As collegiettes, we know exactly what it’s like to be broke. Fortunately, all our penny-pinching and money woes can be avoided with proper planning! The New Year is a time to reflect on our habits over the past year and address those we most wish to change. While in the past you may have pledged to shed a few pounds or take up a new hobby, this year you can promise to change your spending habits!
Looking to save up for a spring break road trip or even just a few pairs of new shoes? Here are some money-saving New Year's resolutions you can make to ensure that you’ll be able splurge come springtime!
1. Use your meal plan to the fullest
Fifteen bucks for a pizza. Eight bucks for Chinese takeout. Two bucks at the vending machine. It all adds up pretty quickly! Before you know it, you've spent more than $100 in one month just on fast food. Yikes!
Meal plans are prepaid, so it’s in your best interest to use them wisely. Next semester, avoid eating out or off campus as much as possible. If you’re over cafeteria food, invest in the basic cooking supplies, go grocery shopping and create tasty, budget-friendly meals in your dorm room or apartment.
2. Brew your own coffee in the morning
Pulling an all-nighter might justify a trip to the local coffee shop, but Ellie Kay, author of The 60-Minute Money Workout, says college students often don’t realize how much money they waste on coffee—particularly blended coffee drinks. “Some students have at least one Frappuccino or latte a day,” she says. “This tends to be where they congregate, but they don’t see where that’s adding up at the end of the month.”
You can save money by brewing your own coffee and sipping it from a reusable mug. This coffee maker from Target is only $19.99. However, the average cost for a single trip to a nationally recognized coffee house is $3.25 (based on the average price of a cup of coffee from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts). If you purchase once a day five days a week, you will spend $16.25, which means you’ll spend at least $65 every month!
Can’t imagine giving up your daily Starbucks fix? Use baby steps — switch to homemade coffee five times a week and indulge in coffee-shop drinks on the weekends.
3. Shop around for textbooks
Buying new textbooks from the campus bookstore is expensive. Instead, buy and sell your textbooks online through retailers such as Barnes & Noble, or on websites such as Amazon or SlugBooks. SlugBooks even allows you to search for your school, class and professor, and it compares prices from the bookstore, Amazon and Half.com. They also have an option to rent books at a fraction of the cost to buy.
4. Start using a budgeting app
College has a way of making your money disappear. Use the Mint budgeting app to track where your cash is going! Mint lets you connect all of your accounts in one place to track and categorize your spending, pay bills, check your balances and double-check your budget before you make purchases. You can also set up reminders for upcoming payments and receive low account balance notifications. With Mint, you have the option to sync your account with your smartphone, tablet and computer. Best of all, if you lose any of your devices, you can go online and delete your account information easily.
5. Walk to class instead of driving
Sure, it might not be as fast as driving, but walking is the easiest, cheapest way to get around, and it’ll save you a LOT of gas! You can usually walk to just about everywhere on campus. If you’ve ever driven five minutes to class just because you didn’t feel like walking, definitely reconsider—it’ll mean more cash in your pocket in the long run.
Not only will you be saving money, but walking is also a simple way to burn calories without even feeling like you’re exercising!
6. Use your student ID everywhere you go
Everyone needs to unwind after studying, and college towns typically offer all sorts of opportunities for having fun: movie theaters, bars, cafes, arts centers, parks, downtown shopping centers, etc. Ask if any of these places offer student discounts. Sure, your student ID normally gets you into university events for free, but using it off campus can lead to great deals!
7. Stop skipping classes
How many times have you skipped college classes (or plan on skipping once you enroll)? Well, that’s your money (or your parents' money) going down the drain! According to the College Board, public four-year colleges charged, on average, $8,244 in tuition and fees for in-state students in the 2011-12 school year. For out-of-state students, the cost jumps to $20,770. Divide that by how many classes you’re taking this year, and your boring history class will seem a lot more valuable!
Getting up for an 8 a.m. class can be difficult, but brew yourself a cup of coffee with your new inexpensive coffee maker and walk to class. Your teachers are there to educate you, and it’s up to you to soak up as much knowledge as possible. You are paying for it, after all. Read our tips on how to stay awake during class if you need to!
By choosing one of these resolutions, you can set yourself up for a great New Year and a financially fit future. What are your tips for saving money in 2014? Share yours below in the comments and have a Happy New Year!