September 02, 2016

How To Afford Senior Year of College

This is a part of my Ballin' on a Budget series, where I share tips, tricks and best-kept secrets to sticking to a budget while living your life! 

At this time four years ago, I was a spritely little 18-year-old girl moving into her quad of a dorm room, and about to live away from home and my country for the first time. I remember being so nervous - did I make the right choice? am I going to love it here? will I make friends? - and then I watched as those fears washed away so quickly. And then, before I knew it.. I was a senior.

As I'm sure you've heard a million times, senior year is the BEST year of college. But besides being the best experience ever, senior year is also super expensive. Between bar crawls, the outfits and just everyday expenses, it adds up.. quickly! Now I'm not gonna pretend like I was perfect.. I spent too much on weekends, went to Chipotle a little more than I should have, and shopped more than I'd like to admit! But as they say, hind sight is 20/20 and now that I'm forced to be "adulting" (vom), I'm sharing some practices I wished I stuck to..

// create a budget and stick to it: Yes, I know.. easier said than done, but this one is important. Be honest with yourself and note how much you can realistically afford to spend each month on entertainment, nights out, food, shopping and of course rent and utilities and other important stuff! I always like to pad my expenses a little bit, just in case anything comes up.. the last thing you want is to be short on important expenses like rent or car payments. 

// pick up extra jobs: So many of my friends spent their senior year nannying and babysitting for local families. Find local Facebook pages for moms, sign up on or ask professors or college staff if they have any friends looking for some help. Kids aren't your thing? Offer to tutor students in classes you've excelled in, pet-sit for people in the area or pick up a retail job in the area. Every little dollar helps! 

// use venmo to actually get paid back: How many times have you gone out for dinner with friends, or paid for a friend's drink at the bar, and said "don't worry, you'll get me next time" or "pay me back tomorrow" and the two of you forget or it just never happens? Enter Venmo - the easiest way to transfer money between friends immediately. Now, you're only spending money you actually spend - and the venmo balance goes straight back to your bank account! 

// go to the bar early or ask for drink specials: Every time I went to the bar and picked up one Bud Light Platinum, I was dishing out $5, which doesn't seem like a lot.. but it adds up, quickly. I had friends who would drop $100 every time they went out, and while thankfully that wasn't me, going out every weekend (or several times a week) added up and took a toll on my wallet. Usually within the first few hours of opening, bars and clubs have dollar drafts or cheaper cocktails, and throughout the night, ask the bartender what drink specials they have - it'll save you tons of money in the long run.

// keep track of your subscription fees: This one is less about saving money and more about being aware of how you're spending it. Like most college students, I had a ton of monthly and annual subscriptions. Spotify, Adobe, my off-campus gym membership, blog stuff on the back end.. all of it ran out of one bank account, and the worst thing was getting charged $60 for your annual gym maintenance fee the same weekend a big trip is planned. Be aware of when you're being charged and how much, and you'll never be shocked when you check your bank statement.

// check your bank account regularly: Wow, I cannot tell you how guilty I am of doing this. I always assumed that I was in the clear, and thankfully though I always was, being cognizant of your balance saves you a ton of money and headache in the long run so you make a purchase bigger than you can afford. There's a joke that college students use their debit cards like they're gift cards - "well i'm not sure how much is on this, but you can give it a try".. secretly holding their breath until the purchase goes through. It's true, so don't let it happen to you!

// create an "emergency" fund: I wish I had a third account throughout college. I always just had checkings and savings, but part of me wishes I had opened a third "emergency" fund, just in case something crazy happens. It's important that in the event you need to buy a flight somewhere quickly (home, in my case.. an $800 flight at times), need to buy a new laptop or pay ridiculous fees for yours to get fixed (my situation 1000 times over) or desperately need groceries, you'll have the security of knowing that you can afford it or won't be financially struggling for the months to follow.

Although senior year is the time of your life, it's the first step to being a full-blown adult (although I'm 100% still in denial that that's happening to me), so the quicker you learn how to budget and live within your means, you'll be even better off for the future.

I'll leave you with this picture of me from freshman year of college. Now go order a whiskey sour for this poor washed up grad's soul...

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  1. First of all, your blog is gorgeous! I was shocked at how beautiful your header is!
    Secondly, this is such an important thing to learn in college. I did so bad with money. I like that you included checking your bank account frequently. It's so easy to just assume you have enough money in there, and then all of a sudden, you're getting hit with overdraft fees.

  2. Great tips. I'm pretty impressed at your responsible approach. Love hearing about Venmo...will have to check it out. Good luck as you wrap up and start your new chapter!

  3. Great tips! I feel like it's so much easier to budget these days with all of the tech advancements. I wish we had Venmo when I was in college!

  4. Smart thinking! Happy Hour is the best.

    Alix |

  5. Great list, girl! Thank goodness for Venmo!
    -Anna |

  6. These are great tips! Get a part time job in a hotel - free food (especially teeny pots of jam and Nutella) and maybe free gym access!

  7. Those subscriptions will seriously get you!! I wish I had venmo when I was in college!

    Rachel |

  8. TRUTH. I accidentally spent like half my savings on senior year because of fomo haha... Venmo was a lifesaver!

  9. ohhhh yes! great tips! and now to pay it all back!! haha!

  10. AMEN! My senior year was a little brutal. I started doing weekend job like babysitting and judging high school debate/forensics to make extra cash! These are great ideas... FOMO is real your senior year!

  11. How awesome, I am going into my second year and I am already planning on how to save and not over spend money!

  12. Never heard of Venmo before. Spending money wisely in college is so important, particularly if you're thinking about minimizing the debt that some have or setting aside money to start paying it off. On-campus jobs are great. I was married for my Junior and Senior years of college and I managed our family budget, it was always a good feeling to see all the numbers line up the way they ought to!

  13. These are great tips! Wish I had known this when I was in college!

    Greta |

  14. Venmo is awesome! I am still learning how to maintain a budget but I am getting better each year.

    xoxo, Jenny

  15. What an awesome post, Have a great senior year!!! it will be awesome.

  16. Great post! Only going into my freshman year of college but these are still great tips. XO, Nicole

  17. I cannot believe senior year is already here for me! These are so helpful and I just started using VENMO! Such great tips! (:
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  18. These tips are so great! I second Venmo! That's a great way to make sure you actually get paid back. Wishing you an amazing year :)

  19. College life is best life, but if we do party with you friends before that we have to use Healthy Detox Drinks will relief from hangover problem.

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