Money. Something we all need, but struggle to maintain. Every day we are faced with new expenses in our newfound adulthood, such as rent, food, gas and subscriptions to streaming services. All of our responsibilities are adding up in our checking accounts, and that’s not even including the money you still need to Venmo your friend for last Friday night’s adventures. Saving money in college can be stressful and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. With these four steps to penny-pinching, you’ll be rolling in riches, or at least not drowning in debt.
A Drink of Savings and Time
Coffee is a crucial part to most college students’ daily endeavors. However, whether you get your morning kick from Starbucks or Scooter’s Coffee, your bill is racking up. The more extravagant your drinks are, the more your debit card is hurting. Just purchasing a $3 brewed coffee every week day is costing you over $700 each year. You could use the money saved to pay off a month’s worth of rent or the forthcoming student debt you’ve been racking up.
Giving up your daily brew is one option, or you can find cheaper alternatives as an at-home barista. A majority of your favorite drink recipes can be found with only a few clicks on Google, or you can check out Starbucks at home for a close fit. I personally enjoy this strawberries and cream frappuccino recipe for my ideal substitute.
It never hurts to try a recipe, and you can always pull out your inner Remy from Ratatouille to perfect each drink. I am a Vertigo Smoothie addict from Scooter’s Coffee, and I’ve recreated this strawberry smoothie recipe to match my needs. By substituting vanilla yogurt with strawberry yogurt and adding my own energy drink, I’ll never have to go to Scooter’s again. I’ve used regular Red Bull like the actual recipe calls for, as well as a variety of Mtn Dew Kickstarts for additional flavoring.
If you really desire the aesthetic of the brand labeled cups, just buy a reusable tumbler to save plastic and fulfill the status-quo.
Gourmet Meals on a Budget
One of the cheapest meal options available is the well-known Ramen noodles. For only a couple dollars you’ll have food for a week, but your tastebuds will be begging for a divine dinner. If you’re only willing to spend a few more dollars, buy a variety of frozen vegetables to add into your noods. Within the last few minutes of the cooking process, add about a half cup of peas, corn, carrots or whatever your heart desires. Now you can tell your mom that you are eating your vegetables. Plus, the frozen vegetables will preserve longer in the freezer than fresh veggies. My easy Ramen meal involves half a cup of peas and corn with buttered toast on the side.
There are numerous recipes online to save you money from eating out or at the dining halls. They don’t necessarily need to take you a lot of time either. When deciding what to cook, always take into consideration how long your leftovers will last, if parts of the meal can be freezed for later and what ingredients can be used across a variety of meals. Hamburger meat and chicken tend to freeze fairly easily and can be used for tacos, quesadillas, omelets, casseroles, pasta and countless other dishes.
Crazy with the Coupons
We’ve all made fun of the crazy couponing ladies that we watched on T.V., or at least have rolled our eyes when our mom takes 15 minutes at the grocery store checkout organizing all of her coupons. As much as we teased them, it might not be a terrible idea to use a few of their hacks. Smart phones have made it much easier to quickly scan items for potential discounts or to look up an item to find the cheapest store. While shopping at Hy-Vee and Target, I scan each individual item for possible coupons to tack on.
It might take a bit longer, but the savings add up over time. Plus, you can buy more Ramen and more extravagant toppings for your Ramen with all the money you’ve saved.
Get Your Life Organized
If cooking at home and looking for coupons really doesn’t suit your lifestyle but you’re still looking for ways to save money, keep track of your spending. Create a budget sheet tracking all of your purchases and divide them into different categories, such as rent, food, gas, shopping and entertainment. After the first month, calculate how much money you spent in each category and take off however much money you want to save. These new numbers will be your projected budget for each month. From then on, try to keep your totals under your budget and adjust as needed. In the past four months, I’ve cut my spendings by nearly 35%.
For those who really can’t resist the urge to eat out, create a calendar to keep track of all the specials around towns, such as Subway’s sandwich of the day, Taco Tuesday at Taco John’s, Amigos’ daily deals and Sonic Drive-In’s happy hour. Try to keep your outings in line with these deals and always check their apps for any special offers.
The hardest part of saving money is getting the constant drive to remind yourself what’s a necessity and what you can live without. By following these simple saving hacks, you’ll save enough money to say “yes” to spontaneous adventures without grimacing at your bank account balance.