Think before spending: How the small stuff adds up

Mackenzie Smith, Columnist

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Here are some basic everyday examples of things that seem like no big deal at first but can add up over time. You might notice that the numbers are less extreme than your normal examples, and spread out over four years you might think it isn’t a lot. But not everyone goes out to the bars and spends $150 every week to make up those crazy figures on where you can save. So let’s put some perspective on what could actually be your savings. Compare these to your budget and see what improvements you can make.

Caffeine Fix

A lot of students can feel the pressure to pull all nighters and drink coffee everyday like the grownups they are. Grabbing a $5 cup of coffee on your way to class just three days a week can add up fast. Assuming that pattern stays and you don’t grab extras for any birthdays, stressful test days, or coffee dates then that’s $240 a semester, and $480 a school year. Over the course of your degree it’s possible that you’ll spend almost $2,000 on that habit.

Lunch Break

If it’s a break between classes or the lunch break of your job, it’s often more convenient to buy a small lunch than to pack one. It’s almost always better tasting, but more expensive too. When you spend say, $7 twice a week for those little splurges, whether you are doing social stuff or just haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, the price on that adds up too. Over a four year time span that’s about $1,800.

Grocery Shopping

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is just inherently better than the store brand’s “Cinnamon Squares.” Let’s say you have about ten items like that in your shopping cart every week, at a 50 cent difference each. Over the course of your four years that adds up to only about $650 by the time you graduate. 

$4,500, give or take, is probably a nice chunk of change but not life changing when you are used to spending so much more a semester in tuition. But if you see that figure as a graduation present to yourself – a small vacation to the Dominican Republic, the rent and deposit for your new nicer apartment and some money left over to buy a new professional wardrobe, it looks like a lot bigger deal, doesn’t it?

Maybe you need those coffees to stay sane, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch has been your go to since middle school. Budgets and saving aren’t about making your life miserable, but chances are once you look at where your money is really going, there will be things you can live without. Instead of that twice weekly lunch, maybe you add an extra two hours a week to your work schedule and now you’ve got that $1,800 without sacrificing your between class burrito. 

If you want to know more about how to manage your finances, you can visit (https://extension.sdstate.edu/tags/family-finances) or for articles geared especially toward college students, visit CashCourse.org. It’s free!