For many of us, being in college, graduating from college, and living on our own for the first time means having a fairly tight budget. But I have good news for you! There are many ways you can both save cash and still do the things you love.
Food is the category that you probably have the most control over in your budget. However, it is also one of the easiest categories to overspend in. You don’t have to live on a diet of ramen noodles, though. Here are a few ideas!
Try not to regularly eat out. Instead, prepare your meals at home.
Save those fast-food coupons you get in the mail for the times you do go out to eat.
Keep non-perishable snacks in the car, like granola bars, trail mix, or peanut butter crackers.
Plan ahead before going to the grocery store to avoid impulse buys.
Don’t go to the store hungry!
Meats like chicken and beef can add a lot to your grocery bill. Try finding some meatless meals that you enjoy. Ideas include fried rice (sans meat), breakfast for dinner, and beans and rice (this recipe is delicious).
Bring your own lunch to work.
Freeze leftovers or eat them for lunch the next day.
Skip Starbucks and brew your coffee or tea at home.
Find copy-cat recipes for foods and drinks you would normally buy.
Use half-and-half and sugar instead of buying coffee creamer.
Grate your own cheese.
Keep ingredients for quick meals on hand. Check out this link to help you get started!
Make your own pizza! It’s surprisingly easy, a fun activity, and much cheaper than ordering it. If that isn’t your style, frozen pizzas can be quite cheap as well.
Try new recipes for variety. Pinterest and allrecipes.com are great places to start.
A gym membership can be a drain on your budget. Depending on what equipment you use and how often you frequent it, the gym is an expense that can many times be removed. Instead, consider trying some of these alternatives.
Instead of running on the treadmill, run outside. Consider finding a running buddy!
Find workout videos and challenges on YouTube and Pinterest.
Find an accountability partner and keep each other motivated.
Gradually invest in gently-used weights from websites like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook marketplace, etc.
Go for a walk.
Ride your bike.
When it’s safe, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Do something active that you enjoy! Exercising shouldn’t have to be torture!
Entertainment and Social Life
Things like books and movies can be quite expensive at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a new exciting read, go to the movies, or hang out with friends.
Use your library for books and movies. A library card is 100% free and many of them now have digital libraries with movies, audiobooks, and ebooks.
If you want to own your book, thriftbooks.com is an amazing resource for both fiction and non-fiction reads. Using this resource, I have saved hundreds of dollars on needed books for college classes.
Some movie theaters have weekly or monthly discount days. For example, in my area most Cinemark Theaters have Five Dollar Tuesdays.
Borrow movies from friends and family.
Sell books that you’re done with and either save the cash or use it to buy another.
Use free trials for websites like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. Just don’t forget to cancel!
Take advantage of your student discounts.
Instead of going out to a restaurant with friends, host a game night with a potluck-style meal.
Go to a museum or the zoo on a discount or free day.
Learn a dance with friends using YouTube videos.
Around the Home
Did you know that the average American spends around $600 per year on household cleaning supplies? It’s an unavoidable category for some spending, but fortunately, your home can be spotless and well managed without breaking the bank.
Instead of buying paper towels, use cloths. They work just as well and are reusable.
Make your own cleaner: In a spray bottle, combine 2 cups of rubbing alcohol (I use the wintergreen scented kind to mask the smell of the alcohol), 2 cups of water, and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar. This can also be used as a streak-free cleaner for windows and mirrors!
Hand wash your dishes instead of using the dishwasher.
Wash your shower curtain liners instead of purchasing new ones.
Use vinegar as a fabric softener, or stop using it entirely.
Buy discounted, great quality shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, and many other things at stores like Ross and Marshall’s.
By Alexandria Garcia