Being in college, it is a great day if I have over $400 in my bank account. If you're currently in college, or have since graduated you know what I'm talking about. I am very fortunate and very blessed that my parents cover my tuition and rent, as well as part of my living expenses. The rest however (like my groceries and personal spending aka shopping) are up to me to cover. And even though I have a job, I don't work 24/7 because I'm still a full time student.
To me managing my finances isn't just about knowing how to budget my money, but also saving money whenever I can.
This is what you will need -
- An agenda or planner // I don't mean a special financial one, just any one that you generally use for day to day. You can see some of my favorite picks for this fall here.
- Microsoft Office // Most colleges offer office to their students either for free or at a discounted price. Downloading it from your school really saves you quite a bit! For my Macbook Pro, the software currently cost $139.99 (yikes!)
- A Credit Card // Sounds dangerous right? Actually, college is the PERFECT time to get a credit card. I cannot emphasize this enough! Those four (or five + if you plan on graduate school) years is the best time to build up your credit so that when you go to graduate and do all of those adult things (like buying your own car) your credit score will already be good to go and its easier to be approved for loans! I recommend a cash back card - for example the Discover It card which is made for students.
(This is my new Jumbo Tusk In Sun Lilly Pulitzer agenda showing August, so there isn't much information just yet! I typically plan everything out on the first of the month.)
While school is in session, I use MS Office all the time! Whether I'm writing a paper or doing a group powerpoint, its always one of the most used programs on my computer. Excel especially is my favorite, because this is how I keep track of my assets and liabilities, as well as my net income. All accounting terms aside, this simply means I know exactly how much is in my checking account, my savings account, and anything I have charged to either my Discover card or any store cards. At the bottom of the page I have all the money I currently have minus how much I owe, which lets me know what my real "spending money" is.
Now back to the credit card. Don't be daunted by the idea that "credit cards are bad for you". A credit card is simply a tool - something you can use to both build up and destroy your credit. It's all in how you use it. You have to spend smart - I only use my credit card for gas and groceries (or larger college expenses like textbooks). Gas and groceries, gas and groceries, gas and groceries. That gorgeous dress at my local boutique? If I really need it (which 9 out of 10 times I don't), I either pay cash or use my debit card. When you have to pay for something upfront it makes you think more about whatever you're buying. If I buy that dress now, I won't be able to go out to dinner with friends over the weekend.
No one ever realizes that if you pay off your credit balance before your statement arrives that the payment you just made does not contribute to your credit score. So always, always, always wait until you receive your statement before you pay off your card! The whole point of getting a card is to build your credit - something you're not doing if you pay it off same day. You might as well have just used your debit card if you're going to do that.
So now that you know how to plan out and budget your money, you have to start saving-
- Coupons // Although time consuming, coupons are basically like free money. There is a fabulous guide for beginners here. Also, shopping at a different store can save you some serious bucks. I had been shopping at the Harris Teeter in town ever since I went to college and was shocked when I walked into a Food Lion at how inexpensive everything was compared to HT's prices! (And don't forget, Dollar Tree carries a wide variety of supermarket brands and everything is only $1.)
- Drink More Water // Besides the fact that water is amazing for you (see recent post here), if you have a sink or faucet in your dorm room or apartment its FREE! Oh and when you go out to a restaurant? 99% of the time its free there too. Just make sure to invest in a reusable water bottle because disposable bottles can get expensive real quick.
- Utilize That Discount // So many places give student discounts (or military, AAA, etc) - always ask before purchasing anything! (Especially with techy items - I got $200 off my Macbook Pro just for being a student)
- Housing // This is more so location specific, but it has been my experience that living in a student apartment complex is actually cheaper than living in the dorms. Yes, I have three roommates and a tiny room - but its MY room with MY own bathroom and closet and a million times better than living in the dorms. And saving that nice little $1200? I'm definitely a fan.
- Have Fun Without Spending Money // When you do a cookout run with friends or sit and catch up over Starbucks thats money out of your pocket. And while the $5 for a cup of coffee may seem insignificant at the time, think about how it adds up. One of my best friends and I would always get coffee twice a week, once before class and once before our group meeting. There are typically 16 weeks in a college semester. 16 weeks times $10 a week... thats an easy $160 I could have used to buy a new Longchamp or put aside for Spring Break. Try going on a hike together or having a Netflix and wine night instead - just as much fun and so much cheaper!
How to you manage your money while in school?! Let me know!
*I am no financial expert nor is this a sponsored post - all views and images are my own.