Whether you’re saving up to buy a home, afford grad school, pay off student loans or just to have savings to keep you on your feet, it’s always nice to know you have some form of money to depend on once you’re out of school.
Unfortunately, with tuition and living expenses, sometimes saving money is a lot harder than it seems. Thankfully, with the right tools and frame of mind, you’ll be filling up your piggy bank in no time!
We spoke with Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show, and Beverly Harzog, credit card expert and author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made, and found the best tips and tricks to help you save up for post-graduation!
1. Build credit as early as possible
While this one involves spending more than saving, it’s something to think about while you’re looking toward the future. By having a credit card, you can spend what you usually would spend out of your checking account or wallet, but build credit at the same time. By building credit early, you’re preparing yourself and your credit rating for the real world. That way, when it’s time to buy a car or even rent or buy your first house, you’ll get a better rate when it comes to deposits and insurance.
Harzog suggests that while having a credit card simply for building credit seems like a good idea, you want to make sure that you’re 100 percent ready for the responsibility of paying off your bills. If you don’t think you are ready to be completely on your own, talk to your parents about being an authorized user on their card so you can see what it’s like before getting one yourself.
Be careful, though—a credit card can be very easy to abuse. At first, try buying simple necessities such as your groceries or gas, and pay it off right away. This way you’re still getting the benefits of having a credit card without getting into trouble.
2. Practice budgeting for post-grad while still in school
This seems like an obvious solution, but sometimes budgeting is a lot harder than spending money!
Harzog suggests taking a look at how much money you have coming in each month, as well as what you spend your money on, and going from there. Set aside specific amounts of money for each situation, such as savings, rent and groceries, and stick to that amount. If you really feel like you’re going to need some “splurge money,” reserve a small amount for that, too.
You can budget your money electronically with a budgeting app or just in your mind, but if you really want to see where your money is physically going, Harzog suggests the simple yet effective envelope method.
Grab a few envelopes and label each one with your monthly expenses. Once you’ve decided how much money should go to each expense, put the physical amounts in each envelope so you can see how much you’re spending instead of just digitally seeing the number dwindling in your bank account.
If you’re spending money mainly through your credit card, don’t rely on your brain to work out your budget. There are so many apps out there for your phone that you can download to help do the work for you.
3. Save a certain amount of the money you have coming in each month
We all look forward to payday so we can go out and spend our hard-earned cash, but that’s not exactly the smartest thing to do when you’re on a budget.
Instead of keeping all of that money in your checking account where you’re more apt to spend it, Chatzky suggests putting a certain amount of money from your paycheck into a savings account. You can have the bank set it up so that you have five to 10 percent of your paycheck go straight into your savings account, instead of doing it manually. This way you can still spend your money each month, but you also have a little bit saved away. If you’re finding that the percentage you’re putting in is too little and you want to save more, increase the amount by just one or two percent, and your savings will grow that much faster.
4. Open your own consignment shop
After four years of college you will probably find yourself with an overwhelming amount of…stuff. Whether it’s old textbooks from your first year biology class, clothes that are so freshman year, or some dorm décor you’ll never actually use, instead of throwing it out, Chatzky suggests trying to sell it!
There are so many ways you can go about doing this. From opening your own consignment shop to selling to friends, there are practically endless options for you to get rid of your old stuff. If you’re moving on from college, check out the younger classes’ Facebook pages. There are usually tons of students who want to buy things for cheaper prices, and this way you can meet them in a safe place on campus to sell your stuff.
By selling all your unwanted items, you’re both making room for your fresh start out of college and making money to contribute to your post-grad experiences.
5. Visualize your savings
“Saving for savings sake is hard,” says Chatzky, and we couldn’t agree with her more. Knowing you have money sitting around that you cannot touch but have no plans to spend? That’s just cruel.
So instead of just saving to save money, Chatzky suggests visualizing what you are aiming to afford and set a goal for what you’ll use the money for. Whether it’s a new car, your dream house or a vacation getaway for graduation, try finding a picture of it so you can see what the outcome of this money is going to be.
Make your own digital dream board—add this picture to your Pinterest board or phone lock screen so you can see it every day and have a positive reminder of just why exactly you’re saving your money instead of buying those adorable boots you saw the other day.
6. Make use of lump sums of money
You know that check you always get from your grandparents for your birthday? Or that government check you get from your taxes? Deposit it straight into your bank account! It’s unexpected money, so by putting it into your savings account straight away you aren’t losing out on anything to begin with. Plus, it’s a really easy way to save without even having to work for it.
This type of money could include gifts from family members for a special occasion, scholarship money or even a bonus from your job. It may seem like something that should be spent right away, but what is the harm in saving it? You didn’t expect to have this money, so put it away so you can’t touch it anymore!
While saving money can be hard, it’s definitely not impossible. Don’t focus on being broke or always being money conscious; just make sure you’re not going too crazy on the spending. Think of all the things you can do with your newly saved money—rent a new apartment, buy a new car (and not your family’s used SUV) or even leave college without any student debt. By saving just a dollar a day, you will end up with $365 by the end of the year! Start by thinking small and the number in your bank account will end up bigger.