College kids are gearing up to return to campus now that August is upon us. If you’ve ever interacted with a college student, you know the most common lament of the debt-ridden sleep-deprived youth: “I’m broke.” For students who carry a full course load and come from modest backgrounds, money can be tight during the school year. The wages from 15 hours a week at a minimum wage job have to stretch really far. For students who are looking for ways to pinch pennies and live comfortably on a shoestring budget, here’s some tips and tricks.
Get in the habit of using cash. It’s easy to lose track of how much money you’re spending when you all you know about your finance is whether your debit card is accepted or declined. You’ll be much more frugal if you have to physically count out dollars and hand them over every time you want to make a purchase. Psychologically, you won’t be as ready to fork over money for an impulse purchase when you’re holding the dollars you need to last you a full week.
Make a budget and stick to it. Neurologically speaking, the human brain doesn’t finish developing until around age 26 or so, and the very last part to form is the center that deals with forethought and consequences. As such, young people are markedly more impulsive with their time and money, and to overcome this hurdle, you need to make a budget. Calculate exactly how much money you have coming in every month and divide up how much money you’ll spend where. The plan is useless if you don’t stick to it, though, so this is where the “use cash” tip comes in handy. You might have to settle for store brand foods and hustle coupons with the adroitness of a TLC reality show star, but staying within your budget will help you maintain peace of mind.
Always ask for student discounts. At the very least, many retailers, museums, and other establishments have begun taking pity on college kids and offering small discounts up to 15% off an order. Get in the habit of asking every place you visit if they offer a student discount. Places like J. Crew and Gap will offer one, but only if you ask — their salespeople can’t offer it to you without prompting. Remember: the very worst thing someone says if you ask them for a student discount is “no.”
Buy a coffee pot and frozen pizzas. It’s not sexy by any stretch, but living within your means often requires cutting out fun and easy stuff in favor of frugal stuff. Substitute your daily trips to coffee shops for a good old fashioned coffee pot to keep your costs low. Rather than going out to dinner with your friends, purchase some frozen pizzas and have them over. Everyone will save money that way, and you’ll avoid all the costs of going out.