Money Saving Tricks…
…Or, Do as I Say, Not as I Do.
Saving money, budgeting, and living frugal in the Bay Area can make one feel overwhelmed very quickly. However, there are a few fool-proof ways that I have discovered to be incredibly helpful, and which are set into motion without too much pain.
Be social without plastic
A couple hours spent at a local bar off-campus can easily equal a $50 tab. There will be times that you absolutely need to be out to release some study-steam, but anybody on a grad school budget will break the bank if eating every meal out or buying round after round of drinks. If you do go out, leave your credit cards at home, and only bring a pre-determined amount in cash. That way you won’t be able to spend more than that. Look at what you can really afford, and then treat yourself when you really need it, but don’t spend more than you can afford. Presto!
Become a serial snacker. When you leave in the morning, you probably will have a full day of work, classes, meetings, and study sessions. Avoid the fast food and expensive take-out places on campus. Keep healthy snacks in your bag all the time–sandwich baggies of apples, clementines, granola bars, almonds, etc. Think about it. If you stopped spending $10 even three times a week on meals and snacks, you would save $120 a month, or $1,440 a year! Don’t quote me on that… I’m in grad school for humanities, after all.
Also, along those lines, make lists when shopping. I have to have lists to function as a normal human being, but grocery lists are probably the most helpful. Figure out what you will want to eat and then only get what you need. Sticking to the list keeps you from making impulse purchases, so you can better control what you spend.
It’s much easier to track your costs when you know exactly what you’re spending. Many banks have a smartphone app where you can check your accounts, so use that to your advantage. You could also go old school and track your expenses in a notebook! Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find it’s easier to see where your money is going when it’s in writing. That daily coffee shop visit may feel like pennies, but when you look at an entire week, you see that cost add up quickly!
Check out the area
Look for fun free things to do. The Bay Area seems to have a lot of free events. There are a ton of talks and movies and things on campus, and fun things in town as well. A couple of weeks ago I went to a local food festival where I got to sample a ton of local foods, and it didn’t cost a penny. Some of the talks on campus have food, so it’s a great way to learn about something and get fed. There are lots of great parks that, in the nice weather, are good places to spend a day. You could also ask around… or eavesdrop:
Above all, remember this: