Lessons from a recent grad

5 Ways to Avoid a Ramen Diet

by Jep Barroga

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Before I started working for MoneyHero.com.hk, I once was a humble college student a few years back, much like everyone else. And much like everyone else (especially those in uni), I struggled with the small allowance I had. However, there was one thing that made it all stress-free: ramen.

In order for me not to spend too much on food and more on interesting things, instant noodle packs were there to save me. For a few weeks, it was actually great. My plans for certain scenarios were pretty simple. I needed to party this weekend? That meant I had to eat ramen for at least three days. I wanted a new phone by the end of the month? Ramen month! I wanted to subscribe to a magazine or get a copy of a book series I was following? I had ramen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In short, my insides were going to turn into ramen, and I didn't have any problems with that.

But, then I came to a point where I knew I had to change soon, or I was going to suffer fatal consequences or my health was. I had to make certain adjustments in order to become a well-balanced, un-poor college student and some of those adjustments were:

  1. I took a part-time job. Instead of complaining about my small allowance, or hanging out with friends after classes, I took a mindless job that allowed me to earn me a few bucks. Wasn't that exhausting? Yes, it was. Was it worth it? Heck, yes. My main allowance went to food and other miscellaneous school stuff while I had extra to spend on others.
  2. I took advantage of free e-books or book sales. I used to whine a lot about how I preferred reading hard copies rather than browsing books online or on the small screen of my smart phone. For non-school books, all I had to do was wait for a few weeks until a downloadable e-book was available. Secondhand book deals were also amazing! Even after I graduated, I made it a habit to visit book sales that offered current bestsellers for a much cheaper price. And yes, I used the library a lot.
  3. Related: How to Get Paid to Go to Undergrad

  4. I had a curfew. Even though my dorm didn't really have an early curfew, I made it a point to go home right after work was done. There were those occasional slipups when friends had to literally drag me out of my room or pluck me off the door right after work hours. However, on regular days, I chose to stay in. Partying meant I had to buy beer, chips, and other stuff that would only lead to a slow budget drain.
  5. I became an herbivore. I couldn't really say I was vegetarian, but I ate more veggies and fruits. I indulged in fast food staples or steaks when I had a little extra, but on my regular days, I ate like I was a health buff. I bought veggies every other day to keep them fresh. I ate those for snacks and dinner. They were cheap, easy to prepare, and annoyingly satisfying at times. Buying these from the farmer's market also helped me avoid unnecessary purchases like chocolate bars, sodas, and other easy-to-buy treats that would distract me in the grocery store.
  6. Student loan calculator iconCalculator: Are you taking on too much student loan debt?

  7. I decided I wasn't going to be the popular kid. Living below my means meant that I wasn't allowed to buy the latest gadgets, anything branded, or the latest game consoles and games (my guilty pleasure). There was one time I was desperate to get a new game. Instead of using my savings account, I sold a console I wasn't using and bought the game I wanted instead. There are ways to enjoy the finer things in life without spending your entire savings account.

Honestly, there are so many things I did to save money that it would take me forever to enumerate. However, I made sure to never spend my savings recklessly, and focused on earning and saving more money. There were relapses, but those hiccups didn't stop me from resuming my money-saving efforts. This has allowed me to live a simple, financially-secure lifestyle that I practice up to today (hence, my affiliation with a personal finance portal).

Nowadays, if I eat ramen, I eat it homemade. Also, it's because I want to, not because I have no money. I may not have been the cool kid, but I was a healthy, ramen-independent college student who made it out of college with a pretty hefty savings account. Truthfully, it doesn't get any better than that.

Jep Barroga is a blogger & editorial specialist at MoneyHero.com.hk, Hong Kong's premier comparison website for finance and insurance providers. Visit MoneyHero.com.hk's blog today!

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