Forget about exams, projects, and group work! Money management is a stress we can ALL relate to. All students, at some point or another, struggle with their finances. Whether it’s insurmountable credit card debt, a battle with Student Loans, or an allowance from your parents that’s now run dry, we want to help you get your finances under control. Here are some common mistakes students make with their finances that can get you into trouble later.
Failing to exhaust scholarship options
Millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed every year in Canada. Scholarships aren’t just for those who excel academically. While grades are often a consideration, contributions to the community and volunteer work are also recognized. SAMRU alone gives out over $40,000 in awards and bursaries to MRU students every year.
Not setting up a budget
Whether you’re only living on student loans or you have a part time job, a budget will help you stay in the green and not overspend. Free online tools like mint.com can help you set up a budget and stick to it (we know that can be harder than it seems). If creating a budget just seems too daunting to do on your own, the Credit Counselling Society of Alberta will meet with you for free and go through your expenses with you. They can even help you get out of debt if September has already got you down.
Racking up credit card debt
It can be tempting to live outside your means with the “free money” of a credit card. I assure you, credit don’t come cheap! You’ll pay at least 20% more for those purchases in interest. Say goodbye to your credit score if you can’t pay it back too. If you do get a credit card, try to view it as a last resort or for emergencies and always make your minimum payment.
Not taking advantage of free services and programs
You may not believe it, but there are perks to being a student. Almost all services/programs available at SAMRU and Mount Royal are free or heavily subsidized. Student discounts are offered at multiple retail locations needing only a valid student ID to redeem.
This should be a given, but having to repay the tuition costs of classes you fail is a big waste of money (among other things). If you know you’re going to struggle in a class, consider taking a smaller course load that semester. Give yourself the best chance you can to succeed in all your classes.
Using student loan money inappropriately
Been wanting a new car? How about that fancy new #iPhoneX coming out? Much like overspending on credit cards, using your loans to buy things you don’t need is probably not the best idea. It’s a cruel awakening when you’re done school and they too start asking for their money back, with interest.
Getting into a living situation you can’t afford
Be realistic with yourself, your expenses, and what you can afford. Keeping your living costs low and simple will save you in the long run. Getting roommates? Splitwise is a free online tool that can help you manage your living expenses with roommates to make sure everyone is paying their share.
Not having a rainy day fund
Even if it’s only $50 a month, try to give yourself some savings. Parking tickets, broken down cars, a root canal… none of these are ever planned expenses! Lucky you have your rainy day fund 😉
Eating out all the time
There are some great, cost-effective food options in Wyckham House, but nothing will ever be as cheap as cooking at home and meal planning your week. Use a meal planning app to help you schedule out your meals. This will save you money at the grocery store and, hopefully, reduce your food waste.
We hope these tips will help steer you away from financial problems as you start, or continue, your university career. If you ever find yourself in need of financial help, Emergency Financial Services are available to all SAMRU members. Visit the Peer Support centre on the second floor of Wyckham.