal plan like me, remind yourself that every meal is taken care of (except for my weekend breakfasts for some reason). And if we are brutally honest, there is nothing the caf doesn’t have (with a lot of fantasy). Instead of going to Starbucks, you can get an iced coffee there or instead of McDonald’s, you can make your own Oreo milkshake. Yeah, it sucks that you can’t take it out and it doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it is worth it when you can save five bucks every day. Another advice to make the caf more attractive is something my roommate and I came up with. Each day we challenge each other to make a creative dinner for the other person in the caf. We already had a lot of good creations like garlic bread or green pesto sauce.
3. For the last point I recommend asking yourself twice: Do I really need this? Almost every time, there is a cheaper option to what you are going to buy. If you are looking for books or DVDs in a store, just ask some friends to borrow it instead. Don’t order things from the internet because it is really easy to lose control over how much money you have left. If you really need new things like school books, try to get rid off your old ones first. I used amazon this year to ship my old general education books away and it was surprisingly easy. Plus, I made a little bit money to buy new ones. You can always pair up with another person to buy books since most of the time you only need the book in order to study for tests.
All in all, you have to find a rhythm. Mine consists of always paying my cell phone bill at the beginning of the month, and havinga little bit left at the end, in case I need it for something I didn’t have in mind. For me, this is one of the biggest challenges. I never had to care about how I spent my money and now I have three back up accounts, constantly concerned that this is the month I will have negative numbers on them.
Writing this down helps me to hold myself accountable to my own plans and advices, but I also hope it can help you all to have a second thought about spending. It makes it so much easier to accomplish real dreams! My motivation is a trip to California next year, and I gladly give up Starbucks every second day, if that makes me able to go.