Earlier this summer, I wrote a post detailing the seven big changes I made to squeeze an extra $1000 out of my sad-college-student budget over the course of the semester. With only a few weeks left of summer, and another 18-credit semester approaching rapidly (please pray for me), I’m starting to realize that it is time to snap out of my leisurely summer-spending mode and kick my ass back into gear to reach my next savings goal: another $1000 by New Year’s Eve. It may not seem like a crazy amount to save, but considering the fact that my overload course schedule doesn’t allow room for a full-time job, I’ll have to manage my bills and contributing to my savings on a part-time-side-hustler’s budget. Focusing on just a small chunk of money that I want to put away usually proves to be much more effective for me than just promising myself I’ll put away every extra bit of cash I have besides the money I need to spend on car payments and tuition and boring stuff like that. (That never works.)
But with the semester approaching quickly, I’m currently in full budget-planning-mode. This upcoming semester, my savings plan involves a little more than just money-specific changes. Essentially, the last few semesters of school and various side-jobs I’ve picked up have snowballed into a semi-disastrous schedule that requires an actual lifestyle-overhaul in order to be effectively managed. In addition to just adjusting my budget in accordance with how much money I’ll be bringing in once school starts, I’m definitely going to have to make a few attitude-adjustments to live a life that costs me less money without really trying, even when I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do all I need to and focus on money-management at the end of it all.
These are the five main school-specific lifestyle changes I’ve decided to make for this upcoming semester to keep myself on-track towards my next $1000 savings goal, and hopefully prevent myself from getting stuck in the ~broke college kid~ cycle of spending too much on alcohol and complaining about never having money.
1. Be more mindful of how I spend my weekends and off-days.
I mentioned in my last post about saving as a student that one of my most effective savings methods was being too busy to spend money. This semester, I will have a similarly busy schedule, but I will also have no classes on Fridays, which means I could very easily fall into the trap of letting Friday be a ~fun day~ where I break out of my strict study and work schedules and go into full treat-yo’self-mode. To stop Fridays from becoming a kickoff to reckless weekend spending, I want to try to schedule it as my “catch-up” day for homework. Last semester, I did this on Sundays – but since Sunday is a much quieter and more relaxing day for the universe than Friday, I think leaving my schedule open on Sunday will end up costing me a lot less than leaving it free on Friday. I won’t be as tempted to go out to bars on and get stupid-drunk on a Sunday, as I fully understand that it is a day of rest. So, provided that I find some way to resist the magnetic pull of brunch, letting Sunday be my off-day might help me choose much cheaper leisure activities, like walking my dogs and power-napping in front of the Netflix-fireside.
2. Don’t fall into any back-to-school spending traps.
Everyone is pretty guilty of this because it feels super-necessary, and it is also really fun for some reason to buy new notebooks and organize the heck out of yourself before the new semester starts. I’m a person who prefers not to take notes on my laptop, mostly because it is far more distracting for me to have a laptop in front of me than a notebook. But I’ve found that over the last few semesters, I’ve really never filled a notebook completely, and everything is online now so I rarely need to shove anything into a pocket-folder. I’m planning on just tearing out the used pages of last semester’s notebooks, and not spending a cent on any beautifully glide-y ballpoint pens because I have enough unsharpened pencils to last me an actual lifetime. I really plan on not spending a single penny on anything school-related besides tuition and textbooks. I have every single supply I could possibly need for being a student, considering the fact I’ve been one my entire freaking life. No more three-ring binders, please.
3. Live even further below my means.
I’ve always been pretty good at this because (clearly) I am hella into money and saving. But there are certain things that I grew accustomed to during my year off from school when I was making a lot more money than I am now as a full-time student again, that I have had a somewhat hard time giving up. My yoga and gym memberships, for example, were things that made sense when I had a little extra cash to play around with, and a lot more time to dedicate to getting any use of of them. Now that the contracts have recently ended, I’ve decided not to renew them – mostly because I simply don’t have the money anymore to keep them going, but also because I realize there are ways for me to enjoy yoga and fitness in general without really spending a penny. I’ve also decided to just cut the “miscellaneous fun” section off of my budget for a while, because I really don’t feel like I have the funds to do any “extra” spending – I’d rather put those extra bits that I’d spend here or there on a concert or fun event towards my savings goal. Maybe next semester, I’ll feel like I’m in a better place to add some ~fun times~ spending back into my budget.
4. Plan ahead to avoid study-session spending and other expensive stress-relief techniques.
Everyone has vices that help them through their stressful moments, and sometimes the vices get quite pricey. Mine tend to be coffee and donuts, which are definitely cheaper vices than, for example, online shopping or cigarette smoking — but they still add up. Buying a giant latte during my stressful study session feels justifiable as a hard-earned reward for sitting in Starbucks nose-deep in textbooks all day, but sometimes, it is just $4 wasted on something that I could have done at home for free. I wrote about how last semester one of the biggest changes I made to hit my savings goal was cutting out my favorite cup of Starbucks I bought between classes every morning. But cutting out my I’m-Studying-In-A-Coffee-Shop-Today latte and my I-Fucking-Deserve-This donut is a good way for me to save a little extra cash after school hours when my urge to relax and relieve stress kicks in. I plan on continuing with a method I’ve adopted this summer to prevent me from sitting in coffee shops to write TFD posts – I make a killer loaf of oatmeal banana bread at the beginning of the week and slice that sucker up with a cup of homemade coffee, and take it outside on my sunny deck to enjoy every time I feel the need to work somewhere other than my boring desk. This technique will hopefully prevent me from the study-session-spending I always justify because it is “helping” me get my work done.
5. Be careful not to overdo it.
Last semester I decided to do everything I possibly could in life. By that, I mean I took 18 credits, had two steady jobs as well as a few side-hustles, maintained a serious romantic relationship that I genuinely thought seemed stable (womp womp, I was wrong), go out all the time and enjoy all the fun perks that come along with being newly 21 and living in a city, etc. and it really all ended up biting me in the ass. I burnt out by late April, went into Emergency Shutdown Mode, and kind of stopped being able to even function in a classroom without breaking down in tears. It ended up costing me a lot emotionally, but there was a huge financial piece as well. Being so stressed and exhausted caused my classwork to begin to suffer, which I was only able to fix by cutting back my work hours and giving up all of my side-hustle babysitting so I could focus on my last few weeks of school. It also meant leaving one of my jobs altogether when I realized I just wasn’t able to handle doing so many things at once. I know my biggest priority is school, and that means that sometimes my priority can’t be working extra hours and making extra money. But if I’m careful not to overextend myself too much, I think I’ll be able to settle into a balanced work and school schedule that makes sense, and allows for some breathing room while also allowing me to diligently put money away throughout the semester and keep up with my bills at the same time.
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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