Eating Healthy on a Budget

Healthy food can be expensive, especially as a college student on a budget. It can be so tempting to drive through your favorite fast food place when you’re tired or need something quick. But I promise, there are plenty of tips and tricks to eat healthy while also being smart with your money! Here are some money saving ways to trade in that Big Mac for some nutrient-packed goodness.

Plan Out Your Meals Ahead of Time

Take an hour each week to plan all your meals, and make a grocery list based on that. This way, you only get exactly what you need instead of items you won’t use and waste money!

And stick to this plan when you get to the grocery store: don’t give in to an impulse buy or random junk food.

Cook Larger Meals

When you cook larger portions, you can save the leftovers. Invest in some plastic containers and keep your leftover food for lunches or dinners on days when you’re in a hurry. This will replace those frantic stops at a drive-thru!

Buy in Bulk

Many grocery stores are adding bulk food sections, where you can get large quantities of certain items at cheap prices.

Food like grains, rice, oats, nuts, and snack mixes are healthy options that can be used in many recipes and last a long time when stored in airtight containers!

Take Advantage of Frozen Produce

Fresh fruits and veggies are optimal, but can sometimes be expensive when it’s not in season. Canned produce is full of preservatives and often has less nutritional value.

When produce is out of season or more expensive, go check the frozen section! Frozen fruits and veggies can be used year-round, steamed with your meals, or thrown into a delicious smoothie.

Get Creative with Your Protein

Replacing meats with other proteins a couple times a week can save you money. Try opting for other healthy protein sources like eggs, beans, nuts, quinoa, or tofu a couple times a week.

When you do buy meat, aim for healthier types like turkey, fish, and chicken instead of red meat and cured items. Red meats and cured foods (like bacon and sausage) have more bad fats and preservatives than poultry, so try replacing these types of meat in your meals.

Switch to Whole Grains

They are full of fiber and help your digestive system! If you eat foods with white flour, switch to ones with whole grain: good places to start are bread and crackers. Opt for brown rice instead of white rice. These are easy switches to make that won’t change your grocery bill at all!

These are just a few tips to get started on your new healthy lifestyle, while not breaking the bank! There are many ways to save money and eat foods that are good for you and will build healthy habits through your college years!

Cheap Hangout Ideas

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Summer is in the air and you’re ready for some fun with friends after a long semester! Summer time is always great for family vacations, road trips with friends, and other big, exciting adventures. However, sometimes you just want to have fun without spending lots of money! Here are some great ways to spend your time hanging out with friends that don’t break the bank.

Game Night
Having a game night with my friends is probably the cheapest and most frequent activity we do. It can also be an inclusive activity especially when you have friends with kids (hello twenties). Board games don’t have to be boring, so we usually opt for different games every week such as:

1. Mafia – this card game can get pretty intense especially if your friends are great at being secretive! Essentially, you are assigned a card and given the role of either a detective, a doctor, a mafia member (the killer), or an innocent civilian. The purpose of the game is to find the killer before everyone else gets killed. Find all the rules here.

2. Murder Mystery Games – with this game, you can either go all out or play it casually. There are hundreds of free downloadable online if you don’t feel like paying for a pack. Here is a website with 9 free ones you can look at right now!

3. Heads Up! – this app is great for a large group of people. The purpose is to get someone to correctly guess the word that is on the screen, either by singing, miming, or giving clues. The app is free to download and has tons of categories to choose from!

Picnic/Barbequeben-duchac-66002-unsplash
When the beautiful spring and summer weather hits, take advantage of pretty days by having a picnic or even a barbeque! Like game night, this activity can also be pretty inclusive and if you plan on hosting, there’s no shame in making it a potluck/bring-your-own-food outing. The great thing about picnics is that you can host it at pretty much any free place. Bonus points if it’s at the beach or a lake!

Exploring
This category is pretty broad, but exploring your city is always an option. You probably would take the option to travel instead of staying home, but what allures us to hitting the road is the notion of experiencing new things and seeing new places. If you live in a pretty big city, chances are you haven’t seen everything. Try out that new coffee shop or go to a restaurant you’ve never been before. You can even use this opportunity to sharpen your photography skills! If you live in a pretty old city, there’s probably a bunch of historic places that offer guided tours.

Try a New Recipe
This may be hit or miss with some people, but at the end of the day, eating is essential. Pick a recipe that aligns with your cooking experience and try it out. If you’re new to cooking (or think you’re terrible at it), get someone who has experience to help you out. You can do this with friends, your significant other or even do it to bond with your family. Plus, this will give you an opportunity to try out all those recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest!

