Tips to save money

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Anyone here has good tips to save money on scholarships, TAship, RAship, etc? I'm terrible with that. I am heading to the bank today to have tips, because what I have tried so far doesn't work for me.

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Does your school run financial health / financial planning workshops for students? They are pretty helpful. Some basic stuff for making a budget and sticking to it:

1. A useful guideline on dividing your budget is to spend 50% of your money on things you absolutely need (rent, food, etc.), 30% of your money on things that are nice to have to make your life easier (owning a car, eating out, coffee, whatever) and 20% to save for the future. You can find more info by googling 50/20/30 or 50/30/20 budgeting etc. Sometimes it's presented as 50% "fixed" costs, 30% "flexible" costs and 20% savings.

2. If you find yourself having problems sticking to a budget, divide up your monthly income into "envelopes" for various categories and spend from those envelopes. The envelopes can be physical or virtual, depending on what works best for you. This is helpful if you find yourself losing track of where your money went when you just use cards etc. That said, the benefits of a credit card is great so you can make "virtual envelopes" either through apps like Mint (or your bank might have one too) or keeping receipts and being diligent at recording them in a spreadsheet each night / each week and deduct from your virtual envelopes (this is what I do).

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Keep track of your spending. Keep all of your receipts for a few months and do your own accounting. There are apps like Mint (or maybe your bank provides one) that will do it for you, but sometimes it helps to keep an actual physical notebook where you list all of your expenses. This will help you see where your money is going, to find trends in your spending, and to understand how to change your behavior, if you notice things you don't like about where your money is going. 

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Housing and food are my biggest expenses, and I've experienced a few different ways to handle this... 

For the first 3/4 of the year I had roommates and I hated it. My rent was pretty cheap, but they'd also crank the heat and our electric bill would be outrageous. They were also loud and had friends over all the time and stuff. I was able to move units within my complex and I'm now by myself, but my rent has doubled. It's been okay so far since my rent was so cheap the first 3/4 of the year, but since I also have a car payment and insurance and other things to pay for, money will be tight and I'm gonna have to work off-campus this summer to pay for everything. 

My biggest advice is to definitely get a really accurate account of how much money you will need. If I'd have really thought about it, I would've waited out my move and found a cheaper unit next year (as opposed to just moving to one in the same complex and signing the lease for next year, too). I'll make it work because I have savings and an off-campus job to fall back on, but I don't think this was the wisest decision I've ever made. 

Food is another story... I don't have a problem cooking, but my friends always want to go out and I usually say yes because I want to spend time with them. Totally cheaper to make my own burger than to order one at Bob Evans, but it's the social experience that I'm paying for and that I really enjoy. 

It's important to be aware of that and to allow yourself to do that when you can (and hold yourself back when you can't). I've done a few "pantry challenges" where I just used whatever I had in my place. It saved me a decent deal of money. I usually walk into the store for a few things and walk out having spend like $40, so I need to work on controlling myself better. 

I also try to walk/take the bus sometimes to save gas and wear and tear on my car. I'm also less likely to get fast food or something if I'm not in my car, lol. And I usually am more tired and less likely to want to go out. 

Just some things I've been thinking about lately! 

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Break down your monthly expenses. For example, I get paid about $2000 a month for 9 months of the year.

Rent: $575 (My rent is cheap because I live with 3 other people. I'm more interested in saving money than living alone, which I couldn't afford to do anyways)

Utilities: $75

Renter's Insurance (buy this; it is like $15 a month): $15

Food: $125

Student Loans: $166 (to keep them deferred)

Transportation: $50 (I use the transit rather than a car, but I live in an East Coast city where the transit is really good)

Fun: $100

After all expenses, I'm left with roughly $894. During my first year, I strove to build an emergency fund. I would recommend doing this first and foremost. Calculate how much 6 months of savings is. For grad students that are guaranteed a stipend, I'd recommend a minimum of 4 months to tide you over for the summer. What is the fund for? Medical expenses. Car expenses. Stuff breaking or getting stolen. Focus on saving this amount first. 

Once that is settled, consider your debts. Do you have credit card debt? Do you have student loans? Tackle the thing with the highest interest first. Work your way down. 

If you have no debt, consider saving for retirement (roth IRA, 401K if your school or part time job matches it) or invest in mutual funds once you've saved up enough.

For budgeting, I would recommend Mint. It tracks everything for you and you can set up goals. 



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