Spending Your Financial Aid Wisely: 3 Helpful Tips
Congratulations! So all your hard work has paid off and you’ve been awarded the grant, scholarship, or loan that you’ve been eyeing for the last few months. It’s a privilege that you can allow yourself to bask in!
But wait, your favourite band is coming to town for a concert? Your best friend from grade school has invited you to spend a weekend in Cabo, Mexico with her family? Your favourite athletic store has released limited-edition sneakers? It wouldn’t hurt to indulge, right? After all, you’ve earned it, plus you’ve saved up a bit from your part-time jobs last summer.
Sure, you’re only human and temptations are all around you, but if you feel the urge to spend your educational aid like you have just won the lottery, pause and take a breath and stop. Remember, you’ve been provided with the financial help for a good reason – and that is to use it to pursue your educational goals. So how exactly do you keep to your budget? Here are 3 different ways:
Put it all on the spreadsheet!
Don’t be scared of being dubbed as a nerd, the best way to keep track of your budget is to take advantage of Microsoft’s Excel program. Always make sure to have two separate columns for what goes in and what goes out. Make a list of every possible item you will have to spend on, not just fees for each course, food, transportation, mobile and internet costs, but also books and miscellaneous fees. Keep receipts as much as possible so you don’t lose track and you always have a reference point to go with.
Also consider in your budget your health and dental expenses. Seeing them all spread out will give you a clear idea of all your financial obligations and therefore keep you focused on the priorities.
Go for cost-effective measures
If you really want to stretch your grant, scholarship, or loan, keep an open mind and be ready to adapt to cost-effective measures. For example, before you head out to the bookstore and buy the required textbooks, check to see if the titles are available online for a more economical price. Also check with the bookstore personnel if they have the titles available as used books or for rent.
In addition, when buying school supplies, see if you can get friends or classmates to join you so you can take advantage of wholesale prices for multiple items purchases. When shopping for purses or backpacks, research on available thrift stores or secondhand stores in your area ahead of time. Sometimes, these shops can offer some gems and you might find a slightly used vintage one that’s perfect for carrying all your school needs. All these efforts can really go the extra mile and you’ll have more to spend for other priorities and you will be unlikely to find yourself running short.
Cut on the indulgences
Sure, a movie night-out with friends or classmates every Friday is fun and doesn’t seem big enough to cause a ripple in your budget, correct? However, remember that movie tickets cost at least $15 so that already means $60 going straight to your entertainment expenses, which at this point you can’t really maintain. It’s the same for dropping by at your fave coffee shop for a cup of latte with a shot of espresso on your way to class for $4. If you have classes Monday to Friday, and this is your habit, keep in mind that comes to about to $80 a month already.
Of course, depriving yourself of indulgences completely isn’t a good idea. However, there are ways to cut back on these so you can have more on your budget plate for the things that are more important. For example, you and your friends can take turns on having a movie night instead of going out. Sure, you may not have the latest titles on Netflix or your public library, but it’s still worth it. As for the daily coffee trips, make it every other day or twice a week at the most. Despite what you think, you can still function without coffee intake. If there’s a big exam or test coming up, coffee is justifiable – everyone needs a shot of espresso for those things.
Studying does come with the baggage of financial expenses. However, if you’re wise in spending your budget to achieve your educational goals, you’ll reap the rewards in the end, so hang in there. The designer shoes and luxurious vacations will have to wait for now.