Feature photo courtesy of @Refinery29

Most people can’t keep their new year’s resolutions. That ain’t me. 


As paper currency quickly becomes obsolete and replaced by the likes of credit cards, Apple Pay, and Venmo, it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of my money. It’s so easy to see an ad on Instagram, swipe right, and purchase it immediately through Instagram’s newest shopping feature. Without the physical ritual of handing over my hard-earned cash, each transaction literally and figuratively carries less weight. Worse, by avoiding logging into my bank account, I can keep swiping, clicking, and entertaining my insatiable consumerism in a commerce-driven world. But all of that stops this year. I have learned, through countless impulse purchases, the best ways to curb my shopping habits before it's too late. These are the tips that have kept me afloat in one of the most expensive cities in the world. 

  1. Don’t Buy Things for Full Price (if it’s not *on* sale, it’s not *for* sale) 

Most things go on sale - you just have to be patient. The best times for sales are after seasons. For example, if you really want a summer dress, the best time to buy it would be after summer is over, when stores are trying to get rid of their inventory in preparation for the next season. In addition, on nearly every major holiday, there will be a sale. After all, the ultimate goal is just to get you to spend money. So if you really want something, wait for a major holiday or a season sale to get it for a discount. As a student, another perk to take advantage of is the student discount. Companies like UNIDays and stores like Madewell offer discounts with a valid student ID, and sometimes they even let you combine that discount with the storewide sale discount! Score! If you love to online shop like I do, download apps like Honey and Groupon to check all the possible discounts available, and make sure if you really have to buy something, that it is the absolute lowest price available on the market.

  1. Don’t Buy Things New 

If you have the flexibility, don’t buy things new. A lot of used products are in nearly new condition and will cost you significantly less. And as a bonus, this type of reusing is great for the environment! For clothes, I love to explore thrift shops because you can find high quality pieces, usually for under $15. Other products that can be purchased used include books, which often have their own “used” section in local bookstores and on Amazon. This is helpful when it comes to textbooks, which can be hundreds of dollars when purchased new. For everything else, look on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or  local resale stores - you won’t be disappointed by the treasures you can find! 

  1. Make Lists 

I make many lists in the Notes App on my phone to help me keep track of spending. I have a list dedicated to what I need and what I want; creating two categories in the same wishlist helps me identify items in the “need” category that take priority before I go through the “wants.” The “wants” are also helpful to have listed out because they remind me when I am tempted to make an impulse purchase that there are still more important things the money needs to go towards. While the needs and wants list is more of my short-term list for items like mascara and jeans, I also have a list of long-term list of expenses like a vacation. This helps me remember what I am saving my money for and helps keep me motivated to save. My third list is the most important one: my monthly purchases, separated by week. This allows me to see how much I am spending and on what. While lists may be more tedious to maintain, I believe that they are extremely helpful visuals. Even if your lists aren’t exactly like mine, it’s important to create a system that you can easily refer back to that reminds you of how your money is and needs to be used.  

  1. Set a Budget

A budget is an important threshold to set, even if only for the built-in guilt mechanism when you overstep your own spending limits. The first budget to set is one based on time. For example, based on your lifestyle, you can set a monthly, weekly, or daily budget. Timed budgets are helpful if the money you spend in various categories, such as food and gas, vary month to month. However, setting a budget based on category instead can be helpful if you tend to spend too much money on a certain category. For example, if I spent half of my monthly budget on coffee, it might be helpful to determine a specific, more reasonable amount that I am allowed to spend on coffee. Of course, these budgets can definitely go hand in hand. You can create separate categorical budgets that add up to your monthly or weekly budget. A super helpful app for budgeting is Mint - it notifies you when you are over each budget! 

  1. Unsubscribe and Unfollow 

Unsubscribe from unnecessary brand emails and unfollow companies on social media that are too tempting! I get thousands of marketing emails in my inbox and each time I have scrolled through them, I have clicked on an email and a corresponding link. “SAMPLE SALE ENDS TOMORROW” and “50% OFF SITEWIDE” is too tempting not to resist, making me feel like I have to buy something when I didn’t even know that product was in existence just moments prior. No matter how much you think you can ignore these messages, they are definitely subconsciously influencing you. Plus, they clutter your inbox! 

  1. DIY! 

If you can make something, don’t buy it! There are countless tutorials online for you to learn from, even if you aren’t the most artistic or crafty person. After all, if you are making your own gift, it becomes more sentimental for the receiver no matter how poorly you have made it. Other DIYs that apply to daily life include making your own lunch and coffee, which otherwise often quickly drain your money when you could simply do it yourself. 

While the temporary satisfaction I feel from sipping a refreshing latte or spinning around in my overpriced dress is nice, the regret and disappointment hits harder when I realize I have no money for a textbook. Although it’s difficult to follow all of these tips and it’s more than okay to treat yourself, it’s extremely rewarding and useful to teach yourself how to save at a young age. I am with you on this journey in navigating a consumer-targeted world, in escaping the temptations of constant, mindless purchasing. We can do it.