Tips to make a paycheck stretch **PRINT ONLY**

Emily Doran

We’ve all been there: It’s the end of another two-week pay cycle, and you open your wallet only for a figurative moth to fly out. Where did it all go? 

A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck, especially college students. While this may be largely unavoidable for anyone who has taken out loans to pay for tuition or who works multiple jobs just to pay the bills (i.e., most college students), there are ways to make your paycheck stretch a little further. See where you can adjust your spending habits below, and you might even be able to put a little extra in your savings account next time.

Sign up for direct deposit. Think about it: What’s the first thing you do if you cash a physical check in the Student Services building? Maybe you treat yourself to a latte or half-off apps at Applebee’s with friends. Either way, it’s hard to avoid spending your money when you’re carrying around a big wad of cash. Sign up for direct deposit instead so your money immediately goes to your bank account before you can touch it.

Allot a percentage of your paycheck to savings. This might be difficult to do if you need almost every penny to pay bills or use for personal expenses. But a little goes a long way. If you make a habit of immediately transferring even a small part of your paycheck to your savings account, you will be on your way to establishing a fiscal safety net and accumulating capital for future investments.

Make a budget and stick to it. Figure out how much money you take home each month after taxes, then determine how much you’re going to spend of it and where. Split your expenses into “needs” (rent, groceries, gas, insurance, etc.) and “wants” (eating out, movie tickets, recreational shopping). When dividing your paycheck, make sure you cover all of your needs first, then start divvying up what’s left between your wants and your savings account. You can make your budget using almost any platform you like: Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, a physical notebook, etc. 

Cut back on fancy coffee drinks. Let’s say you spend about $4 every day on a latte at the Lobby Shop or Starbucks. That adds up to $28 every week spent on coffee, which adds up to about $120 per month. That’s a lot of money you could be putting into savings or putting toward more substantial investments. Make the one-time purchase of a coffee pot instead and save money by brewing your own caffeinated beverages at home.

Find ways to reward yourself that don’t require spending. After a long day of work or class, sometimes all you want to do is go out to eat with friends, hit the bar for drinks or go to the movies. While it’s important to indulge yourself sometimes, you can also save a lot of money if you find other ways to unwind and reward yourself after completing a tough test or turning in an essay. For example, you can plan a movie night at home or at the Kirkhof theater, blow off some steam at the Recreation Center or plan a game night with friends. There are plenty of ways to have fun without breaking the bank.

Take the bus when you can. For students who have cars, gas is a huge expense. Consider parking your car at Walker Fire Station or the Standale Meijer and taking the bus to get to campus. You’ll save a lot on gas and parking fees.