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Responsibly when managing your finances is easier said than done. We could write a post about good financial habits you should do, or we could show you what students just like you are doing– the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hopefully, their advice helps you make some good financial decisions (and prevents you from making the same mistakes they did).
We sat down with three of your Student Representatives, Shifrah Gadamsetti, Aria Burrell, and Madelaine McCracken, all students and all with varying financial situations.
What are some areas you’ve been really successful in when managing your finances?
M: I budget. Like, especially when I’m doing fun things on the weekend. I set a daily budget and I usually end up saving money.
S: Once every month I check in on all my accounts and make sure that I have enough in there at a bare minimum to cover all my bills and nothing is just gunna pop up that I don’t have money set aside for. I’m really good at tracking recurring expenses like rent and my car payment.
A: I will not speak for fear of incriminating myself. [laughter] I have a system. It’s not a good system but it’s the only system I can use on account of my credit debt. I spend on my credit and then make sure I have enough in my account to cover recurring expenses.
S: I like to hide money away. This is something I’ve found really successful. I have accounts with three banks and they take random amounts of money away that I don’t think about for a few months at a time. That money then collects in a separate account so if I ever need it for an emergency, I can take it.
What are some areas you struggle with financially?
A: Where to begin… [laughter] I struggle with impulse spending. I have been known to partake in retail therapy but I have found I’m getting better at realizing when I actually need something and when I don’t.
S: I’ve set myself up for failure and I’ve chosen not to do anything about it. Amazon has this one click buy thing where your address and your credit card is loaded and you’re like “BUY THIS NOW” and then it’s at your house in 36 hours. Why wouldn’t I do that? I used to be really bad with impulse shopping in-person, but I’ve consciously reduced the amount of time I spend doing that. I don’t make time intentionally to go shopping and rarely ever go to a mall. I am, however, really bad about doing it at home.
M: I am also a sufferer of impulse buying, especially on clothing. That’s been more recent because I actually have the funds to do so because this is my first big girl job. I’ve been more [cognizant] about it too because I recognize I’ve been doing too much of it. The first step is acknowledging you have a problem and going from there!
S: I recently added up all my debt… that kinda… I was like ok! Going to reel it in a little!
A: I mean at times I don’t want to know how much debt I’m in because then I panic, but if I pay attention to the smaller amounts: what’s in my account right now, what can I afford to spend on, then it becomes more manageable.
On the topic of credit cards… you all obviously have a credit card. Do you have more than one credit card? Do you intentionally keep your limits low?
A: I used to [have more than one] but I don’t anymore!
M: No, never.
S: I’ve set a barrier for myself. My credit limits are higher but for me, anything over $2,500 on either of them freaks me out.
A: I got into a lot of trouble with credit debt earlier in life and I’m still paying it down, but I’ve gotten a lot better over the years at not using it unnecessarily. It’s a matter of knowing what you have and what’s there to spend and remembering that credit is not your money.
M: Know your limit, stay within it! [laughter] It’s applicable here!
How do you differentiate between a need and a want?
A: I think you have to allow yourself some amount of want. There’s a grey area in there. Certainly if you have hobbies that help you get through life you should be able to spend some amount on those.
S: Budgeting that is key.
A: Exactly. Limiting your spending.
What should students avoid if they’re using a credit card?
A: Incurring more debt than they can pay off in a short period of time. Know what you’re capable of paying off before you spend that money.
S: And leave yourself some wiggle room too because you never know what might come up. I’d say the biggest thing for students and credit cards [is] a lot of people who don’t know where to look for good financial advice will often times turn to credit cards. If you have the opportunity to be a borrower or apply for grants, do that before putting [expenses] on your credit card. Avoid putting large expenses, like tuition, on your credit card. Student loan interest rates are far better than your credit card.
What are some of the biggest financial mistakes students can make?
M: Going out a lot is very expensive. Partying with your friends… you know it racks up over time and you’ll see if for yourself in your own bank account. Be aware of how often you do decide to go out.
S: There’s an app that can track your spending and show you where your money is going.
A: Yeah, some banks have it and there’s the Mint app.
S: I found that to be really helpful because it also alerts me if I go above my set limits. Financial struggles is one of the biggest concerns for students when it comes to stress and mental health. You’re already in a very stressful situation being a student, your time is not available to you to work, you’re in school (which is costing you money), and so when you are spending, make sure it’s on things that really benefit you.
A: Make of habit of being frugal as opposed to a habit of spending money. The more you build your life around being reserved with your spending, the less you actually have to think about budgeting in order in save.
What are some easy ways students can save money?
S: Hide it.
A: Build good habits.
S: It’s not always about not spending, it’s about finding areas you don’t have to spend or you can spend less.
A: Like Free Breakfast!
S: We also have a food pantry in the Peer Support Centre. Don’t eat out. If it’s about convenience, go find things that are convenient for you to cook at home so you spend $1 as opposed to $9 on a meal.
M: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the resources that are here. We’re here for that!
S: Lots of people want to give you money for being you! Not just scholarships, but there’s bursaries for the most random things.There bursaries for knowing how to speak italian or spanish or even bursaries around places you’ve visited. There are four or five main hub websites and you can do a search to find things applicable to you. Lot of things that people find a barrier to their education, whether it be a physical or mental disability, there’s financial supports geared towards those things. Scholarships and bursaries don’t necessarily count on your academic performance.
Any last tips for students managing their finances?
M: Budget monthly! Expenses can change from month to month.
S: Make calendar reminders for your recurring expenses so you don’t miss a payment.
A: Automatic payments are handy. If you can do it, do it. The less you have to think about your finances, the less stress.
S: Set your payments to come out the day you get paid or the day after so that you don’t have to worry about spending the money that’s supposed to be for something else.
Do you have any other financial tips for students? Let us know on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you. Make sure to check out the Financial Literacy workshops coming up in February and March in the Peer Support Centre. Learn how to manage credit and assets, budget, and check your consumer tendencies. Register beforehand or show up at the door. Everyone welcome!
If you are experiencing a financial emergency, head to the Peer Support Centre to inquire about our Emergency Financial Services.
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