If you’re like many college students, the second month of school is when the money crisis really starts to hit. The Christmas money is running out and Spring Break is just around the corner. Never fear-there are some great apps and some tips that will help you save money and keep a budget for the new semester.
First, always save your change! Every time you buy something for $1.25, put the other 75 cents in a jar of some kind. Right before a big purchase or trip, take the change you’ve been collecting and have it turned into bills. You might be surprised how quickly the change adds up! When I interned in D.C. last summer, I turned all my change into bills right before the trip-it was $85! The key to remember is that a little bit goes a long way.
Two, see if your bank has an app that lets you track your spending. These can usually be found on their website, and allow you to itemize your purchases based on what they were for, such as groceries, eating out, or entertainment. If your bank doesn’t have one, then the app Mint can be downloaded on your smartphone and synced to your bank account. You can then itemize your purchases based on type, and see where exactly you’re spending money.
Three, set a budget for yourself. Sit down with a list of all the money you make in a certain time period, and a list of all the bills you need to pay and purchases you make during that same time. Make sure to include all the important things such as gas, rent, and grocery money as well as the incidentals like coffee, going to the movies, and going out with your friends. Add up both of these columns, and you will see a more accurate representation of where your money is going. You may be surprised to learn how much money you spend. Once you know where your money is, then you can determine how much you would like to spend. If you want to save $100 a month for your Spring Break trip, then adjust how much you spend on dining out and going to the movies to make those numbers match up. Once you have a budget you like, stick to it! Post it on your fridge or somewhere in your room where you will see it, and then hold yourself accountable! If you prefer the digital route, the app Left to Spend will tell you how much money you have left in your set time period. This can help you keep on track as well.
Four, if you have a dining hall plan use it! You already paid for that food or those dining dollars, so not using it is just letting your hard earned money go to waste. Take advantage of the dining hall as it can really help offset a grocery budget, since you would be eating most of your meals in the dining hall. If your campus has dining dollars (usually paid for with a meal plan and then usable at on-campus locations), make sure you use these as much as you can! It’s the same concept as the dining hall meals; you already paid for it so don’t let it go to waste!
The important thing to remember about saving money is that no app or trick is going to be able to do it all for you. While these might be helpful, making a budget and sticking to it is all up to you! One thing that can be especially helpful is if you keep in mind why you want to save the money. If you’re going to the beach for spring break, print out a picture and tape it to your bathroom mirror to remind yourself to keep on budget! Use whatever tricks work for you!