As you’re prepping to head off to college, it’s likely that budgeting is on your mind. You have a budget but how do you stick to it? We scoured our team here at American Express Serve for tips on sticking to a budget in college. Here are some of the best suggestions we heard:
Keep your receipts
The last thing you want to do is make a budget only to look back at the end of the semester and wonder where all that money went. Black hole? That same ghost that steals 1 of every sock pair? Make sure to track your spending either via keeping the paper receipts or by signing up for an account, like an American Express Serve® Account, which allows you to track your spending online.
Use the buddy-system while shopping
If you’re headed out shopping for some dorm room supplies — make a list, share it with your buddy, and make a pact not to buy anything that’s not on your list. It sounds simple, but using peer pressure for good (saving) instead of evil works.
Give yourself a fake due date
Late fees (un-needed spending with no return) are a huge enemy of a budget. Instead of counting on conquering your procrastination – set your due date for payment to 10 days before any bill is due. You can do this by setting up notifications in your calendar or setting up regular payments with the merchant. You can also make quick payments using your American Express Serve Account online bill pay feature, by storing the merchant information for recurring payments.
Make your budget top of mind
The only thing that reminds you of your budget shouldn’t be going online or to your spreadsheet to check it. Put a visual reminder on your desktop (an image that represents saving to you or a picture of that spring break trip you want to take) or set up automated emails to send to yourself bi-weekly on Monday morning. The best way to exceed your budget is to forget about it.
Only pay your share of the bill
Whether it’s utilities for your apartment, or dinner off-campus — splitting the check will become your norm in college. Make sure to always have a way to pay only your share. This sounds straightforward, but it’s more difficult than you think. Check out cards or services that provide peer-to-peer payment capabilities. An American Express Serve® Account allows you to send and receive money notifications by email and text(1). Or, you can take it back old school and carry cash.
Positive reinforcement has applications beyond your first Psych 101 exam. Create a positive association to sticking to your monthly or semester budget by rewarding yourself. Whether it’s a movie night with friends or dessert after dinner, even the smallest of rewards can help.
Sticking to a budget is always easier said than done but we hope that at least one or two of these tips helps you out!