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How to Save Money After College with Little Income

Updated on November 4, 2019
Tabitha Jaggi profile image

Tabitha is an accountant at an international plastic company. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Forensic Accounting and Financial Planning.

Can You Save Money When You Don't Make Much?

We have all been there. Fresh out of college and employers want someone with a degree, but they also want someone with 5+ years of experience. Since most students out of college have little-to-no experience, finding a high-paying job after graduation doesn't always happen; even with our expensive degrees.

So how can we save up our money when we make so little? Cut back. I am sure you have heard it a million times before and it probably sounds like this is coming from your mother, but I am telling you, this is the most efficient way to start budgeting.

Here are a few tips to save money without feeling like you're cutting back:

  • Cut coupons: They're free! It's easy to do and you can find coupons to almost all of your stores online or in the mail. I personally love using You can also get this as an app on your phone. It has all the coupons for shopping that you don't see in the mail. I'm not talking about Walmart or Dollar General: They have coupons for stores like Kohl's, Hobby Lobby, A.C. Moore and much, much more!
  • Go with the cheap brands: Name brands can be good when it comes to things like phones and TVs, but do you really need name brand stuff when it comes to decorations or groceries? The answer is no. If you look on the back of a Great Value brand item at Walmart, the ingredients will be the EXACT same as the name brand items. It may not sound like a lot, but saving anywhere from one to five dollars on a single grocery item can really add up.
  • Make your own food: Most people that work 9-5 jobs, like myself, find it much easier to go out for lunch and grab some fast food, but even if you're only spending five dollars a day, it really adds up. Meal prep your whole week on Sunday or make a sandwich the morning of. (Not only is this going to save you money, it's also a much healthier option.)
  • Save money until you have enough to invest: When you're shopping, think to yourself: "do I really need this?" There's a pretty good chance the answer is no. By sacrificing a little here and there and cutting back on unnecessary purchases, your bank account should surely start to build up. Once you reach a comfortable amount saved in the bank, you should begin to invest that money so you can get a high return. If your employer offers a 401K, you should invest the highest amount that they will match. If not, you can always invest from the comfort of your own home. Use the web to find a brokerage firm and begin to contribute your savings into high reward stocks from large, profitable companies like Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Disney, and Walmart. You should see your savings begin to grow after just a few months and your profits will become even larger year after year!

What Do You Spend Your Money on in a Typical Day?

Think about your everyday routine. Do you stop at Starbucks before work? Do you go out to Panera on your lunch breaks? Do you really look at prices when you are shopping for clothes? These things may seem small, but when you add them up, they can amount to a huge portion that can be put into savings. Think about the first question. Whether you are a Starbucks drinker or some other fancy coffee shop fan, spending nearly five dollars a day on coffee amounts to nearly $150 a month! Now I know that assuming you buy a coffee every single day may be a little extreme, but let's say you buy 10 Starbucks specialty coffees each month. That is still roughly $50 that is spent on coffee alone. I get it. I love coffee. And I probably drink 4-5 cups a day. But you will rarely see me spending money at the coffee shops; especially if I am just taking it to go. Does your job offer free coffee? Can you make your coffee at home before you leave? This is just a small example of how everything adds up. Four or five dollars a day may not seem like much, but again, when you look at several days, weeks, months, or even a year, it can really, really eat at your budget.

Now I get that some people are not coffee drinkers at all and it may seem that this doesn't pertain to you, but what other guilty habits do you have? Do you buy the expensive brands when shopping for clothes or groceries? I have learned over the years that name brands are not always better. The money you can save in an entire year when making these adjustments can be astronomical.

Think about even going out with a friend or on a date. Do you share meals? If you're eating fast food, do you download the app and use the online coupons? Again, these may just be two or three dollars here and there, but they add up. Everything adds up. Keep that in mind.

Expenses We Can't Avoid

Now there are certainly other expenses that we have that are inevitable. We need a car, we need a place to sleep, and all of the expensive amenities that come with it. But remember that when you are just starting out, you don't have to have the nicest house or the fanciest car. Buying cheaper now can allow you to afford that fancy car later in life. Take it from me. I bought a brand new 2017 Ford Fusion. I thought to myself, "Finally. This car will make me feel safe. It's new so I won't have anything wrong with it for multiple years." Well, within my first year, my transmission has stopped working correctly and my car has been in the shop on and off for two months. I am now stuck paying $366 / month for a car that I don't even get to drive. Luckily, I did purchase an extended warranty on my car when I bought it, but learn from me. A new car won't solve your problems. And having no car payment is like a dream.

There are so many areas in your life that you can save. Now this doesn't mean you can't have fun. Think of this as saving now so that you can have MORE fun down the road. You just need to keep these small things in the back of your mind when making any purchases. Try to find coupons. Buy the generic brand. Split a meal. And for goodness sake, please drink the coffee that is free!

© 2019 Tabitha Jaggi


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