Saving money is one of the most difficult feats to perform in college, especially when attending a school located in the middle of a busy city, where there are places to waste money at every corner. At the beginning of every month, I tell myself: “No more fast food, no more ordering Ubers, and ABSOLUTELY no more impromptu shopping sprees.”. Unfortunately, I have failed to follow these guidelines every single time. At the beginning of October, my dad gave me $200, for any emergencies I had or if I wanted to go out to eat once or twice. By October 5th, I was shocked to read that my account balance was $0.10. After four late-night runs to McDonald’s, two Ubers back and forth from a few off-campus parties, and a few hefty shopping sprees at local thrift stores, I was broke and I wasn’t even halfway through the month yet.
After being left with no more than pocket change for the rest of the month, I knew something had to change. I had to start doing what my dad has been telling me to do since I was in middle school: budget.
Step Number One: Keep track of the money you spend. Although a $2.39 Mcdouble may sound cheap at first, buying one every other day can break your bank. Either use your phone’s notes app or a spreadsheet to track your spending.
Step Number Two: This next step may sound obvious, but here it is anyway: Try not to spend money on unnecessary things. Don’t be ashamed to grab your Tupperware, go to the dining hall, and pack some food up. This will keep you from wasting money on buying something to snack on later. Do you see a cute pair of jeans on a storefront? Add them to your Christmas list and then beg your favorite aunt, uncle, or grandma to buy them for you. Save that cash for a rainy day.
Step Number Three: Borrow. Sometimes you don’t have to pay for certain things. They may be available to you free of charge. Running low on toilet paper? Take a trip to a public bathroom on campus and “borrow” a few rolls of toilet paper from a stall. Plastic utensils, napkins, and paper plates are also readily available in campus dining halls, all you’ll need is a bag of any kind to hold your “borrowed” merchandise, and you’re free to walk out of the dining hall with your utensils, free of suspicion.
Step Number Four: Always leave spending money for leisure activities at the end of the month. Even though it’s good to be cheap at times, once the end of the month hits, and you have money left over, feel free to have some fun with it as a way to pat yourself on the back for being so financially responsible for the last 30-ish days.
Hopefully you have learned something from my freshman fails and end up a better person for it. Now, start budgeting.
By Amaar Zarrieff, Freshman, Howard University