We’ve all been there: it’s nearing the end of the month and your next paycheck or allowance doesn’t come for another week, but somehow you’re already broke. Staying on top of your finances is hard, especially while you’re in college - between school, internships and your social life, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything you’re paying for. But there are things you might not realize you’re spending money on that are completely draining your bank account, and we have some tips to help you deal with them.
1. You’re a caffeine addict
It can be hard trying to make it through the day without a cup of joe. But making that daily stop at Starbucks or your campus coffee shop really adds up. As much as we love our pumpkin spice lattes on a cold day, spending even $3 a day on coffee is making you burn through your money faster than you would think. Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, chances are you’re still hooked on some form of caffeine. When Kirsten Ballard, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, gave up Diet Coke for Lent, she realized that she had been spending around $80 a month on it.
So how do you solve the problem? Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you to quit drinking caffeine - talk about unrealistic! Instead, see if your roommates want to split the cost of a coffee maker. It may be a bigger expense now, but making your own coffee at home will save you money in the long run.
Temple University senior Lindsey Murray found that when she started making her own iced coffee, she was only spending $15 a week instead of $35. If you don’t have time to sit down and drink a leisurely cup of coffee in the morning before class, invest in a Klean Kanteen so you can carry your coffee on the go - it will keep your drinks hot or cold for hours and won’t make a mess when you toss it in your bag.
2. You’re a disorganized shopper
One of the worst things you can do for your bank account is go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. As soon as you walk into the store, you’ll be tossing things into your cart left and right just because everything sounds good.
To avoid spending money on things that you really don’t need, always make a list before you hit the store. Plan out your meals before you do your shopping, or jot down the things you need on your phone or in a notebook between classes. Knowing what you need before you go to the store will help you stick to a budget and avoid blowing all your money on those cookies that just look oh-so-good.
3. You wine...
You may love that campus bar (after all, it’s the MacLaren’s of your college years), but after a drink or two you might find that you’ve had a slight lapse in judgment and are spending way more than you intended. Even if you planned on just having one drink, you end up running up a tab weekend after weekend before you know it, and it’s really adding up.
To avoid wild spending on those fun nights out, take a minute to plan out your night while you’re getting ready. Decide how much you’re willing to spend and bring only that much in cash (but make sure you leave a little extra for getting home at the end of the night). Leave your debit and credit cards behind to make sure you stick to your budget.
4. ...and you dine
Whether it’s a “family dinner” with your sorority sisters or a night of suite bonding with your roomies, it can be hard to say no to dinner at your favorite restaurant. But eating out, while always fun, can become a huge expense. Sometimes when your friends want to go out for a bite, you just have to stick to your budget.
College savings expert Brandon Farestad-Rittel of money-saving company Kinoli Inc. says, “There's no reason you have to skip socializing to reduce your expenses. Instead of meeting up at a restaurant, have friends over to your place for a weekly dinner. Taco Tuesday, anyone?” Sounds like a plan to us! Limit the number of times you go out for meals and suggest a night of cooking instead. You and your friends will have a blast making a mess in the kitchen, and you’ll save a ton by splitting the cost of groceries instead of dining out.
Even if you’re not spending a lot on big meals out, you might be losing a lot of money to snacking in between classes. If you’ve made a habit of picking up a granola bar at the campus cafe in the afternoon, try buying them in bulk instead. Order your favorite Luna Bars online to save some time and money. Toss one in your bag in the morning and you’ll end up spending closer to one dollar per bar rather than three.
5. You’ve got subscription overload
According to Beverly Harzog, credit card expert and author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made, people often waste money on recurring charges. “For example, putting a monthly gym membership on a credit card. If you leave the gym and forget to cancel the automatic payment, you'll continue to pay the bill,” she says. “So it's important to keep track of any automatic payments you've set up so you can promptly cancel them.”
She also says to keep an eye out for “gray charges” - things that you signed up for with a free trial, which are charging you now that the trial period is over. Harzog says these expenses “can be small, but they add up over time.” So take a look at all the subscription services you’ve signed up for - Netflix, a gym membership, Spotify Premium - and make sure you’re really using them. If not, cancel them now! Even if it’s just a few dollars a month, there’s no point in spending that money on something you aren’t really using.
6. You’re a little too generous
We all have that one friend who never carries cash and constantly needs you to spot her a few dollars. Or maybe you’re always the one to order the takeout and your friends all say they’ll pay you back. You may want to wave it off and tell them not to worry about it - after all, they are your friends - but don’t make that a habit!
Even if it’s only a few dollars, frequently lending to your friends can be a huge drain on your funds. It’s time to stand up for yourself a little - don’t be afraid to follow up with them on the money they owe you. To make things a little easier, try an app like Venmo: your friends can pay you immediately within the app and you can have the money transferred to your account. It’s simple and easy, and it avoids the issue of always needing have exact change.
If you follow these tips and stick to your budget, you may find you have a little more wiggle room when it comes to your finances. Even just trying out one of these tricks will help you save a little money. What’s your best advice for sticking to a student budget? Tell us in the comments!