Living paycheck to paycheck (or financial aid refund to refund…) can be a tiring cycle. You may think that there is NO room in your budget to spare even $20 a month for savings. However, most students forget that you can start small when it comes to saving. Breaking large amounts into smaller portions makes saving seem less daunting. Let's say you commit to saving $5.00 a week. That commitment can turn into $20/month easily by deciding to cut out one $5 purchase a week. Let's be honest. We all spend at least that amount per week (maybe even more) on things we don't necessarily need. Here are some more ideas on how to save money on a tight budget:
1. Find small savings that add up.
Maybe you’re feeling short handed at the end of the month but you don’t know why? Start tracking your spending. You may be unaware of all the little things that add up quickly. The daily coffee on campus, the vending machine snacks, and going out for lunch a few times a week. While those purchases may only be $2.00 - $5.00 at a time, they add up quickly. Those spending decisions alone may be the reason you’re not finding any extra money for savings in your budget. Try cutting back on those small daily purchases and you will see the difference!
2. Comparison shop to find the best prices.
On the note of going out to eat, your #1 solution there is to grocery shop for your food so that you can make coffee, snacks and meals at home for a fraction of the cost. In our last blog post we talked about grocery shopping at Aldis and how cheap their prices are and it's because they don't sell name brands. There are many benefits to buying generic products over brand name. In most cases, the generic versions are made up of the same materials or ingredients as the brand name. While the price difference can sometimes come down to pennies, those decisions add up over time. When buying other items, compare prices at Walmart, Amazon, Ebay, etc. to make sure you’re getting the best price.
3. Sign up for automatic transfers for savings.
Your bank or credit union usually offers this, and it’s as easy as 1-2-3. Simply log into your account online, and set it up for a small amount to be transferred from your checking account to your savings account automatically. This happens without you having to remember to “put into savings,” and that small amount adds up in no time! Remember, savings accounts are not ‘put and take’ accounts. The idea is that this money is set aside only for specific purchases. Don’t dip into the account unless you absolutely have to for emergencies.
4. Use a coffee tin for all your loose change.
Your grandparents can totally get behind this method. Spare change adds up quickly. Next time you’re emptying your pockets, find a canister or jar to put your change in. This may be the easiest and most effective way to save your money. Bonus points if you put away a dolla dolla bill, y’all! Mega bonus points if that made you remember the old Akon song called “Dolla Bill.” :) Hmmmm are we sounding old, yet? I just found out that song came out in 2009 thanks to Google... May have been before your time but you get the point!
5. Don’t be afraid to use coupons.
This one may speak for itself, but it’s a good habit to get into. I don’t know about you, but I hate paying full price for stuff. Sites like Retail Me Not or Groupon can have discounted activities and coupon codes for shopping online. Apps like Ibotta & Drop also make it easy to get money back on purchases you already make at large retailers and restaurants. Check them out!
The truth is –small savings add up to big savings over time so don't get discouraged whether you're putting away $5 a week, or $5 a month. You're still saving more money than the next student who isn't saving at all. :) Happy Monday, all!