By Kaitlyn Fowler
Elm Staff Writer
I always want to go out and hang out with friends or get food or something, but then I look at my bank account and freak. How can I still have fun and do everything I want on a budget?
Having fun on a budget. This balance has become a struggle for college students everywhere. They go out and do whatever but then look at their bank balance and realize how much they unintentionally spent or how little they have left. How do you avoid this? While it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to manage, I have, in a mix of my experiences and those of my friends, been relatively successful in this. So I’m going to share with you my three best tips for having fun on a budget.
1. Pay with Cash
This may not seem to make a lot of sense at first. True, you’re paying with cash, but you’re still paying and using money you should be saving. Why does paying with cash help? In my personal experience it is easy to swipe a plastic card and just get what you are purchasing. There may be a part of you which is internally keeping track of how much you are spending or have left, but its probably a small part. If you pay with cash though, you are physically handing over your money, and you can actually see how much you have left in your wallet at that moment. Being able to physicallyand see it makes you much more aware of your spending and how much you have. Another tip that goes with this has to do with withdrawing money. To get the cash you are most likely going to have to go to an ATM. Withdraw a little bit more. Regardless of how much you draw you are going to have to pay a withdrawal fee if the ATM isn’t for your bank. Get more and avoid paying the withdrawal fee again in a few days when your wallet is empty again.
2. Make your Budget Beforehand
I have a friend who last year bought a lot, not hugely aware of how much they were spending. When they looked back and realized how much they had spent there were more zeroes attached to it than they remembered. It’s easy to say “I’m not going to spend more than this amount,” but when you look back at the end of the month, you may have gone over. What I learned from watching my friend was this valuable lesson. Set your budget at the beginning of the month. Within it divide it into different budgets for food, fun, class items, or anything. As you spend, write down everything you spent and what you spent it on. Keep it in a journal or on something you can find easily. Instead of thinking “I have this amount to spend,” you’ll start thinking “I only have this amount left for the month.” When thinking like that you will be much better about rushing into spending, and you will still have money left for having fun that you budgeted.
This is a simple concept, but it really works. You know you have something you want to buy. It may be on the internet or right in front of you, but you know what it is and you want it. You also have some other things you have been thinking about buying. Once you start to buy lots of things though, even if they have smaller price tags, it all adds up. Take a hard look at the things you want to buy and, before you ever approach the register, do some prioritizing. If you could only buy one of these items, which would it be and why? If you look closely at what you have you may realize you already have something back at home or in your dorm like what you may be interested in buying. By prioritizing, you can see what you really want and how much you want it.
There are hundreds of different budgeting strategies out there. Once you find one that works for you, you have to stick with it. You can’t just budget until you don’t feel like it. If you do then you’ll go straight back to wasting your money. Something to consider is why you are buying something. Oftentimes people buy something because it makes them feel happier or validated or any number of different feelings. Make sure you want what you are getting and you don’t just want to spend money. That way, even if you do accidentally go over your budget, at least you’ll know it was worth it, instead of just feeling annoyed with your empty bank account.