Don’t blow it
How to make your student loan last for maximum educational pleasure
Has your bank account suddenly increased in size? Do you find yourself with a line of credit beyond your wildest dreams? Does that sexy new laptop/tablet/phone seem like a really, really good idea?
Wait a second there — that sudden increase of numbers before the decimal point needs to last you the entire year. Spend wisely, young Skywalker.
“The biggest thing is to come up with a monthly budget,” said Wayne Coristine, community relations coordinator at Money Mentors.
“When you get that big chunk of money, it’s no different really than somebody who works seasonal work who makes a lot of money in the summer — like a student would — and then balances it throughout the year. Look at that total amount of money and divide it by the number of months.”
That’s how much you have to spend each month. If you need to take a moment and sob into a pillow, that’s okay. It’s best not to keep that all bottled up inside anyways.
First, take into consideration your expenses as they are. Rent, utilities, groceries, gas, phone bill. Some of these things you may be able to avoid spending money on, especially if you are living at home — lucky you!
Regardless of your financial situation, it is important to figure out exactly where your money goes each month. Be honest with yourself and evaluate what an average month looks like.
There are a lot of handy-dandy expense calculators online, especially for students. Do you go to the movies and get heart-stoppingly buttery popcorn? Count it as entertainment.
Hookers and blow? Also entertainment, but not conducive to a healthy learning environment, so just skip them. See? You’re saving money already!
Chances are, there is not a lot of money left over for each month, especially if you are living away from home for the first time. But, there are tricks to making your dollars last as long as possible.
1. Pay as much rent as you can up front. Your landlord won’t mind, and then that’s one less thing to lose sleep over once per month.
2 . When it comes to pricey textbooks, don’t buy every single one right away just because your professor says you need them. Wait a week and see how much reading you really have to do.
Can you borrow the library’s copy, get an e-book version, or split the cost with another classmate? Or better yet, don’t buy it until you absolutely need it, which might not be at all (I survived an entire two semesters without purchasing a single textbook).
3. Parking passes. You don’t HAVE to drive. The U-Pass is included in your fees. Use it.
You likely have two feet and a heartbeat, so walking or riding to campus might also be an option while the weather is tolerable.
4. Put down the ramen and KD. That food is crap. Stop eating it.
The Sustainability Centre can hook you up with the Good Food Box program, and you can have delicious, fresh produce in your fridge for as little as $20 a month. There’s also free breakfast in Wyckham House’s Peer Support Centre every morning between 8:45 and 10:00 a.m.
Does your mom have a Costco card? Buy in bulk and learn to cook using appliances other than the microwave and a toaster oven. In a pinch, you can access The Calgary Food Bank. There is no shame in it, either. More people than you probably realize have utilized their services.
5. If you are a drinker, pre-drink before going out. Now, don’t go and get all white-girl wasted before hitting the club, but get a buzz going.
Alcohol at the liquor store is cheaper than at the bar. Save even more and offer to be the designated driver. All that free water at the bar is good for you, regardless of your alcohol intake.
There are many, many other ways to stretch your dollars throughout the upcoming semesters, but it’s important to realize that you can not magically make more money appear — it all has to come from somewhere, whether it be from the Bank of Mom and Dad or your credit card.
The most important thing to remember is to enjoy your time at school. Don’t constantly stress about your bank account and every penny, make sure to relax and budget for the occasional night out.
After all, you deserve to let your hair down once in a while, to spend time with your friends and classmates when you’re not hitting the books.