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How to Live Like a Broke College Student

Remember the good ol’ days of ramen noodles and $5 cases of beer? Or how about those midnight cramming sessions where the only things you cared about was acing a test and that gallon of coffee next to you?

Most of us have moved on from those glory days (well, except for that gallon of coffee still next to us), but if there was one thing I learned from it all it was was this: I survived! And not only that, but I did it with a budget 1/10th of what it is today [3].

How is that possible?

Well, I was forced to. The Bank of Mom & Dad had done their part in helping out, but It was up to me to make ends meet and make sure I graduate on time. That meant long hours working at the dining hall, and even longer nights studying. It also meant not rolling with my friends (aka the Jones’) and hitting up Cancun every Spring Break 😉

How We Did It

Why am I not living like a broke college student anymore? Life happened, that’s what. A 40 hour work week, a pad closer to the city, and a new car payment happened. And don’t forget about that social life! A freshly degree’d bachelor can’t give up on all the fun, right? Right. It just took me a few years to realize there are better ways to live our lives than spending all our extra money.

Those raises and bonuses we get? They don’t have to go right out the window. We call that giving into “lifestyle inflation [4].” Lifestyle inflation jumps up and bites you in the buttocks every time!

Truth be told though, we can still get back to the glory days of spending less money and it doesn’t mean more instant noodles or macaroni & cheese. Unless, of course, you like that stuff (after all it IS pretty cheap!)

How to Live Like A Broke College Student

  1. Ask yourself, “Is this really worth the money”? Or better yet, “am I fine without this?” Contrary to popular belief, we really don’t *need* all that much. We didn’t need it in college, and we more than likely don’t need it now. It doesn’t mean you have to cut out all the shopping in your life, but a quick evaluation every now and then never hurts.
  2. Track your spending for a few weeks. Most people want to punch me in the face when I start talking about this, but it’s seriously one of the easiest and most productive things you can do. I like to think of this as your E-True Hollywood story – You *think* you know about your finances, but you have no idea! Haha…okay, so that’s a bit hokey, but I swear if you do it at least once you’ll have a better understanding of what’s really going on. And you don’t have to get all hardcore with it either – a simple “here’s what i spent and here’s what I earned this week” works just fine. Jot it down with a pen and paper, or simply fill out an excel spreadsheet from one of our budget templates [5] a few of us finance bloggers have put together.
  3. Cut back in the places you care less about. Once you know where your money’s going, get rid of the stuff you can deal without – premium TV channels you don’t watch, the gym (*gasp!*), or better yet – downsize to a smaller home! This would work better if you rented, but if you’re not using up all 3 levels of that townhouse, why not save a few hundred and get a place half the size? Only you know what you care about, so give it some thought and start shedding the less important stuff in life. The good thing here is that we can afford to keep a bit more than we could back in our Freshmen years.
  4. Try not spending a dime for an entire week (except for bills/rent/etc)! I know it sounds crazy, but it was a huge wake up call when I tried doing this myself (actually, I did it for 6 weeks [6]). I had no idea how many times I hit up amazon.com [7], iTunes, or even the mall for that matter. One or two weeks of entertaining yourself free of charge is more doable than you think.

I could probably go on and on here, but I think you all get the point – it IS possible to accomplish life without spending hoards of money! Master the art of living like a broke college student now, and enjoy a healthier future with less stress and piling savings. I can’t promise it’ll be fun, but it’ll definitely help you sleep better at night….and without a gaggle of drunken dormmates to awaken to.

J. Money writes for Budgets are Sexy [8] – A laid back finance blog of a guy just trying to spice things up a bit. He also finds budgets….well…sexy! If you like what you see, pop on over and say hello. Or better yet, subscribe [9] to his future articles.

(Photo: kevincortopassi [10])