As you may or may not have noticed, I like to shop… a lot. But seeing as I spend thousands of dollars to go to school every year, I’m constantly asked how I manage to feed myself, live comfortably, and regularly treat my closet to a new item or two. No, I’m not a secret Hilton heiress (how cool would that be though?), I’m not a workaoholic (I only work about 12 – 15 hours per week), and I don’t blow my whole pay cheque ever (my parents taught me better than that). So how do I do it? Keep reading to find out!
Disclaimer: I’ve never taken a formal education course about money management, although I’m sure that’d be super helpful. These are just simple tips that I’ve found work well for me.
VISUALIZE: It doesn’t cost a thing to open multiple bank accounts under your name at your bank, so this is a trick that has really helped me keep my funds organized. I have 3 bank accounts – a chequing account for my everyday funds (this is also a student account – so no fees!) and two savings accounts – one that I make regular deposits into (currently saving for my BC trip), and one that is inaccessible from my debit card. I don’t touch this last account unless it’s an absolute emergency (RE: when I suddenly realized I needed glasses due to the fact that I am blind). I think this is so helpful because you can clearly see how much money you have in every scenario, and since I’ve given a distinct purpose to each account I’m not playing guessing games when it comes to making purchases.
BUDGET: This is oh-so-important when you have a lot of things to pay for every month. Whenever I have a month’s worth of money for rent and bills sitting in my bank account, I may look and feel rich… but creating a budget reminds me that I’m really not. By keeping track of how much money has to go towards certain things, I remind myself that I can’t go on a $400 shopping spree because I have grown up things to pay for. And I’m proud to say that I’ve never struggled to come up with next month’s rent thanks to my simple strategy.
LISTS, LISTS, LISTS: At this point I don’t even care if my readers think I have a strange obsession with organizing my life, but lists are crucial in this situation! With so many cute dresses, shoes, and everything else out there, there’s obviously days when I wish I could buy it all. But I’ve come to realize that unless I want to max out my credit card and live in regret for weeks, this is just not feasible. So, I make a list of things I want to buy within the next month or two.. and then I make another list of things I’m capable of buying with my next pay cheque. Sometimes this list includes not-so-fun things I have to pay for, like gas or toothpaste, but I always try to treat myself too (because I work hard for my money!)
SAVE: I’ve had a part-time job since I was 15 years old, and since my first ever day of employment, my parents have always encouraged me to save my money. But obviously I did what any teenager would do when their parents gave them advice – I didn’t listen. Sadly, it’s only been as of recent that I’ve turned into a money saving machine, but now I can’t picture my life any other way. I always dedicate at least a fraction of my pay cheques to my savings account, no matter how small they may be. I totally understand that sometimes you just can’t afford to put any of that pay cheque away – like for instance, maybe it’s the holiday season and you have a long list of gifts that need to be purchased. But even under these circumstances, I try to put a meager $20 away – because you never know when that $20 could come in handy!
SAY NO: As someone who loves to keep busy, this is something I have a hard time doing. But I think it’s important to recognize that as a student, sometimes there’s things you’re not going to be able to do due to a lack of funds. In these situations, I think lists really come in handy because you can clearly weigh your options. For example, my boyfriend has tickets to the Raptors vs. the Miami Heat this Friday – my 2 favourite NBA teams if you didn’t know. I never imagined myself saying no to this event, but after realizing how much of a dent this game would have put in my bank account, I had to do the grown up thing and say no. I’m sure I could have made it work somehow, but I have a big Christmas shopping list to conquer, and huge trips I want to save for. So as much as it pains me to say, I’ll be watching the game from my bed on Friday.
So there you have it, my financial secrets are now out in the open. I don’t think any of my suggestions are difficult to work into anyone’s life, but a lot of it comes from mentally training yourself to look at the big picture. When I was a teenager, still living under my parents roof, with no intention of seeing the world, I did a lot of “impulse shopping”. But now that I’m expected to be financially independent, I’ve realized that these huge, Sex and the City-esque shopping sprees are just not a possibility in my world (unless I plan this shopping spree 4 months in advance and dedicate my savings account to it – I’ve done this many times and it’s the best guilt-free thrill EVER). I’m hoping to take a personal finance course in school next year – so if I learn any new tips between now and then, I’ll be sure to update this post. But for now, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear any spending secrets you guys have.