by Molly Bohannon, Arizona State University

Here are a few things about me. I just graduated from a private college in the Midwest. I also went right into graduate school, which means I haven’t even started to pay off my debt from undergrad and I’m already acquiring more! Because of these things I have decided to be careful about how I spend my money.

There are two main lessons I’ve learned and implemented that I want to share: you can never put enough in savings and going out to eat is okay. If you do it right.

We’ll start with the savings. My parents were kind enough to help pay for my undergrad, but I still had to take out loans and work to support myself, along with any and all hobbies or extracurriculars I wanted to participate in. During four years as an undergraduate student, I worked somewhere around 11 jobs. From each paycheck I received, with very few exceptions, I put between 20% and 50% directly into a savings account that I had no intent to touch. Now, I wasn’t perfect. If car problems came up or if it had been a bit of a reckless spending month, I had to move money around. But I found that getting in the habit of moving a fairly large chunk of money into my savings every two weeks provided me comfort of knowing I had a fund if I needed it, but also inspired me to keep saving as the money kept increasing. Pro tip: if you have an internship or summer job that pays a little more, try and move more than 50% into savings, it’ll give you a little extra spending when you want to take a spring break trip or help you get started paying off loans a little easier!

The second thing I learned about money is that my parents hated when I would spend money on groceries if I was just planning to go out to eat. I got many a call from my father asking me if I had eaten all the food I had bought at the grocery store, and when I would say no he would ask why I ate at Sonic (yes he checked my bank account, yes this is a separate problem). This taught me a valuable lesson. College is busy! If you’re anything like I was, you’re not always going to have time to meal prep. No matter how much you think you will. You might have late nights on campus, or you might just have rough days where you need happy hour with friends. Budget this in! Where we get in trouble with eating out is when we pretend that we won’t do it all. Then we stock up at the grocery store on food that will rot away while we are enjoying our mozzarella sticks from Sonic. My tip here: be realistic with yourself and cut some budget from the grocery store to add to dining. You won’t feel as bad when you do eat out, and you’ll be less wasteful with the food you are buying to cook!

Molly Bohannon is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.