Saving money in college is a challenge when it’s already spread thin across textbooks, groceries, going out with friends and emergency expenses. But people, even notoriously broke college students, can save money as easily as they spend it.
Andy Fodor, chair of the finance department in Ohio University’s College of Business, says being honest and diligent is the key to saving and budgeting in college.
“I think the most important thing is to be really honest and being aware of much how much is being spent,” Fodor says. “I think it’s a good exercise for a week to two weeks to really write out and keep track of everything you buy.”
Keeping track of spending allows people to recognize where they spent too much — or not enough — money and adjust accordingly.
As far as cutting costs, Fodor has some advice.
“First, you have to have the things you absolutely need, so those can’t go anywhere,” he says.
Those necessities, such as water and groceries, should be at the top of the list above other areas of spending.
“Aside from the things you need, there are some things you don’t have to have, but are nice,” Fodor says.
Those include things such as coffee, snacks and pop that aren’t absolutely necessary for survival but are nice to have around. Fodor says making it a point to keep such items on hand is helpful, as spending $1.50 or $2 on a drink every day or every other day adds up.
When making big purchases, especially when on a tight budget, Fodor says it’s a good idea to take a step back and think about something for a day before buying it. Big purchases are unavoidable, but it’s important to make sure there’s room for them in a budget, and, if there is, to make sure the purchases are not something the buyer won’t use or will regret. He says to make sure the purchase isn’t an emotional one.
“I think everyone needs to get through this exercise, whether you’re out working or you have a high salary or you’re a college student, is that writing down of everything you spend on and prioritizing,” Fodor says. “You have to be careful not to spend money because it’s convenient.”
If money is really slim, Fodor says it’s fine to ask family and friends for help.
“I do think it’s important that, if you’re going to ask family and friends for help, that they know that you’re really applying yourself in college. It’s an educational experience, not a social one,” he says.
College is only four years long, and it is one of the only times when students can better themselves in preparation for the future, Fodor says.
Living with a limited amount of money isn’t fun, but with a little bit of careful planning, the money will eventually come and having a budget helps. Honesty and patience are key when it comes to spending and saving, especially in college.