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Money Matters: A New HC Skidmore Column by Elizabeth!

Round 1: How to Save Money WITHOUT Having to Think About Saving Money
 

Everyone knows that saving money is the worst… but running out of money, that is definitely much, much worse. I remember my first semester of college; all of a sudden, I had to manage my own money. Honestly, I got hit with at least 40 overdraft fees. This was no “run-out-of-allowance” bailout by mom and dad situation. This
was the real deal, real life, but in a college bubble… meaning that there was an emergency latch. When I ran out of money, I still had my meal plan (and could eat), my dorm room (a roof over my head with bathrooms and electricity), and the comfort of avoiding the whole paying bills thing. For me, it was sometime around the 39th overdraft fee and probably the 40th panic session of Now what do I do? that I realized it was time to start acting on it. This took some thought. Maybe not everyone is as irresponsible as I was, but that doesn’t mean that anyone actually enjoys thinking about money management—especially when you’re in college and you don’t totally, necessarily, have to yet. No one likes to think about saving, let alone spending, but you have to start at some point. It was with this in mind that I constructed the below list of “How-To’s,” in which you don’t need to think about saving money but end up saving money anyways… a simple way to ease into the whole process. Listen, it is never too early to start thinking about saving, but if you need to ease into it, take a look at some of these suggestions:
 
1)    Open a checking account that automatically dumps money into your savings account (a good example of this would be Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” Program, which is conveniently located in downtown Saratoga).

2)    Recycle: Every time you buy a bottle or can you are paying an automatic “bottle deposit,” so you may as well go and get your deposit back. (Insider’s Tip: tell your friends that you’ll deal with cleaning up parties, that way, you’re not getting money back… you’re making money).

3)    Don’t leave change in the couch cushions: every penny counts, and if you get in the habit of dumping all of your change into a jar or empty coffee can, the money will add up.

4)    Get a Store-Saver Card (like a Price Chopper card): This will open up tons of saver opportunities, not to mention that the Price Chopper card helps you save money on gas at local Sunoco stations (I have gotten up to 80 cents off the gallon… trust me, it makes a difference).

5)    Buy store-brand instead of name-brand foods: did you know that most of the name-brand stuff (like Heinz ketchup and almost all cereals brands) is actually the exact same food content as the store brand? Meaning they buy from the same source, the only difference being that one has a cute label on it and the other does not.

6)    Take advantage of college perks: Free bus rides; coupons (which you can find at the Case Center) for local restaurants, clothing stores, and other participating local vendors; meal plans (that means that you never need to go out to eat, even though it is tempting); college parties (drinks are either free or significantly cheaper at a party than at the bar).

7)    The Little Things: Don’t buy drinks with dinner (everything in a restaurant is marked up at least 100% from grocery store prices). Only go to bars with drink specials (alcohol is a money-suck so you may as well make an effort to avoid that). Don’t speed and rev your engine when driving because it uses up a ton of gas (which is priced around $3.35/gallon now-a-days…). Eat healthy at normal hours (eating late tends to mean delivery,
which costs extra—gotta tip ‘em, right?). Finally, turn lights off in rooms you’re not in (Why pay electric companies for nothing?).

8)    Don’t go to Coinstars to cash in your change, go to the bank: it might take a little bit more energy but it’s worth it (when you’re dealing with change, it really doesn’t pay to have to pay to cash it in and count it).

9)    Check out this website [Goodcheapeats.com] for cheap recipes! Some examples include: “4 Ways to Use Dry Bread,” “Good. Cheap. Eat: Baked Chicken/Breakfast Sandwich/Jalapeno Burn Pizza,” and “What to Do with Leftovers” …the list goes on and on.

10) Credit cards are a saver’s nightmare: Do I even need to tell you why? Interest rates, debt, collection agencies. Have I scared you out of it yet? Good. [Side note: we will revisit this topic in a later article, as I know that I’m pretty interested in how to build credit, when to start, and all that good stuff, in light of graduation nearing].
 
My #1 Golden Rule, though: never cut out something that’s important to you. If you really love going out on Friday nights with your friends- do it. Just try to make up for it in some way, like limiting how much you spend every Friday, or suggesting that you and your friends go to bars that have drink specials. If you don’t take into consideration the stuff that matters- regardless of how silly they might seem- and just start cutting, cutting, and cutting more things out of your spending, you will only end up unhappy, which will then lead you to loath saving, rather than appreciating it.
 
Saving is probably the best habit you can get into. I mean think about it, when you save you are:

1) Stable & secure: If you lose/quit your job, it’s ok for a little bit while you get back on your feet.
2) Able to plan vacations…need I say more?
3) More appreciative of what you have: When you acknowledge that life isn’t a limitless piggy bank, that Friday night out with the girls is that much better.
 
Of course you don’t need to do all of these things to save money. Maybe try one or two so you can start getting in the habit of saving, managing, and ultimately thinking about money. Trust me, the sooner the better—the last thing you want to happen is that you leave the college bubble and all of a sudden you have no idea how to start doing all of this stuff. College is the best practice for saving/managing money, so take advantage of it while you have the chance!
 
If you have any questions or topics that YOU really care about–regarding money & college–we’d love to hear your feedback. Comment below!
 
Stay tuned for Elizabeth’s article coming next week! “Roommates & Money: How to Deal With Shared Expenses, WITHOUT the Drama.”
 
Also, for more info on this topic (and others) you can check out the HC main page under the Career Tab “Ask the Money Expert.”

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