This article was last updated on January 26, 2022
Everyone has the right to be irresponsible once in a while. That snowboard you had to have even though you live in Florida but planned to go to Colorado someday; that car you overpaid for because, after all, it was a vintage Mustang. Middle-aged adults are just as irresponsible once in a while too. And as long as it is a very once-in-awhile thing, the results won’t be deadly. If you are continually spending your money on “luxury” or frivolous things, however, then you are wasting the opportunity to put a lot of money toward something more permanent – your education. Even though you may have everything “covered” with grants and loans, there are still things you can and should do with the money you can save by eliminating wasteful spending.
Stop Wasting Your Money – And Put it Where it Will Matter
Let’s take a look at the biggest wastes of money first and then look at options for impacting your education when you stop the waste.
Most Common Money Wasters – They’re Not the Big Ticket Items
- Brand Names
Yes, it feels good to wear top-name clothing and shoes. For some, it’s a mark of being “cool” and acceptable to others. But look around you. Your generation is changing. Those brand names are not all that important anymore. College kids, in fact, often reject them as a part of the previous generation’s materialistic attitudes. On any given college campus, you will see a huge variety of clothing brands and styles, and no one really cares. In fact, many students actually shop at thrift shops and brag about their bargains. The same goes for personal care items and over-the-counter medicines – buy the drugstore brand. The ingredients are all the same.
Photo credit: Walmart
- Grocery Shopping
Two rules here: Don’t go shopping when you are hungry (you’ll buy a lot of stuff you don’t need), and buy generic brands or shop at a discount grocery store that has all off-brands. Are there some items you just won’t compromise on? Yes, there may be a few, but it is wasteful to go to a major grocery retailer that sells only well-known brands. Following these two rules will really improve your budget over four years.
- Buying Snacks at Expensive Places
Convenience stores are expensive places to purchase anything, and snacks are the worst. They know you’re there because you want the convenience, and so prices are really “jacked” up. If you’re going to be out running errands, take some snacks with you. That bag of chips you bought at the discount grocery is about 3X higher at the gas station store.
- Cable TV
Cut the cord. You have Netflix and a huge number of streaming services options, and the quality has really improved in recent years. Any service other than cable or dish is going to be cheaper, and it’s not like channel surfing and muting the advertisements were your most favorite activities in the world anyway.
- Using Cards Instead of Cash
Debit and credit cards are wonderful conveniences, but it almost feels as if you are not really spending any money when you use them. If you are pulling cash out of that pocket or purse, however, it’s real. One money management expert states that you will spend 18% less if you use cash. Go to your bank, draw enough out for the week, keep it safe, and use only that amount. And only use ATM’s from your bank – fees for not doing so can be up to $7 a pop.
- Energy Waste
If you are living in a drafty apartment, you are wasting both energy and money. There are lots of ways to cut drafts of cold and heat, the easiest being rolling up towels and stuffing them where windows meet sills; and get a draft guard for your door – they’re cheap. Unplug all charging cords when not in use too. And for heaven’s sake, turn down the thermostat and turn off every light when you leave for long periods of time.
- In-Game Purchases
You need to reach that next level. You are frustrated and determined. Finally, you make the power-up buy! Easy to do since your credit card information is already on file. At the end of the month, your statement comes and you realize how those small purchases have all added up. Remove your credit card information from all of your gaming sites and apps. Get a cheat sheet through a Google search instead.
- Not Using Discounts
As a student, you get discounts at lots of places. If you have a student ID, use it. You may not know all of the discounts, because they are not always advertised, but you can conduct a Google search and find most of them. Speak up. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
- Irresponsible Couponing
How can clipping and using coupons possibly be irresponsible? Easy. You find coupons for everything, cut them all out, and then go to the store fully “armed. What happens is that you buy things you would not normally buy or do not need right now, because there is just something about getting a bargain.
- Being Disorganized
If you are a person who loses many things amidst the clutter that is your living space, then you will ultimately waste a good deal of money. You can’t find your good ear buds – go buy another pair; you can’t find your charger – go buy another one; one shoe has been missing for a week – go buy another pair. Getting yourself organized is hard – some people just are not “wired” that way. But you can do a few things. Have a basket for all cords, headphones and earbuds; have one corner of your room where all of your shoes go. It may look messy but at least you’ll find them.
Photo credit: CHEAPFULLCOVERAGEAUTOINSURANCE.COM via flickr
What to Do With Your Saved Money and Some Other Hacks for Your Education
The biggest debt you will rack up, either as a full-time student or as someone who is working and going to school part-time, is from borrowing money for your education. The average student leaves college with a Bachelor’s and about $35,000 worth of loans to pay off. Here are some ways you can use that saved money from above toward this debt.
1. Start paying your debt off while still in school, using the money you are now saving. No matter how small the payment, everything adds up over time.
2. If you can only pay toward the interest on your loan, do it. Everything you can shave off before you have to make those regular monthly payments will help.
If you can eliminate just $50 of wasted spending a month, here are some things you can do with that:
1. Borrow $600 less a year – that takes $2400 off of your student loan debt over your four years
2. Take what you have saved and look at some of the education online courses offered. They are cheaper.
Explore cheaper ways to get your education in the first place. If you have been working and now decide to go back to school, you have good options when it comes to getting that education.
1. Take an online degree program – cheaper all the way around. No commute to a campus; no buying food at cafeterias and student unions; no need to worry about clashes between work and class schedules.
2. If you just need to upgrade your skills in some areas, don’t take an expensive college course. Look at MOOC’s offered by schools such as Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, as well as many others. These are at no cost, and you will get a grade and a certificate of completion. They look great on a resume.
3. Don’t buy any textbook you don’t have to. Look for e-versions at cheaper prices or try to borrow those books from libraries. Check out sites that rent textbooks or offer textbook exchanges.
There are probably a dozen or so other hacks to save money that can then be invested in your education. The key is to get into a “miserly” mindset. Vow never to pay full price for anything; purchase at discount and thrift stores those things that are not long-term valuables (clothing, aspirin, personal care stuff, food, etc.). And figure out how to use less energy overall, if you have to pay your utility bills. It’s good for your pocketbook/wallet, and it’s good for the environment.