Sure it’s easy to write down a bunch of things you’d like to do on a piece of paper. The hard part is actually crossing those things off your list. Coming up with your financial goals is a lot easier said than done, but there are little changes you can make that will go a long way.
First, try not to focus on what you can do so much as what you can stop doing. Changing your lifestyle and getting rid of bad spending habits is just as important as putting money into your savings account. Here are some suggestions that will get you on the road to savings:
1. Cut down your caffeine intake
In our article starBUCKS: How Much Is Your Morning Coffee Really Costing You?, we demonstrated how your morning coffee can cost you anywhere between $2 and $102 a month! That’s a lot of cash that could be put towards a credit card bill, cell phone bill, or money that could be placed in a savings account earning interest. By making coffee at home, or by simply cutting the amount of your Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks runs in half, you could save yourself a ton of money.
2. Budget Recreation
There’s nothing better than going to see that movie you’ve been waiting to come out for months on opening night, or getting your best friends together to go to your favorite restaurant. Unfortunately, those also happen to be great ways to break the bank. Sure, everyone likes going to the movies, but as most of you have probably already noticed, ticket prices aren’t exactly what they used to be. However, you can still enjoy movies without having to shell out a bunch of cash. Talk to your suite-mates about splitting a Netflix subscription.
If you’re a commuter student, talk to a sibling or a friend about splitting the cost. Also, you might want to look into Cards Against Humanity – as long as you have a group of friends, playing that game always seems to lead to an unforgettable night with lots of laughs. And even though going out to eat is fun and a welcome change from the food on campus, you can always utilize our Microwave Monday recipes for cheap and easy recipes.
3. Hitch a Ride
It’s nice to be able to drive wherever you need to go at your own convenience, but it’s also expensive. When you add the cost of car insurance, gas, and car payments (if you have them), having a car can get pretty costly. Although it’s not the preferred method of transportation, taking the bus, riding your bike, or walking can really put money in your pocket. Not to mention that the latter two are great ways to get exercise!
4. Watch out for the ATM
When I log into my online banking, there’s one charge that always makes me do a double take and that’s this:
Out of network ATM fees are enough to make butterflies fly out of your wallet. Some banks charge upwards of $5 to withdraw money from an out of network ATM. Not to mention, some banks actually charge you for using an out of network ATM – meaning, if you have a Chase account and use a Bank of America ATM, you must pay Bank of America AND Chase. So, taking $20 from the ATM might actually wind up costing you$30!
So, always make sure you know where your bank’s ATMs are located close-by. In addition, take out only what you need – don’t overcompensate for ATM fees by withdrawing a lot of money. More money in your wallet means more money spent!
Helpful hint: Did you know that most grocery stores and pharmacies offer a cash back option when you use your debit card? If you need cash and can’t locate a bank ATM, buy something small (like chapstick or gum) and choose cash back. If you’re going to get charged $2.50, it might as well be for something you use!
In addition, PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME. Paying your bills on time means you won’t be subject to late fees!
5. Invest in a water bottle
Did you know that America spends about $11.8 billion dollars on just bottled water? That means the average American spends roughly $242 on bottled water every year. By investing in a reusable water bottle, you could save yourself some serious cash throughout the year.
6. Make a list/plan…and stick to it!
Whether you’re going to Seawolves Market, or hitting the mall, it’s always good to make both a plan and a list beforehand. For example, when going to Target, it’s important to know what you need. This is something I definitely need to work on – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Duane Reade only to stare at the shampoo thinking to myself, “Do I need shampoo?” before getting frustrated, saying whatever and tossing it in my basket. Ten minutes and $6.95 later I unload my bags only to discover two bottles of shampoo in my closet.
Before you do any kind of shopping, take a look around your house or dorm and see what you need. And by “need” I don’t mean writing down Oikos yogurt because Uncle Jesse is on their commercials – I mean looking in the fridge, seeing there’s enough yogurt for the week and writing down milk because you’re almost out.
Making a list will help you as you walk through the aisles of Target (or any other store, really). If it’s not on your list then it doesn’t go in your cart. Don’t spend extra to get deals and discounts – don’t buy 2 boxes of cereal for $6 to save $2. You can buy one box of cereal and save yourself $4. You know what I mean?
In addition, planning out your shopping trips (whether it’s to Target or to the mall) will allow you to put money aside during the week (or maybe steer you clear of buying Starbucks because you need toothpaste) so you can get everything on your list!
Small changes make a big difference – doing one or all of these things is a great way to save money and build good financial habits that will lead to a better financial future. Post your tips and tricks for saving in the comments below!