Once you’re in college or the real world, you’re expected to know how to manage your money. But let’s face it--no one really tells you how to do it. And there are so many fun (and delicious) things to spend your money on all around you. So we’ve come up with some tips to better save and manage your money. This way, when something big comes up (planned or unplanned) you will be in a better place to cover the cost.
Saving dollas when you probably don’t make no dollas:
Regardless of your financial situation, here are a few, low-effort ways to be thrifty while in school. The amount you save via each of these actions is small, but it definitely adds up over time.
Never buy textbooks wholesale → try to get them from another student or rent them off of places like Amazon and Chegg. Before you even look into buying the textbook, try talking to people who’ve taken the class before to see if you really even need to buy the book in the first place
Share your Amazon Prime account with a family member or close friend. Yes, that means you might have someone else who can see what you buy...but it also means you save $50/year. Just don’t be a weirdo.
If you can stand it, don’t get the premium music accounts (looking at you, Spotify Premium and Apple Music). $10/month doesn’t sound like much--but that’s $100/year. Or try one of their family plans to cut the cost in half, or more.
Take your student ID EVERYWHERE and ask for a discount. The world understands students are poor. Leverage that.
Here’s a really big one. Take advantage of the free resources you have at your school before you lose them, like counseling, medical care, networking resources, gym classes, access to websites like Lynda.com, etc.
Go to lots of free events and info sessions--there’s almost always free food! Also, you might learn about something really cool.
If you drive to school, try to carpool. You’ll save on parking permits, gas, and tolls. You can also try to avoid commuting during rush hour, since you’ll end up spending more on tolls and gas during those hours.
If you don’t live at home, evaluate the cost of living on campus vs off campus (once it’s allowed). This is really a situational thing--in some places it’s cheaper to live on campus, but in others you can save a lot by living off campus with several other people. I saved about $200/month when I was in college by living off campus.
Eating out happens, and it’s great, and I love it. But you can save some money for great meals by always eating breakfast at home. If you think about it, a whole carton of eggs costs less than $2. ONE breakfast sandwich probably costs upwards of $4. Also, try packing snacks so you won’t spend a lot on individually packaged snacks at coffee shops and convenience stores.
Savin dollas when you make dollas:
You have an income--wooo! Now, don’t blow it all too fast.
Saving: The general rule is to try to put about 20% of your money into savings. Whenever I get a paycheck, I automatically transfer about 20% into my savings account. I pretend like the money in that account doesn’t exist, unless I really need it.
Paying off loans: If you have big things to pay off, like student loans, you may not be able to save that much yet; but that’s ok. Here are some great tips on how to manage paying off your loans and ways you can reduce the overall amount that you owe and here is an article that discusses additional repayment options.
Taxes: Here’s something to be very aware of when looking at salaries. Say a job pays $50,000/year. You shouldn’t base your budget on that salary--there’s this tiny thing called TAXES that you really need to remember to subtract from your income. How much you get taxed depends on your income bracket, so for this example, that’s about 22%. Your actual income then, would be about $39,000.
Rent: In the DMV area, rent is notoriously high. However, if you can, avoid spending more than 30% of your pre-tax monthly income on rent (see this article). Rent is usually lower in places further out from the city and metro stations. Roommates are also key for affordability (and fun!). A glamorous lifestyle can wait until you’re older and make more money. If living at home is a possibility, strongly consider it--at least for a year. You could save thousands of dollars.
Investing: Consider starting to invest, particularly if you’re saving a lot of money by living at home or because you’re getting a pretty great salary. Money sitting in a savings accounts is earning minimal interest but could be earning a lot in the stock market. This guide by the Motley Fool can help you get started and see this article for WHY you should start to invest asap. Also, talk to your parents, coworkers, and friends. Some of them may have a lot of experience investing.
Building credit: Remember that building credit is key in this country. You need to have good credit to get loans and buy big ticket items. Get a credit card and make sure you use it instead of your debit card or cash. Late payments can really hurt your credit score, so make sure you set up alerts to ensure you pay on time. You can typically set these up on your bank’s website, or you can put an alert on your phone’s calendar. I also like checking my bank account every week to make sure everything looks normal.