There’s often an unspoken struggle that college students face, a predicament that I would like to call, the “College Social-Cost Dilemma”. In a nutshell, it is the problem that people (mainly college students) face between balancing their social life and financial budget. To put it simply, if you go out = major fun but empty wallet, if you stay in = major fomo but dollar dollar bills.
I came across this dilemma myself during the beginning of my first year at college, I had joined a lot of clubs and had quite a few friends who liked to dine out. High school didn’t prepare me on how to properly and efficiently budget myself (although when have they ever prepared you for adult life, like taxes). Through every club social and friendate, I realized I was blowing too much money way too fast. I ended up having to sacrifice outings with friends or frequent club socials – major fomo. However, this all changed.
After acknowledging and recognizing the dilemma, I started doing my own research on personal finance and spending money wisely (goodbye fomo). Here are 4 tips that I’ve accumulated and seem to work well for me.
1. Want vs. Need
Prioritize your spending habits. Do you honestly need that brand new seemingly-awesome-but-you-will-never-use-after-a-month sandwich presser? Try to make it a habit to ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” before you make any purchase. Trust me, it’ll hurt a little bit on the inside to walk away from it, but you’ll thank yourself later. Short-term pain, long-term gain.
2. Realistic Budget
I’ve realized that I tend to underestimate how much I’ll spend on things and end up with an unrealistic budget (and then feel bad about it later, #feelsbad). When you’re planning out your financial budget, be realistic with yourself. In this case, sometimes it’s better to overestimate your expenses just in case you really do. Despite having an extreme budget, this guy managed to retire at 30 – it worked for him. So find out what works for you.
3. Affordable Substitutes
You don’t always need to eat at gourmet 5-Michelin star restaurants at every meal, sometimes you can find cheaper alternatives with the exact same food quality. This is especially true with grocery shopping; an apple imported from Japan is not going to taste drastically different to an apple from your local farmer. For example, you can spend less than $25 at Disney World by looking for substitutes.
4. Facing Reality
The world is not made of milk and honey (unfortunately). There will be times when you’ll just have to bite the bullet and sit out on a few outings. Sure, you might have a severe case of fomo, but you can easily remedy that with some oreo mug cheesecake.