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SHAH: Even broke college students can save money

Column: Henna's Take

College students can save money by taking simple measures.  – Photo by

Most of us have had a meal plan at some time or another. As a transfer student, I was on campus for the first time this fall. Naturally, I assumed that a meal plan would be a necessary expenditure. Due to this, I had a 50 block meal plan that was a total of $904. This meal plan amounts to approximately 3 meals per week.

The rest of the meals I would need to cook at my apartment. Only a few days into the school year did I realize this was a massive waste of money as I would not be spending approximately $18 on meals.

I immediately canceled my meal plan and decided to track my spending on restaurant-style food for the semester. So far, I have only spent approximately $75. That means I have saved $829 this semester.

It is time for us, as students, to take a good look at how much we spend and how much we can save. College itself is a massive expense, but what about all of the other little things that we can save on?

The average college student will spend approximately $53,000 on personal items during their four years, according to Admissionly. This spending does not include expenses such as housing and tuition.

Considering a person working 20 hours a week at $12 an hour will earn only $49,920 over four years untaxed, this is gravely concerning. Beyond the fact that that many students do not have the time to work 20 hours or more during the school year, even if they did, they would still be in more than $3,000 in debt.

The system is unfair, but we can work on our spending and saving habits to at least partially mitigate the negative effects of this. Each of us has financial goals for the future. Those may include saving for graduate or professional school, buying a new car, saving for a future down payment or even creating your own emergency fund. All these things can be aided by everyday actions and practices.

One way to save is to actively look at how much you are spending. After I downloaded my bank’s application, it was much easier to track all of my expenses. Further, signing up for text messages and notifications has alerted me to when I reached my self-prescribed limit and has encouraged me to keep better track of what I am spending. This inherently allows me to spend less.

Personally, I use apps to help me save a little every time I shop at my favorite places. One of them specifically is the Starbucks app. Am I addicted to Starbucks? Possibly. Regardless, this app saves a few bucks every few months.

It may not be a large lump sum amount, but over the years, I am sure it has amounted to a few hundred dollars in savings. There are other savings apps, too. Some of these include Designer Shoe Warehouse, North Face, Dunkin' and more. Do a quick search to see what other brands have loyalty rewards that can save you some cash!

Another way to save a bit is by getting rid of those habits you know are costing you. It might be getting your nails done when you really do not need to, betting on who is going to win the next football game or buying Starbucks too many times a day (like I do).

Identify and start to cut down on those expenses. Admittedly, I am also still working on this, as is everyone, but if we can train ourselves to make those habits into once in a while rewards, we may be better off for it.

Ultimately, there has been a general consensus that college students do not manage their finances and that we instead waste money. I would argue that we have the potential to save for our future and take on the responsibility of thinking ahead. Even if in little ways, over time, saving can make a difference in our futures.

Henna Shah is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and criminal justice and minoring in psychology. Her column, "Henna's Take," runs on alternate Mondays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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