The money-conscious approach

Budgeting

(Graphic by Lena Yang)

Do you ever find yourself having to decide between money for food or drinks at the bar? Of course you do. You are a student and that’s something that goes hand-in-hand with being one. At some point during your undergrad, you will be undeniably broke and foraging through your couches to find that last quarter for bar cover or pizza.

Average students generally can’t budget until they’re absolutely forced to, so it’s always worth working out in advance how you will deal with your finances before it’s too late. There are some great ways to avoid being in the red if you are disciplined and willing to let go of a bit of pride.  Some methods are immoral, but then again, so is allowing yourself to go hungry. Know how much money you have coming in each month from your loan and other sources such as a job, parental assistance, bursaries and grants.

Subtract from your income any fixed, regular outgoings to obtain the amount you have left: rent, internet and the often overlooked cell phone bill. You will soon get the hang of how much you can spend and get away with but for the first few weeks I would recommend making detailed notes of everything you spend money on. A good example of healthy and economically-sound student budgeting comes from third year SBE student, Brad Meneses.

“I basically lived in student poverty in my first year,” said Meneses. “I was tired of having no money due to careless and uncontrolled spending and knew it was time for a drastic change.”

Meneses, unlike most students, actually followed through with his financial focuses and is currently budgeting easily and effectively. His secret? Only a few minutes a day and an excel spreadsheet. Meneses keeps track of all of his summer and part-time income while managing all expenditures such as groceries, textbooks and of course, the coveted tickets to Nicky Romero last week. He allocates a certain amount of income to each category of spending, which in turn leaves him with no surprises come credit card statement day.

“By budgeting my money ahead of time I’m a much more rational spender and a happier student,” Meneses explained proudly.

If this simple system doesn’t quite work for your busy and often unorganized student schedule, look for other easy alternatives that will help you to reduce your spending.  If there is a local food market near you, it will be a lot cheaper than grocery shopping in a supermarket. The ingredients are often fresher and it’s likely that there will be a huge variety of vegetables, meat and fish, as well as all the essential dairy products. It is both inexpensive and healthy.

Always know that once you’re off campus, bar prices will be raised. Therefore, it is essential to delay leaving the house by a couple of hours and you’ll be able to knock back a few drinks at two-thirds of the price of a bar or club.  However, it is best that you try not to go overboard before you reach the club, or  you may have a bit of a hard time getting in, or getting home, at the end of the night. Always be smart.

Budgeting does not have to be a big and scary deal. When planned in advance and when a few extra steps are put in, you will be a happier and richer student.

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