I’ve been following Chelsea Fagan’s new project, The Financial Diet (TFD for those ~in the kNow~), at and it’s fabulous. For those of you not following it, I highly recommend you start – your wallet will thank you. It’s very encouraging to see ways to save and it definitely helps keep me in the saving mindset. The only issue is that I’m college and living in a dorm, so a lot of her advice isn’t entirely applicable for me ((yet)). However, I have been adapting them to fit my lifestyle so here’s some of my ideas/interpretations.
1. Give yourself an allowance. For me, where I spend the most unnecessarily is on random food/impulse purchases. At the start of each month, go to your bank or ATM and withdraw whatever you feel is a fair amount of cash (you shouldn’t be going bankrupt with this amount, but you also shouldn’t have to constantly mooch off friends). I suggest you keep all receipts and at the end of the month you can adjust. Now, you are only allowed to use this cash and this cash only for miscellaneous spending. That means no debit card, no credit card. Keep them with you in case of emergencies if you wish, but don’t use them. For big purchases (housing payments, textbooks, etc) feel free to use the card a because obviously you’re not going to impulse buy calculus textbooks. Having cash is a much easier way to visualize your money and feel how much you’re spending. For me, this comes out to about fifty bucks, but depending on your meal plan (if you have one) there can be huge variations.
2. Separate your money as soon as you withdraw it. Figure out what you’re going to be using this miscellaneous cash on, which will become more obvious the more you look at your receipts. For things that fall under the category of miscellaneous spending, but are somewhat fixed expenses (e.g. toiletries, laundry), take that money out of your spending money immediately and put it in an envelope in a drawer. For me, this is twenty bucks. I take a twenty and put it in an envelope and that’s it. You won’t have to buy shampoo every month, so as the months go by you will accumulate some extra cash with what you don’t spend, and I consider this my budget for ‘fun’ products like a new leave-in conditioner or hair oil. Depending on the frequency and cost of your laundry as well as the cost of your beauty regime and menstrual cycle (if you’re a woman), this can again vary greatly. The rest goes right into your wallet for snacks and fun things. (:
3. Make lists. Don’t go into the grocery store, or worse, Target, without a game plan. Figure out what you want beforehand so you don’t wind up with a cart full of Oreos and find yourself going back (hint hint, this can also help you eat healthier). As for clothing, make lists of clothing items you want, and either save portions of your miscellaneous money, or have an entirely separate clothing budget. Just plan it out beforehand rather than going into a store ‘just looking’ and walking out with the cutest pair of gloves even though you live in Los Angeles.
4. Scout around for textbooks. Buying them straight from the school store is (usually) a huge rip. I know a girl who spent literally $700 her first semester on textbooks. That’s insane. Sometimes places like Amazon have them for ridiculously cheap prices. Try to find the book in paperback – it’s lighter and cheaper. Also, see if your professor allows for an older edition of the book. Sometimes there’s not that big of a difference between the 6th and 7th editions except price. My school has a Facebook group called Free and For Sale where people post things they want to sell, so when it came time to buy a chem textbook, I paid $70 instead of the $250 my bookstore was asking. One side note, if you buy off a public forum place like Amazon and the book is being sold by a third party, make sure they have a high rating from a larger number of viewers. My rule is usually 90% or higher with at least 1000 reviews, with more reviews I usually allow it to be closer to 90%, but if there’s only 1000, I try to choose a seller with closer to 95% or more positive reviews. **This is also a useful way to sell your textbooks back // minimize loss**
5. Get a job. I put this one last because it’s not really a trick and is either obvious or irrelevant for most people. If you’re lucky enough to have your parents subsidizing your life, then feel free to ignore this and just follow the other tips to get the most out of the money they give you. If they give you an unlimited budget and you don’t feel guilty about utilizing it then you probably shouldn’t have clicked on this article in the first place. If that’s not your situation, regardless of parental funding, I recommend a job with a manageable amount of hours (if you do poorly in school because of a job, it defeats the whole purpose of working to pay for school). Start small; even 10 hours a week can feel like a huge commitment on top of schoolwork. I found a great job on campus at the dining hall right next to my dorm (<1 minute commute time holla) that pays a fair bit of money and requires minimal work. I use this money to fund my alcohol budget (;. If you *need* this job, something that’s a little more high paying is waitressing, hello tips, but you may get stuck with a ton of hours.
All in all, keeping track of money is hard and it will definitely take a couple of tries and revisions to get it right, but I promise, you will feel exponentially better at the end of the month when you go to pay off your credit card bill and you see a MANAGEABLE number at the bottom line. Go forth to financial freedom!