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In the age of DIY, there’s plenty of how-to videos floating on the internet. Don’t be afraid to get artsy and try something new! You can try pretty much anything, from crocheting to woodworking. Put on a Bob Ross video and paint with your friends! You can even plan crafting events around holidays and birthdays like card making, pumpkin carving, and gingerbread house building.

Mini Golf/Bowling
Not every city has a TopGolf or a Main Event, but chances are, there may be something similar. There are also tons of other options like indoor skydiving, VR arcades, go-karting, ice skating, and roller skating. Check out your local entertainment spots to see if they offer discounted evenings, or browse Groupon for some deals to save money!

Escape Rooms
Escape Rooms are hot right now and they keep getting better and better! The most expensive we’ve seen was $30/person, but there are some rooms that go for around $15. Do your research and pick the best one that suits you and your group.

Live Musicbogomil-mihaylov-519207-unsplash
You don’t always have to pay for a concert. So many restaurants, lounges, and even coffee shops have live music. And if you’re feeling bold, some places even have open mic nights! A lot of downtown areas carry events like this almost every night, so check out their calendars and see what sounds best to you and your friends!

Use some of these ideas or brainstorm your own, and go have some fun this summer!

Creating Your Own Budget

If you are starting college or moving away from home, one major change is that you have to be responsible for your money. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new place and lose track of your spending habits! Whether you have recently left home or been on your own for a while, it is never too late to start budgeting. We want to show you how budgeting can be easy and effortless! Creating a budget and keeping track of it may take some groundwork at first, but it is all about building good habits. Here are some tips for how to lay that groundwork and get your budget started!

Discuss your budget and expenses with anyone involved, such as your parents or guardians. If anyone is giving you money each month or semester, you want to communicate with them your needs and set a solid game plan. This is also a good time to figure out the expectations: do they want you to get a job to earn some income, apply for loans for tuition, or put a certain percentage into savings? Establishing the expectations on both ends will lead to a smoother transition and all of you will feel more confident and comfortable!

List all of your income. This is great to do with your family, if they are providing you with monthly income. Take into account all ways you may be getting money: allowance from family, part-time jobs, side gigs, financial aid, savings, and any other place you have income coming from to help you live during college.

Now, list your expenses. Another topic of discussion is how the expenses will be paid for. This is an important step in communicating with family because you can figure out what money is being used for each expense. If you are unsure what all of your expenses are, track them for a month or two and start categorizing them so you can see how much you’re spending on each per month. Some common expenses for college students are:

  • School related: tuition, textbooks, school supplies
  • Living: rent, utilities, internet, insurance, cell phone, basic home and health supplies
  • Food: eating out and groceries
  • Transportation: car expenses, gas, bus system
  • Entertainment and clothing

Make sure your expenses aren’t more than your income! Add up all your monthly income and monthly expenses, and see what the difference is. You’re aiming for either breaking even or having some money left over. If your expenses are more than what money is coming in every, you need to start budgeting and cutting back! An easy way to start this is by monitoring your spending by checking your bank accounts, credit card statements, or apps like LearnVest or Mint. Apps like this are linked to your bank accounts and automatically put purchases in various folders so you can see exactly how much you’re spending on each category. (See the end of the post for a list of great apps for budgeting!) This can help you figure out areas you can cut back on, such as eating out less per month or finding cheaper solutions to your groceries and supplies.

It’s never too early to think about the future! If you are able, it’s always a good idea to start putting money into your savings. This can be an emergency fund, a travel fund, or saving for your future and a family. Even if it’s small, every little bit helps!

Now that you have clear expectations and goals for where your money needs to go, your foundation is set! Building good spending habits and remembering to keep track of when you’re swiping that card are important for maintaining your budget going forward. Here are a few great apps to help with this and keep you accountable, since it is sometimes hard to keep track of it all!

5 Great Budgeting Apps for College Students

  1. LearnVest: This app links to your bank account and categorizes your purchases into various folders like Groceries, Entertainment, Living, or ones you create yourself.
  2. Mint: This app also connects to your bank account automatically updates your spending and allows you to create whatever budgets you want. It also makes sure that you never charge more than what you have on a credit card.
  3. Pocket Budget: This app shows your main budget in a pie chart and also lists your transactions. It is very straightforward and let’s you easily see what percentage of your money is going to each category of expenses.
  4. You Need a Budget: This app does all the work for you! It is based off of your personal income and “assigns” your money to specific categories, like rent, groceries, entertainment, and savings. It doesn’t leave any dollar unaccounted for, so you can make sure you’re being as effective as possible.  
  5. Wally: This app helps you track your income and expenses and shows your remaining budget so you don’t overspend.