While you’re in school, it may seem like you don’t have a penny to spare. However, when we look at our daily or monthly spending, we may be surprised to find there are sneaky expenses that end up costing more than we imagined. We call these spending leaks.

So what is a spending leak? It’s that bottled water you buy when you hit the gym. The daily mocha latte you buy at the coffee shop. Or the daily candy from the vending machine, or lunch from the café a few times a week.

It can also be those small financial fees like cashing a check outside of your bank, or using an out-of-network ATM. By themselves, these expenses don’t seem like much. But added together, they can cost you a lot over time. And by that, we mean thousands: thousands that you could be using to pay for school or reduce your loan debt!

See how much you can save by examining some common spending leaks.

Spending Leak Cost per month Alternative Cost per month Save!
Satellite or Cable TV $60 Streaming Service $10 $50
Coffee every morning ($2.29) $69 Home-brewed coffee $13.50 $55.50
15 cigarettes a day $127 Quitting Free $127
Eating lunch out every day $130 Bringing food from home $60 $70
Bottled water or soda $30 Drink water from tap or fountain Free $30
Magazines $28 Read Library Books Free $28
Lottery tickets $25 Put your money in savings instead Free $25
Vending Snacks $53 Bring snacks from home $20 $33
User Out-of-Network ATM twice a week $24 Use In-Network ATM twice a week Free $24
TOTAL $442.50 per month / $5,310 annually


You can use this calculator to see how your personal spending can add up over time. And to help you determine which expenses are worth it, and which you may want to avoid, here are a list of questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I afford it? (Like, really afford it? Do I have enough money to pay for this and does it fit into my spending plan?)
  • Do I need it? (Like, really need it? Is this something that is required for me to function?)
  • Does this support my values? (Is this something that I care about? Will this make my life better?)
  • Will I still have it when it’s paid off? (You don’t want to still be making payments on something that’s already long gone.)
  • Is there a less expensive option? (Is there a way I can save money on this?)
  • Is the option high quality, and is quality important? (Is this going to give me the most value for my dollar?)


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