A lot of people always ask me how I have the funds to do things, for example; like going to California on a whim, or buying a new purse, and I never really know how to answer that question. I was brought up with the ideology that talking about money is crass and rude, and that everything concerning the topic should be kept absolutely private. My parents have never disclosed any information about their finances with me, and I’ve never asked. I haven’t shared anything about my own with them, or anyone else, either. The only time I’ll make a comment concerning money is when I joke about having $1 in my wallet (which occurred this morning, actually).
For as long as I can remember, my parents have been hounding me to save my money. When I was younger, they used to pay me an allowance of $2 a month (yep, I meant to type ‘month’) and made me save all of it. Because of how much they stressed the importance of saving money, I have always tried my best to do what they had told me.
When I started working at fifteen, I was excited about making money on my own. By sixteen, I had earned a second job working as a bank teller. Working in this environment only inspired me to save my money even more, so I knew I had to think of a plan to make it easier for myself.
I chose to write about this today even though I don’t normally share anything about finances because a lot of my peers always openly complain about their money troubles and I believe that if they were to change their situation and the way they’re spending just slightly, that it would make a huge difference for them! The one saving tip I always tell my friends is to first make sure they have two accounts: a checking and a savings. It helps to have these accounts connected to each other within one bank, so transfers can be made more easily. I recommend a smaller credit union over a larger corporate bank, such as Bank of America, only because they are often more flexible with your specific needs and offer better deals for your accounts. For example, I bank with a small credit union and on my checking account, all of my ATM fees are reimbursed at the end of the month without question, and I’m not charged if I were to overdraft my account. Over drafting: accidentally spending more money than you have in your account, and allowing your balance to drop below zero dollars). Also, if I buy anything on iTunes, I get reimbursed up to $10 (a nice little gimmick to get younger people to open accounts here). I recommend looking at the hours of operation, the fees you could incur, and what their mobile app is like before choosing your bank/credit union. I personally love the freedom of being able to transfer money whenever I want, as often as I want, in less than three seconds using the app. This is something you’ll have to look into also, because some banks don’t allow their members to transfer money as they please by putting limitations on it (I know some people who can only make three transfers a month). Transferring is necessary for my next saving tip!
Once you have your two accounts set up, this next step will be so easy. Let’s pick a random number. Say you make $163 this week. Set up your direct deposit (or deposit your check yourself) to enter your savings account, then transfer the $63 to your checking. Voila! You just saved $100. I do this with every check. If I get paid $214, I’ll save the $200 and keep the $14. If I decide I need some more money, I’ll just transfer another $50 or whatever it is I need. By separating your money into two different accounts, saving is so much easier. When I look at my balance of my checking, I let myself think that that’s all there is for me to spend (even though I have more in my savings). This is the simplest, and most convenient, way to save!
If you’ve given up on saving your money because you’re a spendaholic and just have to have that new (insert whatever product here), I can help you with that, too. Now, back to the beginning of my post: people always ask me how I have money to go places/buy things for myself. Despite how rude I think that question is, I’m going to answer it. I’m gonna share a little secret with you that my mom has shared with me. If you have one nice thing, it makes all of the things you own look nice. For example, if I have a new pair of Nike sneakers, and the rest of my work-out clothes are from Walmart, my whole outfit looks expensive. Even though I probably spent $110 on it in total, including the shoes, shirt, shorts, and sports bra, people automatically jump to the conclusion that I’m a baller (yeah, I just used that word in a serious sentence). Secret’s out: I’m not! As long as your clothes fit you well, and you wear them with confidence, you’re going to look like a million bucks. So, I invest in big, quality items that I know will be timeless. Because I take good care of my things, people often assume that I’m buying new items all the time, but I really only like to have a few nice things at once and then use them until I can’t anymore.
Another way I’ve found to save money while shopping is to sign up for store cards that come with benefits. For example, if I use my Nordstrom debit card to make a purchase instead of my regular debit card or cash, I’m earning points towards cash back. A lot of stores have programs like this! Similarly, like I noted in my recent post Just Ask, you should always be asking if there is a student discount available! This is not only relevant when shopping for clothes or other retail items, but also when you’re signing up for a membership (at a gym, for example) or when you’re using public transportation. I’ve found discounts in places that I never would’ve thought possible!
As for the vacations, those are harder to weasel your way into finding cheaper options. I normally save my money in every way that I can (think: not going out to eat/spending money on food, skipping the $9 margarita with dinner, not buying that notebook at Marshall’s even though it’s wicked cute, and so on). However, this doesn’t mean that your vacation is always going to be extremely expensive! I don’t travel by plane often, probably twice a year on average (some years I don’t fly at all, while others I might fly somewhere three to four times). Although, when I am flying somewhere, I choose flights that have a stop – even though they can be inconvenient, they’re always the cheapest. Also, I look for airlines that don’t charge to check a bag (because Lord knows I’m probably packing my entire closet for that four-day trip). If you can’t find a flight that fits these suggestions, and you’re having a hard time finding a way to make your trip cheaper, try flying at strange times. The cheapest day to fly is a Wednesday. If your trip is flexible, taking your vacation during the middle of the weak will normally save you some money on your flights (and your hotel, if you’re staying in one)!
So, here’s the short version.
How to save:
- Open two accounts (a checking and a savings) and make sure you tell your bank you’re a student. Play the student card for as long as you possibly can, it’s the best way to get deals – everyone knows we’re poor.
- Split your pay checks. Save as much as you’re comfortable saving, but I recommend saving every even $100 of your pay check; you can always transfer it through your mobile app later!
- Spend your money wisely. I know this is a general statement, so let me break it down for you. Don’t impulsively buy big items, do some research on them first, read the reviews. Do they last? What are other people saying about them? Are they worth it?
- Don’t buy it when you can get it for free. I’m so guilty of this all the time. The biggest thing I buy when I could easily get it for free is breakfast. I have a million things I could eat at home before work, but I still choose to go to Breugger’s for a bagel once I get to Boston. If I did this everyday, it would cost me $15 a week (and that’s without a coffee)! So, start eating at home, even though it might be boring.
- Don’t feel the need to have a brand name attached to all of your clothing/accessories. Sometimes it’s worth it (for the quality of the item; like Lululemon leggings versus Forever21 leggings) but most of the time, stores like Marshall’s and Walmart (yes, Walmart, I’m a huge advocate of the store in case you haven’t read that in my previous posts) have exactly what you’re looking for!
I would love to share more about finding cheaper options, more tips to save your money, and how to stretch your dollar! If you guys think this is something you would want to read more about, let me know!
Thanks for reading, XO