Finance Tips from a Shopaholic: 10 Steps to Save $ on a Recent Grad’s Budget

Until I became an unemployed college graduate, I didn’t exactly understand the concept of money. The very small amount of money I made in college forced me to live paycheck to paycheck. Okay, maybe it didn’t “force” me to live that way… I guess the hundreds of shirts and dresses I bought during those four years were probably not necessary. But I spent money like it was… toilet paper (see below). Whether I was buying necessities such as food, gas, and alcohol (yes, that is a necessity) – or a new dress to wear out that night… I had to spend.

Bye bye money!!!

The itch to spend all my money without thinking did not end well for me when I graduated with no savings. Yeah, I got a whole bunch of “graduation money,” but I spent that far too quickly before I realized I would be living on a part-time job’s hourly pay for seven months. It was probably during those seven months when I actually couldn’t buy things I wanted, that I developed a strong desire to save.

Ever since I became a full-time working girl, I have saved a decent amount of money from each paycheck. Of course the urges to buy a new shirt, dress, pair of shoes, necklace, earings, bag, YOU NAME IT still occasionally get the best of me… but all in all, I am pretty much a newfound expert at saving money (who knew?!).

If you’re a shopaholic like me, you should probably try to putting this 10 Step Saving Program to work!

1. Open a savings account. I know this is really basic and super obvious, but a lot of college students don’t have savings accounts. Personally, if I could do it all again, I would have gotten a savings account in college and tried to make more money. However, the unpaid internship experience I got instead was very valuable and I have no regrets!

2. For (actual) recent grads: Put your graduation money in this savings account and TRY not to spend it. You have no idea how long you will be unemployed for… You may need to hold on to that money in order to have a life before you get a job. Even if you already have a job, try to save the money. The more you save, the more money you will have as you get older.

3. When you get paid, put as much in your savings account as you can. Once money goes into my savings account, I do not let myself touch it unless it is absolutely necessary – As in if I have 5 dollars left in my checking account or I am making a major purchase (such as paying big money to secure an apartment). I currently get paid twice a month and leave myself around 300 dollars each paycheck to live off of. It usually is enough, but I’m sure others could get away with less. I spend absurd amounts of money on gas. I buy a bottle of Skinnygirl Margarita (sometimes 2) each weekend. I go out to eat and buy groceries. And occasionally I have a clothing/accessory splurge. Having only a certain amount of money in your checking account will make you think before spending… Once money goes into savings, you will do anything to keep it there (believe me).

4. Limit your activities after work and on the weekends. I love going out – but I definitely do not go out as much as I did in college. During the week, I go to the gym or relax after work – I rarely do anything social, unless there is an occasion (birthday, going away party,  a friend in need, a holiday, etc). I save my social time for the weekend. I’m sure you would rather stay in on a Tuesday night after a long day at work, rather than a Saturday night after a long day of nothing. Of course, if you’re checking account is low – staying in on a weekend night is acceptable… It will only make other nights more worth it.

5. Ask yourself: Is there really a point to going out tonight? So, it’s Friday and you had a hell of a day at work and all you want to do is drink, drink, drink. Unfortunately, none of your friends seem to be around (people have lives separate than yours after college… why? I don’t know) and your prospective drinking buddies for the night are looking slim. Is spending money on alcohol, cabs, a bar cover, and drunk munchies really worth it? Probably not… Save your money (and calorie intake) on nights like these so you can splurge on the nights when everyone is around – and so you don’t have to take money from savings before your next paycheck rolls around…

6. Keep lists of what you need and what you want. I am a victim of saying I need things, when I just really, really, really want them. That is why I started making lists of things I needed and then separate lists of what I want. This way, when I am out shopping and I see something that in the moment I believe I can’t live without, I check my list and if it’s not on it – or I need something else more – I don’t buy it! You don’t only have to put material items on your lists. You can put food, gas, presents for others, tickets to a sporting event or concert, or a vacation on your list as well.

7. Ask yourself: Do I really need that? As almost all shopaholics know, this question was brought to our attention via Confessions of a Shopaholic AKA the story of my (past) life. Even though this tactic was used in a movie, it works. Sure, you have your needs/wants list – but sometimes that goes to sh*t when you find something AWESOME and you decide you have to add it to your needs/wants list because then it’s okay to buy it… but then out comes the credit card… and FYL, you have caused some serious damage. So really, every time you take out your credit card, debit card, or a wad of cash – ask yourself – “do I really need that?” … More often than not, you probably don’t.

We don't want to end up like this... Oh wait, I already did!

8. Try spending your money on experiences rather than material items. What would you rather have? 10 shirts, 5 dresses, and 2 pairs of jeans that you won’t wear in a few months when they are “so last season?” OR a vacation booked to the Bahamas for 5 nights? Most of us would probably take the Bahamas trip – since we can live without buying those extra items of clothing we don’t need (since we definitely already buy enough OTHER items of clothing). Even one sporting event over 1 or 2 shirts is worth it… The memories last forever, but the clothes only last a season (or a night if the outfit makes an appearance on Facebook).

9. Do not buy something simply because it is cheap. If you’re a victim of Forever 21’s cheap prices, this is for you. Just because a shirt is on sale/cheap/looks like a more expensive shirt you saw at a more expensive store – does not mean that you HAVE to buy it. As I said before, you should only buy things you need – and then if you have some extra money left over, you can put that towards things you want. However, that is most likely not a cheap shirt that will rip after it goes through the wash. These clothes are also usually SO trendy that you will not wear them ever again in a month. So try investing in higher quality items (I am all for this – except I do admit, my Target clothes/shoes get more use than most of my other clothes).

10. Learn this: You are not missing out on anything: Unless you are missing your own wedding night, you are not missing out on anything. You will have plenty vacations in your life… Plenty holidays with the family… Plenty birthdays… Plenty reunions with college friends… So as much as it sucks to miss out on a few weekend trips or a friend’s birthday – there will be MANY, many more. And if you don’t have the funds, it probably won’t be worth it in the end – so wait until you do. As for nights out with friends, you REALLY aren’t missing out if you decide to stay in. Unless you are a twenty-something prodigy, you most likely do the same thing every weekend. Although you might go to different bars in different places or different friend’s apartments – you are drinking (probably the same drink) every weekend. If you continue to do this on a regular basis and never stay in, you will get extremely bored with your life. Anyway, I could (and will) write a whole post about this – Stay tuned. BUT know that it is OKAY to stay in once and a while. We aren’t in college anymore. You aren’t missing out.

What can I say? I'm a Jew.
Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. My first book, AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME, is coming out in January (you can buy it right now on Amazon or from your fave bookstore!). I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Writing is fun. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @20somethingproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.

6 Comments
  1. Great list! Alcohol is the real weekend killer. Honestly, I just drink 2 buck chuck at home and buy nice (but still cheap) wine at Trader Joe’s to take to parties and dinner. There are tons of cheap, nice brands under $9.

    I found it helpful to set up my savings account in a separate bank like ING. You don’t really see the money, but it is always there in case of emergency. I deposit the money via direct deposit and don’t look back.

  2. This was really great! It’s like you’re living my life lol. I also am in my twenties and recently on my own and I am always trying ways to save money but still enjoy activities with my friends. You do most of the things that I am currently doing but that idea of leaving yourself with $300 to spend until you get paid next, I really like it I am definitely going to impliment that. Thank you so much!

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