Adulting 101: Managing your Moola

We discuss tips on managing your money to set yourself up for a financially stable, free, and independent life

Illustration credit, Tiffany Chan

By: Amal Javed Abdullah, Staff Writer

The school year has restarted, and we’re back to being broke. Managing money can be a tough step into adulthood, and the difficult learning curve combined with the importance of getting it right can put enormous pressure on students. In this edition of Adulting 101, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of different lifestyles you can lead that’ll affect your bank account, and some tips and tricks on how to manage your money as a poor, broke, or near-broke student.

Means of Income

There are three top means of income for students. It’s important to assess and perhaps even reassess every so often which type of lifestyle has worked best for you in the past, and which you think might be a more attractive option to try out if you have the financial freedom to do so. Understanding your means of income is the first step to managing your money.

  1. Part-time work: If you have a part-time job while in school full-time, you’re consistently receiving smaller amounts of money over a longer period of time.
    1. Pros: Your revenue is more consistent. Additionally, you also have smaller amounts of money that you’re spending as you earn, so you can’t be tempted to use up all your savings at once.
    2. Cons: Working with school is time-consuming. It can be hard to balance your job with other aspects of your life, such as your coursework, social life, volunteering, etc…
  2. Saved money: This means you have a larger amount of money saved up in your account, whether it be from summer earnings, scholarships, grants, or money from your parents.
    1. Pros: More time to focus on school and other things you enjoy doing.
    2. Cons: You have a limited amount, so you need to budget well to make sure it’s being allocated in the right places
  3. Loaned money: You’ve taken a student loan either from a bank or the government, and you will need to pay it off after you graduate.
    1. Pros: You don’t have to work for this income and can focus on other things
    2. Cons: Paying it all back, along with the interest rate, after graduating is . . . well, we all know how rough it can be.

Some universal tips apply to all struggling students that I’ve learned over the years. These are for those of us who don’t have as much disposable income as we’d like; we’re still trying to figure out ways to spend well on our bigger expenses so we have enough to spend on things we enjoy.

  1. Budget all your expenses. Everything should have an allocated budget, from the expenses required for survival (such as groceries, transportation, tuition, books, and rent) to lighter things (like your social life and eating out). Make sure you’re sticking to it, even when it’s hard to do. Writing things out by hand, on an Excel spreadsheet, or with a budgeting app can be really helpful. Keeping track of your expenses can also help you be more mindful about spending. On a similar note, be aware of how much money you have and how much you’ll be spending, and plan ahead of time. If you see that you’ve already used up half of your paycheque and you have a while until your next one, or the money you’ve saved up from your summer job might be running low soon, start looking for ways to patch up holes in your bank account early. This can mean taking on part-time work, applying for more bursaries next term, or anything else.
  2. Save ahead for hidden expenses. If your car breaks down or your phone cracks and you need replacements, you should have a sufficient amount put aside to carry you through.
  3. Try looking out for things on sale. If you can find something that you need that’s worth $25 for a $5 price, that’s a great deal. Take the chance while you have it, and buy it! At the same time, don’t get carried away when you see sales. If you see a useless, albeit cool, contraption on the internet for $200 from $500, then you haven’t saved $300, you’ve wasted $200.
  4. If you find something on sale that you buy and use repeatedly, like toothpaste, then buy it in bulk. It’ll last you a while, and you’ll have saved money in the long run. This is true of most things: try buying the bigger packaged items. Often, they cost comparatively less to the smaller packages because they have a greater quantity for an overall lower price. You’ll be paying more upfront, but you’ll also be getting more product for less.
  5. Try looking for cheaper alternatives that might be a little less convenient, but will serve the purpose just as well. For example, when grocery shopping, don’t buy already-cut fruit from the fridges, buy whole fruits from the produce section, which you can take home and cut up yourself. It’s a little more work, but if you’re struggling to save money, it’ll help in the long run. Ditch the brand-name food, and price-shop between stores.
  6. Remember, the small things add up. You may think that maybe $10 here or $15 there isn’t a lot, but you’d be surprised to see how much they add up to when you spend these seemingly small amounts consistently.
  7. I learned a tip about impulsive spending, which is when you really want to buy something, but you don’t need it: if you’re at the mall and you pick up something you really think you need and cannot live without, tell yourself you’ll buy it, but in a day or two. If, after a couple of days when that immediate hot impulse has died down and you still feel strongly about buying it, then go back and get it. At that point, you know that it’ll be a worthy purchase that’ll make you happy, and not just something you saw and bought on impulse.  
  8. When you get your paycheque, it can be tempting to go on a shopping spree, or spend it all on a night out, but you need to resist the temptation. The saying “don’t spend what you don’t have” applies to your future self as well. If going on a spending spree, ask yourself if you’re doing it at the expense of a broke you eating straight out of a pot of ramen noodles tomorrow.

Remember, it’s all about creating a healthy financial lifestyle for yourself that you enjoy living. You want to save on the bigger things so that you have enough money to spend on things you enjoy. If you spend impulsively outside your budget on sprees, partying, and eating out when you really don’t have the money for it, then you need to reevaluate your financial habits.

When You’re Running Short On Cash