Are you a mindless spender?

Lorna Wounded Head is the Family Resource Management Field Specialist at SDSU.

Lorna Wounded Head is the Family Resource Management Field Specialist at SDSU.

Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, Family Resource Management Field Specialist, SDSU Extension

Have you ever caught yourself thinking “Where did my money go?” Low-cost purchases can start to add up. Before you know it, you don’t have money for high-cost purchases or emergencies. 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 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 you continue the habit and you don’t grab extras for any birthdays, stressful test days or coffee dates, you will spend $240 a semester, and $480 a school year. Throughout your four years of college, you may spend almost $2,000 on coffee.

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 pack one. It’s almost always better tasting and more expensive, too. If you spend $7 twice a week for those little spurges, in four years the cost will be around $1,800.

Grocery Shopping

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is just inherently better than the store brand “Cinnamon Squares.” Let’s say you regularly purchase about 10 name brand items rather than the store brand, with about 50 cents difference in cost for each item, over four years. That adds up to about $650. 

Over four years, regularly purchasing coffee, lunches/snacks and name brand grocery items add up to about $4,500. To break it down, you are spending about $1,100 a year. This amount may not seem significant when you are used to spending so much more each semester on 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 much 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 savings aren’t about making your life miserable, but chances are once you look at where your money is 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 the between-class bagel.