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Finances. For most of us, that word goes in one ear and out the other. Remember the days when the only money you ever had to handle was coming out of your toy cash register? As we get older, we have more responsibilities, which means we have to get a grip on our finances whether we like it or not.

When I was a freshman in college, I didn’t have many financial obligations. My parents understood that it was a big transition going from a graduating high school class of 68 students to a university of 36,000. I certainly ate like a college kid and definitely gained the infamous Freshman 15. The last thing on my mind that year was managing my money.

We have to get a grip on our finances whether we like it or not.

In my second year of college, I suddenly had more responsibilities after my parents implied that I needed to get a job. This mostly meant that I was in charge of supplying my own food and any other expenses that didn’t include rent. That was when I made the worst decision ever—the all-pasta diet. Seriously. For dinner every night, I made pasta with butter. I hated cooking and just bought the cheapest food I could as my part-time job at the on-campus coffee shop did not allow for fancy feasts. Luckily, I was able to take the unclaimed bagels and pastries home from each of my work shifts to account for more unhealthy snacks I didn’t need.

In the remaining two years of college, I realized that if I budgeted myself properly, I didn’t have to live off pasta and bagels. I learned to save my money wisely and avoided spending it on unnecessary luxuries. Bottom line: if you learn how to manage your finances the right way, you’ll live a healthier and happier life.

Here are some useful tips and tricks I live by in order to manage my money like a boss:


Food and coffee (the essentials!) are the two things I spend a lot of money on. But I do it in a way that allows me to budget for my other expenses.

Let’s start with coffee. If you’re an avid coffee drinker like me, you’ve definitely spent a chunk of your money on those fancy Starbucks drinks you don’t need. I got to a point where I was stopping at my local Starbucks every day before work. And while my iced coffee costs $2.45 (much cheaper than other drinks!), that $2.45 still adds up.

The solution? Download the Starbucks app. It has seriously helped me budget my coffee spending. What I have found helpful is only loading a certain amount of money each week and only spending that amount. For example, if i put $20 on my card for one week, that means the max I can spend on coffee is $20. Trust me, it requires discipline, but I know you can do it!

Now onto food. What I find useful is going grocery shopping before the work week starts with a list of recipes for lunches and dinners. That way, you can plan out your meals ahead of time so you can avoid spending money on going out to eat. And while I’m not the biggest fan of cooking, I have found ways to make quick, healthy and inexpensive meals that don’t take an hour to make.


I have found that using some sort of budget tracker, whether through an app or on paper, really helps get a good overview of what I can spend each month. Take this budget calculator, for instance. It provides a substantial layout of areas most people spend money on each month. Once you fill out all the fields that apply to you, it gives you a grand total of what you should be spending monthly in each category.

There also are plenty of apps you can use to take control of your money management—two good ones are Mint and Learnvest. Both are free, and both help you track your budget and set monthly spending goals.


One of the best things you can do to manage your money is save. I have found that scheduling a monthly automatic transfer from my checking to my savings account has really helped me budget. That way, you will have money saved up for emergencies, vacations or unexpected time in between jobs. Even transferring just $25 dollars per month really adds up!

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Managing your finances can be a frustrating but rewarding experience. If you learn to budget wisely, you’ll save yourself a lot of unneeded stress—and money!

This post originally appeared on Career Contessa  and was written by Samantha Tollin (

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