Afternoons on the patio of your favourite pub, epic weekends at the cottage, BBQs and house parties, and a whole slew of other expenses can easily make your summer salary go dry. While students work most during the summer, all the hot weather and social activities seem to snap that extra cash right out of your wallet.
Motivating yourself to save money when there's so much to do and see is extremely difficult, says Jeannine Mitchell, publisher of Student Finance 101. To help keep yourself on track she suggests, keep in mind that for every dollar you save, it might actually be worth $2 or more in terms of real savings. And if you spend too much, you'll end up borrowing to make up for it, which means paying off all the interest that added up over the years. Just keep telling yourself the little drink or snack that only costs $2 could actually be worth $4 in terms of real, saved money.
So how do you avoid all those little temptations?
Sticking to a budget is hard, but it doesn't have to be too strict. Tailor it to your own specifics, Mitchell advises. Saving in some areas is better than saving in none, and spending mindfully is the key to successful budgeting. Even if you don't want to do a formal budget, try to keep a rough idea of where your money is going by the end of the month. Talk to your roommates, family, and friends to get feedback on where they think you're spending more than you need to.
Moving home for the summer is often the most effective strategy for saving between semesters. But if that's not an option for you, it's still not impossible to put away a little extra cash for the coming school year. Take advantage of the nicer weather by drying your laundry outside instead of paying to use a dryer; it's cheaper for you and better for the environment. You can also reduce your electricity bill by limiting air conditioning use to only the very hottest days of the year. Buy lots of fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from local farmer's markets and fruit stands'they're cheaper and healthier than frozen, processed, or prepared foods. The little things can go a long way.
Between semesters, most of us have to work. If distance to and from work permits, walk, bike, or rollerblade as much as possible to save money on transportation. Brown bag it to your summer job as often as you can. Even if you avoid the temptation of take-out at least half the time, you'll be saving'making all those extra hours at work worth it by the end of the season.
In addition, Mitchell highly recommends getting your travel-fix by working abroad, either through a program in a foreign country or in hospitality at a resort.
But if what you really need is a vacation, planning is key. Mitchell recommends looking for last minute deals on airfare, or taking advantage of two-for-one transportation and lodging offers along with a friend. You don't have to go first-class to have a great time, either.
I talk to a lot of students who feel like when they're traveling, they need to stay in a nice hotel or travel like they would with their parents, she says, adding that it's an unrealistic expectation when you earn less and have debt. Instead, see if you can stay with a family friend, or even a friend of a friend. Even done for a few days, it will save a lot. If this isn't possible, hostels are the way to go, she says.
With all the saving you're going to be doing, you'll need somewhere to keep your earnings. Talk to your bank because you want to get the most interest possible, Mitchell says. A lot of people just put it in their bank account and don't think twice, but in fact you should see if there's any kind of short-term, high-interest account, or a term deposit.
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