A Financially-Savy Girl's Guide to Saving Money

      As a college student, this is probably the time of year that your bank account is suffering a little. I know that it definitely would have been a little rough for me if I hadn’t been so focused on building up my money safety net for a while. I’ve been working less because I needed to study and prep for midterms and with homecoming adventures and Halloween coming up, I’ve also been spending a lot more money than I had planned on.  Now, I’m sure you’ve all read those articles about “getting a side hustle.”  While that is useful, especially if you don’t have the time in the semester to take on a real job and you’re running short on the money you had saved up for this semester, it’s important to remember to still set up a budget. If you don’t keep an eye on what you’re doing with your money, it’s easy to run out without even noticing. But with only a few weeks left in the semester, now this is the time for a college student to start learning to carefully budget to make it through ‘til winter break.

 

1. Know Where Your Money is Going

The first part of building a useful budget is knowing where your money is going.  If you want to make sure you have enough money at all times, you need to start keeping track of all income and expenses. There are a variety of apps you can use to start planning out your budget, like Everydollar. For me, I find the most effective way to plan is just a pencil and paper. There are plenty of budgeting templates you can find online to figure out how much money to put in which category.

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2. Budget Your Nights Out

If you’re like me, the majority of your expenses (other than bills and school) will have to do with going out with friends, be it food or drinks. This is where you need to be mindful of your spending, because it can drain the money from your account quicker than you would think. Be mindful of the mixed drinks and food by going to happy hours and other places where you can get good deals. Or, you could always stay in with a bottle and a pizza that you all go in on.  Monitoring your spending on fun and food, as well as cutting expenses where you can will go far in making your money last throughout the whole semester.

 

3. Keep All Receipts

At least for the month. It’s easy to go over in your spending if you’re constantly forgetting that you spent the money. Storing receipts also makes it easier to plan for next month’s budget because you have a better idea of where you’re going over and where you’re under budget, allowing you to adjust accordingly.

 

4. Start an Emergency Fund

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to expect the unexpected. Starting an emergency fund will take a lot of the stress away when bad situations arise. Knowing that you’ve got yourself covered in the event of a car breaking down or losing your job will make your life easier. A good goal to start with is putting $1,000 away for this purpose. It sounds like a lot, but I started mine in July and I’m already at the $600 mark. An easy way to build up this fund is setting up automatic transfers to your savings account on payday. You can’t miss what you don’t realize you’re losing.

 

5. Plan for Your Goals

The next thing you need to do is set your goals. If you know you have some big expenses coming up, start saving up as soon as you make the decision. I find it easiest to open a secondary or tertiary savings account. In fact, I have three: Emergency, Car, and Vacation.  Maybe you want to save for a trip over break or studying abroad next year?  Maybe you want to buy a car?  Whatever it is, you need to setup a goal that you want to achieve, and then add it into your budget, preferably with the same automatic transfers that you should be using for the emergency fund. Then once you reach your money goal, you don’t have to feel bad about blowing all that money and treating yourself.