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Being a Money Smart Millennial

In the wake of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday, you might be seeing more red “withdrawal” marks on your bank statement than you’d like. It’s easy to mindlessly shell out money for little things here and there and when study breaks turn into spur-of-the-moment online shopping sprees, we often find ourselves wondering when our wallet became so slim. With the new year right around the corner, now is the perfect time to plan a budget that fits your lifestyle.


1.) Evaluate 

Before you can figure out how you need to manage your money, you first need to look at how you’re currently spending it. Apps such as Mint or other personal finance programs can connect to your bank account and provide you with helpful graphs and charts that allow you to see where you’re spending the majority of your money. 

2.) Categorize 

Classifying your purchases into groups such as gifts, clothing, groceries, shopping, etc. can help you determine how much of your money is going toward necessary items and how much is being spent on things you don’t truly need. It’s surprising to see how quickly small purchases can accrued to large amounts. Just think: if a small regular coffee (without all the “two pumps of syrup, double shot of espresso” frills) is about two dollars, buying one every day before class would amount to around fifty extra dollars per month…that’s a lot of money to spend on just coffee alone! 

3.) Plan

Think of little ways that you can save money, because similar to costs, the small efforts can really add up! Can you save money at Weis or CVS by opening up a free preferred shopper card? Do you need to subscribe to that magazine if you can just pick and choose the articles that you want to read online? Don’t you have enough K cups to make your own coffee this morning instead of stopping at the library cafe before your 8am (bonus: brewing in your room saves time so you can get a few extra minutes of sleep!)? Also, coupons aren’t just for your mom–they’re underrated and all the cool kids know that!  

4.) Budget 

Take the time to sit down and actually think about how much money is absolutely necessary for you to spend each month and on what. Once you come up with a plan, it’s very important to stick to it and not to push the limits. If you set your monthly grocery budget to thirty dollars and end up spending forty, it’s not the end of the world, but having a sense of how much you’re planning on spending before you leave for the store or head out to buy holiday gifts helps you keep your purchases in perspective. Do your best to stay on track, but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t always perfectly add up to meet your budget.


Important things to remember…

  • The value of a dollar–it may seem small, but it’s the foundation where all spending begins!
  • Not to count on “expected” money sources. While that birthday or Christmas cash from your long lost aunt is helpful, it’s not a guarantee, and it’s better to leave it out of your budget. 
  • To keep an eye out for sneaky fees. Nothing is more frustrating than over drafting your account and having to pay three times the amount you would have for that cute sweater you mindlessly paid for by swiping your debit card.
  • The difference between a luxury and a necessity. Really ask yourself how necessary something is to your survival before purchasing it. Wants and needs are not the same thing, and sometimes gratification that isn’t instant makes finally getting something more worth it and exciting.
  • Embrace all of the “free” events (especially food related!) that college has to offer. Grab some free hot chocolate in the LC, stop by your residence hall event for free pizza, and never say no to the free drink or cookie samples at the bookstore cafe.
  • Splurges aren’t splurges if you splurge all the time! It’s okay to spend a little extra money every so often for a small pick-me-up or reward for accomplishing something important to you, but if they become excessive, they just become another expense. 
  • Say no to yourself. It’s tough at first, but sticking to your budget and resisting the temptation of capitalism can be empowering! 
  • Take advantage of any small jobs that you can secure, such as babysitting. It can be hard to balance work with classes and schoolwork, but if you have the opportunity and time to take on a job, definitely try to do so.
  • Be realistic. If you absolutely need to purchase something to maintain your happiness, that’s alright, just make sure to factor it into your spending plans. 

Save as much as you can…you never know when you’ll need it for a rainy day. On that note, have a small emergency budget for those rainy days, if possible!

Sara is a current sophomore double majoring in Psychology and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Aside from serving as the Vice President of Administration and writing for Her Campus Bucknell, she is a tour guide, holds a position in her sorority, and serves as a peer counselor at a local elementary school. Sara is an avid fan of yoga, coffee, reading, spontaneous dance parties, and anything that involves rainbow sprinkles.
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