Simple Savings

A lesson in financial responsibility

Kate Doolittle, Photography Editor

If you’re a junior or senior in high school, money is probably on your mind pretty often. The prospect of leaving the safety of your parents’ financial support can be daunting, especially when you consider the expenses you’ll have to face. Tuition, books, rent, groceries, utilities, gas, car payments, insurance, internet, cable, phone plan, etc….it all seems to stack up pretty fast. If you’re anything like me, thinking about investments, savings accounts, college funds, retirement plans, and all the other adult things you should do with your money can be stressful and overwhelming. Luckily there are a couple super easy things you can do right now to help you in the future.

First things first, budget. I’m not talking about making a complex spreadsheet of income and expenses, but planning out how much you spend a week at a time can be a helpful tool to keep you from spending too much. Consider how much you make and come up with a number that you’ll allow yourself to spend every week. Making a conscious effort to stay under this cash ceiling will help you prevent needless spending, and it’s good practice for the future when budgeting is essential.

If you’re finding it hard to make it through the week on your new allowance, try thinking of the things that you buy as treats rather than everyday items. For example, if you drink a lot of Starbucks, challenge yourself to only buy one coffee a week. If you see a lot of movies, prioritize the ones you want to see in the theater and make it a special occasion to go. If you love to shop, go as a reward for accomplishing something instead of as a cure for boredom. Limiting the extra stuff that you buy will not only pad your wallet, it will make you enjoy those things even more.

If you just can’t resist buying coffee or seeing movies or going shopping, consider low cost alternatives. I often find that the low budget option is even more rewarding than the luxury version. Try making your own coffee. I find that it’s easier to make my drink exactly the way I want and it’s a relaxing way to start a morning. Want a good movie going experience? Look for cheap, donation only, or free movie screenings around your area. There are lots of Facebook events for outdoor movie screenings, especially in the summer, that are cheaper than going to the theater and are arguably more fun. For your clothing fix, try shopping at goodwill or other thrift stores. Though it takes a bit of looking, you can often find cool and unique pieces that nobody else will have. If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you can always make your own alterations to make it even more your own.

If you’re still struggling to budget, consider turning your theoretical allowance into a cash allowance. Instead of giving yourself an imaginary number, try drawing the exact amount out of your account every week. Having physical cash on you instead of a debit card will help you visualize how much you’re spending and keep yourself in check.

Last but not least, save your money whenever you can. It sounds simple, but doing it consistently will begin to add up. Whenever you get paid, make sure you set some aside in a savings account where it can collect interest. The standard for how much you should save is 10%, but if you just can’t swing that much, anything helps. Even something as small as collecting your change in a piggy bank or jar instead of leaving it in a junk drawer somewhere will add up over time.

Being responsible with your money doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Practicing saving and budgeting now will help you later as your assets grow, and making responsible spending a habit now will save you financially in the future.