There’s nothing more frustrating than constantly telling your friends that you can’t go out with them. Going out to eat, going to movies, going shopping: All of these things require you to dip into your savings. This means that if you want to be able to say yes to going out every once in a while, you need to create a budget for it. Thankfully, going out is not the only way to have a social life. Here are some tips and tricks to save money and to keep your social life poor-broke-college-student friendly.
Figure Out Your Budget
This might seem obvious, but it actually takes a lot of work. Figure out how much money you need to spend on food, bills, rent, gas, nights out, etc., and see what is left over. Keeping some sort of spreadsheet with this information can be beneficial, especially if it includes what you make/have access to every month. When making this budget, see if you can be more cost-effective (by buying generic brands vs. name brands, cutting down the Starbucks runs, and so on). This will allow you to save money as well with whatever you have left over. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself a higher budget for necessities. That way, if you don’t use your entire food budget for the month, you can give yourself a nice surprise.
Game / Movie Night
One easy way to hang out with friends is to make time for a game or movie night. This usually only costs a bag of chips and some soda, so it is high on the list of budget-friendly activities. It’s a way to relax from the daily stress of homework and classes. Planning in advance is a good idea, as people often have very different schedules in college depending on what classes they are taking, whether or not they work, or if they are involved in extracurricular activities.
It’s also a great way to provide something in return for food or help. Not everyone has board games or consoles at school, nor the space to host. If you have these things, you can discuss the possibility of not having to provide extra food or drinks.
Going on Adventures
Everything is automatically cooler if you call it an adventure. If you have errands to run, see if any of your friends are free to come along. It makes the mundane necessities of buying groceries or dropping off rent a little more bearable, and you get to spend some time with cool people. Adventures can also take the form of going on walks, ogling displays at the bookstore, grabbing a midnight snack, working out at the gym, pretty much anything that gets you out of your dorm or apartment.
Work Out a Compromise with Your Social Life
One thing that can work out well if you consistently get dinner or see movies with a friend or two is to work out some kind of plan. For example, you pay for pizza this time around, and Jane pays next time. Bartering is also useful in college, as paying someone in food for their help is almost a surefire way to get assistance with homework, moving heavy objects, or getting a ride from a friend. The important thing to remember is to be like the Lannisters and always pay your debts.
*Note: When utilizing this method, try not to get hung up on the exact value of the meals. You’re going to lose friends if you complain about the extra dollar you spent on pizza last time.
Stick a Percentage of Your Paycheck Directly Into Savings
This can truly be a lifesaver so long as you are someone with the mentality of “My savings account doesn’t get touched.” Once you have mapped out a budget, you should be able to figure out what portion of your paycheck will never see your checking account. Direct deposit is great if your job has the option, as you can set it up so that either a flat amount or a percentage goes into certain accounts when you get paid.
Go to a Campus-Sponsored Event
Most schools host events on campus at least a few times during the semester. These are great ways to have fun with your friends without spending anything. It is worth the time to look ahead in the events calendar to see what is coming up. Examples can include: laser tag, therapy dogs (often during finals), movies, dances, ect. Since these events are often on weekends, it should be easy to round up the gang and have some fun.
Related to campus events are performances by the Music and Theatre departments. Many concerts and shows are free or discounted for students. Some sporting events may also be free.
There are lots of ways to have fun without breaking the bank. Take advantage of the free (or at least cheap) resources available on campus, and hang out with good friends. It’s important to start practicing good budget and financial habits in college.