Being broke sucks. It makes you feel like you can’t really go anywhere with your friends, especially when you’re on a very tight budget, but FOMO forces you out of your budget hole. So you spend $5 on that coffee you didn’t really want, and another $10 for a meal that you thought would be cheaper if your friend had split it like they agreed. Everything you want feels like it’ll cost you a whole month of not eating plus two limbs before you can afford them. But what if I told you there’s actually a way to never being broke again?
You heard me. You’ll never feel short of money again!
Well, as long as you follow these five simple tricks that I wish someone had clued me in on while I was still at uni:
1. Track your spending habits.
Yeah, yeah. You’ve got assignments and all that reading to catch up on. There’s no way you’ll have time to sit and spend like five seconds to type into your phone that you just paid $3.50 for that packet of gummy worms to munch on while you “study”. It may be a lot easier to just check your bank balance before going on a weekend bender, but when you track your spending, you’ll be surprised where your money is actually going.
I’m huge on bullet journaling, so I write my spending down in an expense tracker that took me about 30 minutes to draw, but if your phone is your life, there are a myriad of expense tracking apps you can download to help you record your spending on the go. It not only helps make sure you’re not spending unnecessarily, but it also gives you a visual representation of where your money is actually going. Some apps I know that are really good are Wally Next, Pocketbook, and Moneytree, but at the end of the day, it really depends on what works best for you.
2. Write down all the things you have to pay off regularly and total them up.
When you’re planning for your “fun money”, make sure you’ve set aside enough to pay off your rent and bills on time so you don’t also get hit by those late payment fees. Set aside money for public transport and groceries, because, let’s be real, you can’t just stay home and not eat. It’s important to plan ahead, and I don’t mean checking your balance five minutes before you leave the house for drinks with your friends. Your bank account won’t tell you how much you have left to spend after you pay off that phone bill that’s due tomorrow. When you plan ahead, you’ll start feeling on top of things and have a better idea of how much you actually have to spend for funsies. You might also want to look at your monthly subscriptions and decide if you really need them all or if there are any that you actually haven’t paid attention to in a while.
3. Learn how to cook simple meals.
No, sticking a meat pie in a microwave is NOT cooking. Neither is boiling water for your two-minute noodles. You’d actually be surprised how much money you save as well when you start making meals that you can also keep for packed lunches. It only takes you about 20 minutes, really, to cook up a simple meal. I know it’s a lot easier to just pick up the phone and get food delivered to you, but each delivery would probably set you back about $20. Plus, you’ll actually pick up a really useful life skill!
When I first started uni, I think I spent about $150 a week on takeout and delivery. It wasn’t until my housemate bought me a cookbook for students that I started realising how much money I could have saved if I had bothered to learn how to cook! But if cookbooks are still out of your budget, you know Chef Google’s got your back.
4. Set a daily budget for yourself.
Now that you know how much "fun money" you actually have to play with, set yourself a reasonable daily budget and stick to it. A $0 budget is not realistic. If you know you're going to need a cup of coffee during your day or you plan to buy lunch instead of packing it in, budget for it. Each time you find yourself spending less than your budget, add the money you didn't spend into an "end of month" fund that you can use to reward yourself for saving. The more you save, the bigger your reward. Don't be afraid to also challenge yourself. If you're confident that you can consistently spend less than your budget, set yourself a smaller budget goal and see how you go. Who knows, you might have just saved up enough for a new phone!
5. Embrace no-spend days.
That's exactly right! Those are days that happen when you actually haven't spent anything! At least, not from your "fun money" budget. These days might sound a little restrictive, but look at them instead as a challenge. Have you been able to go two days without spending, except for essentials (e.g. groceries, rent, bills, etc.)? Where do you find yourself spending unnecessarily? This can also be a good opportunity to learn about your spending habits, and you can add these savings into your "end of month" reward.
Well, that's that! You're now slightly better equipped to take on a world of avocados on toast and overpriced coffee to enjoy never, ever, feeling like only moths reside in your wallet ever again.