We’ve all been there before. You go to purchase your last Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season only to be met with the embarrassing “error” sign signifying that your card was declined. You feel the weight of shame as you realize that you’ve spent more money on coffee this semester than a normal person should in a whole year. No? Just me? Well, anyways we can all agree that in college, it is extremely hard to save money and even harder to make smart decisions on where your money should be spent. Here are some of my tips that have saved my butt and my wallet while in college:
Cash Me In Debt, How Bout Nah
My first pro tip is to use cash more often than your credit card. Maybe it’s just a me thing, but my money mantra is “out of sight, out of mind”. If I can’t physically see how much money I have, then I don’t have a limit on the amount I will spend. However, if I carry around a bit of cash, I’m able to hold myself more accountable to my budget because I can see the money draining from my wallet. So next time you think about going on a shopping spree, visit the atm first and take out some cash. Then you’ll see just how much money you actually spent.
Honey I Shrunk My Bills
A great tip for those online shopping addicts out there is to download a web browser coupon extension. There are many different extensions out there -- I personally use “honey” (not spons.), mainly because it is always a sponsor in David Dobriks vlogs and I watch those religiously. I love honey because it actually saves me money. It's never any crazy amount, but the extra $5 off my Amazon purchase adds up.
Here’s how it works -- let's say you're about to purchase something off of Forever21. When you get to the checkout, the honey extension will automatically search the internet for different coupon codes to find you the best deal. It’s a great way to save a few dollars on a purchase that you’re bound to make anyway. So, to my broke college students out there, go ahead, buy those snakeskin booties that you swear you need. But be proactive and save a few bucks while you’re at it.
The Case of the Dining Hall Smuggler
If you’re a student with a meal plan, I cannot stress this enough, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR MEAL PLAN! And I mean FULL ADVANTAGE. That means take your backpack, pack your Tupperware containers, your Ziploc baggies, and smuggle as much food as you can. Okay, maybe not that extreme but always be prepared when you enter your dining halls. I personally love taking home veggies and hummus to have as a snack between classes, oatmeal, and chicken pasta that I can heat up for dinner after a night class when the dining hall is closed. This tip comes in handy because:
1) You’re paying for access to that food, so you should make the most of the money going into it
2) It saves you from having to visit the grocery store or fast-food restaurant for a quick meal
3) If you take enough home, it can last you more than one meal which is great for when you run out of dining hall swipes, and provides you with late-night snacks when everything is closed
Email Me So I Know It’s Real
When you visit a new website, 9 times out of 10 a pop up will appear for you to join their email list. DO IT. You can even join restaurant email lists. If you’re a foodie like me and you love to explore the city through your stomach, DO IT. I signed up for Maggianos, email list and I was able to turn a $70 dinner into a $40 dinner split between me and my boyfriend. How, you ask? EMAIL. I signed up for their email list and every week they send me a promotion or coupon. It ranges anywhere from a “free dessert with the purchase of an entree” all the way to “$30 off dinner for two”. Um....SCORE, YES PLEASE!
Trust me, I know this stuff can be tedious as a lot of places end up email blasting you 24/7. The trick is to create an email for promotional offers. I have a whole separate email dedicated to this stuff. Whenever I get a craving or feel the need to shop I open it up and see what deals I can. As a college student, you don’t always have to limit yourself on what you buy, you just have to be smarter about it.
Discounts Make Her Dance
Another thing you should take advantage of is the fact that You. Are. A. Student. Whenever you're shopping either online or in person, always check to see if you can get a discount with your student ID or student email. Many well-known companies that offer student discounts are:
Amazon (Student Prime)
JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store (10% off)
ASOS (free shipping)
Chick-Fil-A (free drink with purchase)
AMC (Thursday low rates)
And many more!
Every cent counts when you're a struggling college student, so take advantage of the extra 10% off your purchase or the free drink with your chicken nuggies while you can.
The Hustle Never Stops
This one is my favorite. Become the Boss Babe you truly are. Everyone has something they are good -- find a way to make a profit doing it. If you love to draw or do graphic design, start advertising your work so people can buy it. You can start small by spreading the word among your friends or you can put your work up for sale on websites like RedBubble or Etsy. If you are insanely great with Algebra 2, offer tutoring services. If you’re great at coding, ask around and see if you can create a website for someone. Whatever your skill is, there is always a way to market it. Use those skills to make a few bucks that will sustain you on your coffee runs, nights on the town, or movie dates.
Overall, college is hard. Struggling and stressing about money is hard. And it’s unreasonable to expect that we’re not going to spend any money. We have payments to make, food to buy, books to purchase for class, etc. But not only that, we want to have a little fun too. We want to go out to eat once in a while or go shopping with friends. And that's okay. You don’t have to limit yourself with money in college. Just shop and spend a little smarter.
-- Kiana Cook