Between buying textbooks, food, housing, and occasionally having fun, living on a student’s income is like walking a tightrope, even before factoring in tuition.
Though saving money as a student may seem impossible, financial prudence can be a great way to set yourself up for success after graduation. Putting money away before student loan payments are due might make the difference between a smooth start to your career and a several-year financial roadblock.
Plan for a future as bright as you are by borrowing these four tips used by the smartest college students:
1. Construct a Budget
Trying to save money without developing a savings plan is like preparing for a test without referring to your notes. If you have no idea how much you need to save, or what you’re saving for, you likely won’t be able to stockpile much cash. Get started by tracking your monthly income and your monthly expenses. See how much you earn, and then start subtracting costs for needs, like rent or groceries. After estimating costs, set a savings goal for each week, pay period, or month, and start saving! Even $10 a week can make a difference over the course of a four-year degree.
2. Cut Unnecessary Expenses
If you start tracking the flow of your money and realize your funds are wandering hither and thither, you’ll need to cut back some unnecessary expenses in order to start achieving your savings goals. Look for everyday habits or subscriptions that you might not need, like your daily coffee or your multiple video streaming services. Even small expenditures can add to thousands of dollars each year.
3. Look for Smarter Ways to Pay for Needs
Some costs can’t be cut completely, but they can be reduced. For example, most motorists in the U.S. over the age of 16 spent an average of 50.6 minutes driving every day in 2016. Are you driving when you could be walking or taking a public transportation? Are you buying groceries without using coupons? Some necessities can be made cheaper with a little planning in advance.
4. Adopt Some Rules
Finally, pick a few savings rules that can help you remember and visualize your goals. Simplified approaches make your desired outcomes more realistic and tangible. For example, try adopting a weekly “no spending day” where you avoid breaking out the wallet completely. If you use credit cards, promise yourself that you’ll stay within FICO’s recommended 30% credit utilization ratio, rather than maxing it out at 100%. Setting quantifiable, measurable goals is the first step towards achieving any objective.
Life is expensive. For students with limited incomes and big dreams, affording everyday wants and needs can seem downright impossible. With these clever savings hacks, you might actually learn how to thrive financially while still living the broke student life.