If you’re looking at your bank balance near the end of the school year and thinking, “what happened?”, you are definitely not alone. Like many students befitting of the stereotype, we’re all a little broke – and if it’s your first year, there’s still some learning to do. After all, budgeting isn’t exactly a beginner-friendly sport. So, while it may be a little late to save this year, here are some saving tips to help you out in the future.
First things first, make your own lunch. While eating out in one of UTM’s many food spots can be quick, don’t do it if you can avoid it! Or at least, limit yourself down to one UTM campus eatery meal a week. On other days, make your own lunch – and save a few pennies in the process. If you live at home, this means bringing things from home. If you live on campus, then do some grocery shopping!
After all, for five dollars, you could either get a sandwich in the cafeteria, or you could make a whole lot of sandwiches with a loaf of bread and whatever ingredients you like. Though it might take a few extra minutes of preparation, making your own lunch will definitely reduce food costs.
Second, plan out your errands. Whether you’re driving a car and paying for gas, or taking the bus and paying for transit, going out and about can cost a lot – especially if you’ve got multiple places to go. So, to get transportation costs down, you can plan the most efficient route, with the least amount of long travel time, and do everything at once;
By this, I mean you can designate an “errands day” – it’s exactly like it sounds. Choose a day of the week when you’re free, and make that the day to go out and do ALL the shopping for that week. That way, you won’t spend so much going back and forth from where you live.
Third, make treats – treats. Now, there’s little I like more than having a nice tea and scone at Second Cup. On occasion, splurging is totally fine! But, to have even just a tea every day can be a bit much. (I can already hear the coffee drinkers grumbling…stay with me here.) Worry not – what you need, you go get. If you need morning coffee, go for it. If you are super hungry and need to get something quick, don’t stop yourself. But when things are a treat – a cookie from Tim Hortons, for example – keep them that way.
Like our aforementioned errands day, you could also give yourself a nice treat day. Maybe make it every month if you want to save just a little more. On this day, Treat Yo Self! On the other days, then hold back on spending those extra few dollars on something sweet. It’s hard, I know that. My first few weeks were an illustration of reckless croissant purchases. Once that stopped? I found out that I was not spending nearly as much.
Forth, use your resources wisely. There are going to be things that you’ll need to buy less frequently, and those things might be expensive. If you’re anything like me, that is hard to do – I see the first thing listed on amazon.ca, and I get it because I want to get the process over with. Usually, afterwards, I’ll find exactly what I was looking for. Only at a cheaper price. So, next advice: use resources wisely.
If you’re shopping online, see which sites offer what you want, and compare prices. If you’re at the book store, consider buying used, or even renting, textbooks (aside: if you’re renting, bring a credit card – the Bookstore requires you to have one on file for rentals). Even see what other students on campus might be selling on facebook. The point is, do some looking around before making a purchase, so you don’t accidentally end up spending more than you wanted.
Fifth, and finally, make a budget. Be it mental, on paper, or contained on some app or website, budgets are those Magic Adult Things that can really keep you on track. Problem? They’re daunting to those who have just started dealing with their own finances. That I really understand. But, having a clear budget can keep spending under control. And, contrary to popular belief, it’s not hard to make one.
Here’s a basic rundown of the process: find out how much money you’re willing to spend weekly or monthly (I prefer to do weekly budgets because neither math nor foresight is my thing). If you don’t have a job, you will have to use what you have. If you do have a job, then you get away with just using the money you earn. Put aside a certain, reasonable amount of essentials – food, transportation, clothing, services (the list goes on) – and put aside a small amount for extras like treats. And voila! You have made a basic budget! Don’t exceed your weekly or monthly allowance, and you’re in the clear.
Remember that the key word in all budgeting is reasonable – don’t cut your funds so much that you’ll be hungry or really unhappy. Saving money is supposed to reduce stress about money, not increase it. So, whatever you choose to do, don’t push yourself too hard, and don’t get too worried. You got this!