How to spend money responsibly in college

By Charlotte Collins

It’s really easy to fall into overspending at school. Between the pre-class coffee, the quick lunch on Green Street, the pre-study coffee and all of the other coffees you will surely find excuses for, you might find yourself burning through the cash you had saved for things like books. 

College is a great time for you to start learning how to budget. There are a few easy things you can do besides laying out a carefully calculated plan on precisely how much you can afford to spend on snacks and coffee and going out. 

One of the most important things you can do is to not be in denial about your spending. If you didn’t open your last bank statement alert because you just didn’t want to see it, you should know that the money probably did not make its way back to your account from the bar or the cafe.

If you start opening your bank statements (and if they aren’t mailed to you, there are usually online versions to look over), you’ll at least be able to track your spending and see if you have room for six coffees a day or not (probably not).

Coffee is but one of the money black holes on campus. You’ll spend more than you’ll want to admit to yourself (or your mom) on cover charges for bars, snacks, cover charges for more bars, six variations of the same sweater you bought with “ILLINOIS” printed across them, medicine for the cold you just can’t kick, soap and toothpaste and all the other things your parents used to buy but now are left up to you.

If you see what you’re throwing cash at and monitor your transactions, you’ll start to feel a little bit of guilt, and that might help to curb your spending. Maybe you’ll think twice before reaching for your seventh “ILLINOIS” hoodie at the Illini Union Bookstore.

As for the necessities, like soap and toothpaste, take just an extra second to look for the store brand or a slightly cheaper alternative to what you might usually buy at home. Those few extra dollars can add up when it comes to something you will have to routinely buy.

Also, try not to drop too much cash on a bunch of new clothes because odds are that you (just like many others at Illinois) are just going to wear the same pair of sweatpants and the same sweater by mid-October even if your wardrobe game was really strong in the beginning of the year.

If you get overwhelmed thinking about finances on your own, talk to your parents about what is a reasonable amount to be spending weekly; thinking about your spending allowance in the short-term is usually easier than calculating a chunk of money you’ll have to spread out over the course of the year.

Budgeting is not all bad; it might even kind of make you feel like a grown up. College is expensive even without the day-to-day purchases. If you keep an eye on your spending, your bank account will thank you.