I’ll be the first to admit that ‘budget’ wasn’t really a word I used frequently at the beginning of my college career. Sure, I would always make a note to go for the cheapest vodka – you can’t taste it when it’s mixed with cranberry juice! (you can, ps) – and I made sure to work in some capacity to feel like I was at least attempting to create a cycle instead of a pot hole of money. But as I got older and… more wiser? Maybe? I’ve started to keep tabs on things like where I spend my money and how I can actually not be broke all the time.
1. Use reward apps!
I know that you could hire someone to shout at you every morning “USE YOUR KEURIG! JUST MAKE COFFEE! DON’T GO TO DUNKIN DONUTS AGAIN” and it will prove to be useless. You’ve either overslept, or are craving a nice iced coffee with no effort on your end, I get it. But, that doesn’t mean you have to get nothing out of it! Chains like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have great reward perks through their company apps. DD Perks, for example, will give you a free coffee or bagel after you visit their lovely pink-and-orange themed establishment for a while. They even give you discounts on K-Cups, to add to your untouched and dusty collection of them.
2. Try Fresh Direct.
Not only is it so much easier than going to a grocery store and schlepping back with all your food, I feel it’s helped me not only cut back on spending but also unnecessary purchases. Sure, you may think that ‘if I don’t have to carry 10 boxes of pizza bagels up my four-flight walk up, why would I not buy them?’ but seeing your price raise with every click makes you do a double take. If I want to only spend $30 for the week on groceries, and I see that adding two pints of ice cream will set me to $40, I’ll obviously put that back before eggs (#GwynethPaltrowRuinedMe). So you get to keep on track with your spending while also losing weight. Jk though, because Doritos are cheap no matter where you go.
3. Educate Yourself.
Now I’m not telling you to go enroll in an online M.B.A. program in Accounting, but I am saying to take a step back and learn the lay of the budgeting and savings land. So many people out there write about it, my latest obsession is from TC-alumnae Chelsea Fagan, who’s The Financial Diet has really been what inspired me to give a shit about all this. Plus, there’s a ton of sites idiot proof (tested by me, someone who didn’t really know what a credit limit was until too long after having a credit card) like Mint that can help you get a start on actually practicing better habits.
4. Reduce. Everything, everywhere.
Between working and taking classes, the last thing you want to do is spend your designated #VegHour on the couch catching up on Orange Is The New Black figuring out ways to save some pennies here and there. I get that, and I support that. But on a Sunday afternoon, drink your (free from points!) iced coffee and take a look at everything around your apartment: do you need A/C, and if so, are you using it gradually? You’re spending money on HBOGo, Netflix, and Hulu, do you really want cable? What’s under all those Chinese menus in your kitchen—oh, a stove? I own one? You think to yourself. Yes, YOU DO. And yes, you should use it. Think of all the money and time you’ll save if instead of buying lunch every day, you just prepare something to hold you over for the week (or if you’re like me, the first two days.. maybe. Food is so good).
So with four, small and doable, steps, you’re already on the road to being a little bit smarter with your money. And at the end of the day, all we can try to do is be a little less dumb than we were before. Now go download DD Perks (and get me an everything bagel toasted w cream cheese, thx).