As a student, I’m all about the tricks of the trade which make me smarter, healthier and more financially savvy! So here are some of the things I have picked up in my two years at university.They may not be bright and shiny but they gave me a sense of stability which I appreciated.
Make a Yearly Plan
At the beginning of every school year I sit down and ask myself three questions:
What money do I have?
What money will I receive (from loans, scholarships etc.)?
What money will I spend?
These three questions provide a backdrop for my year and allow me to look at the big picture and plan what I will be spending from month to month. With an understanding of the big picture, I find I am much less stressed on a monthly basis because I know I have planned what I am spending.
I make it a priority to sit down with myself once a month to pay myself and keep up to date on what is going on in my bank account. This allows me to have a good sense of what I am spending. I use a 2 bank account system where I transfer money to my chequing account each month. When my chequing account is empty, I stop spending. For some people, this might even need to be a weekly conversation.
Check your bank account once a week.
I manage my finances most of the time without ever touching cash. Because of this, it is necessary and important that I take a look at my bank account at least once a week so I know how much is still in my chequing account. It is amazing how quickly the money disappears and being declined at the grocery store or while out with friends is a situation everyone wants to avoid!
Go through your credit card transactions once a week.
This goes along with checking your bank account once a week. If you are in the habit of using a credit card, it is good to check your balance every week to ensure you are the only one using your card. Recently a friend of my had their card hacked and thousands of dollars of charges racked up. If they weren’t in the habit of checking their account regularly, it would have gone unnoticed and would have made the whole situation much worse.
Pay your bills on time.
Even if you can only make the minimum payment, pay your bills on time. Whether this is cell phone, credit card, rent or any other monthly expense do your best to pay everything on time. Write out a calendar of when payments are due if this will help you to remember, or send yourself an email reminder the day before so you can’t forget.
Forgetting to pay your bills can have long term impacts on your credit score which make it much more difficult to buy a house later on. Also, your credit score is your “I love debt” number and shows how you manage other people’s money. You are responsible before God to manage that money well and one way of doing this is by making payments on time.
Don’t underestimate the value of looking at grant money.
Don’t think that just because you aren’t the smartest or most interesting person that there aren’t grants or scholarships for you. Even spending a few hours on a Saturday afternoon can be well worth the effort if you make a few hundred dollars!
Get a job.
This is very common, however it does depend on your student schedule. A part time job can be a great way of making the financial burden easier to bear and give you some extra spending money throughout the month so you can hang out with friends without feeling guilty.
Take advantage of free services.
Universities are rife with free services including health plans, child care, gyms and swimming pools among other things. Get to know your school and what it offers for free when it comes to health care, counselling or financial education. Have free access to these resources is a major benefit of being a student so don’t go through your degree without using some of these services.
Last but not least: educate yourself financially! Find books, blogs and seminars which will expand your understanding about the financial world we live in. Whether you are interested in finance or not, money is a big part of our adult lives. The sooner we learn about it, the easier it will be for us later on.
Mercedes van Noppen is a writer, second year university student and daughter of David and Rebecca van Noppen. She enjoys sharing her parents quirky financial stories wherever she goes!