I don’t profess to be a financial expert, but as a college student I have definitely had to develop money management skills. There are a few rules I live by to make sure I don’t waste my money, which I need for school expenses and my upcoming study abroad trip.
1) Do I Need It?
The first thing I ask myself when I’m shopping, be it online or otherwise, is whether or not I actually NEED the object in question. If it’s a necessity, like food or bath wash or something, the questions usually stop there. Sometimes I’ll make sure that the need is urgent (aka, do I have shaving cream at home already? Can this wait?) but most of the time, if it’s a need, it’s a buy.
2) How Much Do I Want It?
If I’m out shopping and I come across something I want, let’s say a nice soft new pair of Hollister sweatpants, I ask myself if I need them. Not really–I have sweatpants. So I progress to question number two–how MUCH do I want them?
I think you have to pamper yourself sometimes, or working hard feels like it’s getting you nowhere. But sometimes those spur of the moment purchases lead to instant buyer regret. I usually look at the item carefully for a while, then I put it back. I leave it alone for a while, either shopping around the store or around the mall. This gives me time to see how often my thoughts stray back to the sweatpants, and how much I feel like I want to buy them. Are they worth the 30 dollars? Then, if I feel like I absolutely can’t leave without them after giving the instant desire time to fade, I’ll make the purchase. If not, clearly I can live without them, and that’s 30 dollars saved for something I need or something I want more.
3) Customer Loyalty Programs (Of the Free Variety)
I think most of us have those stores we just LOVE–I know I do. Many of those stores–my personal favorite, American Eagle, for example–have rewards programs and emails you can sign up to recieve.
I know a lot of people shy away from these, afraid of getting too much “junk mail” in their inbox. But if you shop so often at one store that you think your daily outfits could be an advertisement for them–this might be me and AE–it can’t hurt to sign up. You’re spending money in the store, you might as well rack up awards points. Plus, those pesky emails usually alert you of upcoming sales and even coupons. I get texts to my phone about sales and coupon codes weekly from American Eagle, and it’s saved me a ton of money. If I don’t want to buy anything, I just ignore the texts and emails. Simple as that. Just don’t overdo it or your inbox might explode–be sure you’ll use the sale and coupon information before you sign up.
4) Enjoy your Friends’ Company without Sapping your Wallet
It’s tempting to go out every time you decide to get together, but eating out and going to the movies is a hidden drain on your finances. Try mixing it up–stay at home and watch old favorites while munching on microwave popcorn, or have a game night (my boyfriend and I like to get together and play monopoly. It’s fun, it’s competitive, and since he already owns the game, it’s free). Keep in mind there are places you can go that don’t cost a lot–the art museum in your city could be free like ours, or you could spend a day at the park enjoying good old free nature. Of course, remember rule #2–if you absolutely HAVE to see the last Harry Potter in 3D IMAX, go ahead and splurge a little. You can always hit the matinee and bring your student ID for a discount.
5) Keep It In Savings
I have both a savings and a checking account, and I have them for a reason. I deposit a certain amount of money into savings each week and I DO NOT TAKE IT OUT. No matter how much I want that skirt, if I don’t have the money in checking, it can wait until next week. Savings is for school fees, for necessities like textbooks and travel for study abroad. It’s not for new clothes when I have plenty, or new accessories, etc. The same thing applies to my credit card–I don’t charge more on it than I’ll be able to pay off in the next month unless it’s some kind of emergency. Because, let’s face it, things happen–like hitting a pothole and having to replace your car tires!
Again, I don’t promise these tips will help everyone. I just know they really help me when I start slipping on my financial savings at this age, so I thought I’d share ^_^