University = Show Me The Money?
During your first year of post-secondary education, you might feel like you have a chorus of administrators telling you to SHOW ME THE MONEY! This is probably the least awesome part of your university/college experience, but don’t lose hope! You can pay for your education and still have some dough left over if you manage your money.
There are some great resources for student loans and scholarships that you can check out, but for now I’m going to share the best money-managing tip that’s saved me some moolah over four years of university.
Some students may want to work during their first year, while some might prefer having more time to focus on their studies and soak up the university/college atmosphere. Either way, you’re going to want to have some extra cash handy to buy food, clothes, video games, hovercrafts, etc. The best way to make sure you’re not broke by October 1st is to…
MAKE A BUDGET
…and follow it! You could aim for a monthly budget, a weekly budget, or something in between. The disadvantage of the monthly budget is that you might get to the end of the second week and realize you don’t have enough coffee coins to last until the 31st. However, the monthly budget is advantageous if you KNOW you are responsible with your money and your self-discipline is strong enough to withstand the barrage of media which daily tells us that we need more stuff.
Since I am personally quite fond of stuff, I went the way of the weekly budget and it worked fairly well. The disadvantage of the weekly budget is that it could be Monday and you’ve spotted a pair of jeans that you simply MUST have, or the new Halo game just came out and you’re not sure you can live without it. In cases like these, you might be tempted to dip into next week’s budget or blow a month of your carefully pinched pennies. Borrowing from one week’s budget to pay the expenses of another week is acceptable as long as it doesn’t happen too often and you’ve got legitimate reasons. Sometimes you might have to talk yourself out of that cute new top (everyone else is going to buy it anyways) or the pair of nunchucks you thought you just HAD to have (what are you ACTUALLY going to use them for?)
If the personal pep talk doesn’t work and you decide you absolutely have to have something, just remember: you must eat (canned spaghetti for dinner every night does not count) and you must pay bills (interest rates are killer and cell phone companies are not as forgiving as their cute little mascots make them appear.)
Here are some things to consider when making your budget:
- The contents of your bank account!
- Do you have a meal plan or will you be buying groceries?
- Will you be working throughout the school year and how much will you make?
- Do you have job plans for the summer?
- How will you be paying for your next 2/3/4 years of university or college?
- Are you eligible for or currently receiving financial aid? (Remember, loans must be paid back. Try saving a percentage of your money to put against your loan so that you don’t finish school and fall into a pit a debt.)
Don’t be too generous with your budget or you’ll run out of money, but don’t be too strict either because you have to live on more than bread and water rations! Keeping the above six things in mind will help you to structure a budget that should work for you AND your bank account.