Pinching pennies during summer break
by Kylie Robertson
Students and money: two words that contrast starkly when placed together. Students, by the very nature of tuition and textbook prices, aren’t supposed to have any money. But for four months every year, it’s possible for most students to earn some cash to help finance their education – or maybe to just survive.
“My bank account is prepared to start having an income,” said Kirby Davis, a recent Mount Royal graduate of the nursing program. “I have some concerns though. I know that I need to get some guaranteed work because I do owe a lot of money and there is not a lot in my bank account. In my line of work there are currently no jobs for new graduates in this province.”
Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. offers some budget advice to their students online, and they’re four fairly simple rules to live by:
1) Set goals for yourself
2) Create an accurate picture of where your money is coming from and where it’s going.
3) Plan out where your money needs to go to first and where you want it to go second.
4) Discipline yourself to stick with your plan.
Mount Royal also offers a money calculator online to help students visualize where their money will be going when they’re enrolled, but they have fewer resources to help students budget their money for the summer.
Davis said that she thinks she’s great with money, and uses credit only when necessary and pays it off at the end of every month. But lately she’s been more hard-pressed to pay it off.
“I have been unable to work for the last three months due to my busy practicum schedule so groceries, gas, my temporary work license, have all been paid for with my credit card,” she said.
Simon Fraser’s site recommends dividing expenses into fixed and variable expenses, then into high and low priorities. For example, rent would be a high priority, fixed expense. Shopping for clothing would be a low priority variable expense.
Davis has these rules in mind.
“Generally if I don’t need something, I don’t buy it,” she said. “When grocery shopping, I only buy something if it’s on sale or it’s a necessity. I’m very money conscious and it’s always in the back of my mind.”
Discipline is also an important aspect of keeping track of money. For students, it can seem more difficult because of the many demands they face. Davis echoes this sentiment.
“I stress about finances a lot,” she said. “Especially while in school. I stress about paying off my bills monthly and having made enough money that month to do so. Paying your own tuition, phone bills, car payments, gas, groceries, rent… everything. Plus, going to school full-time makes it difficult to stay out of the red.”
For Davis, this summer will mark a first – there will be no more tuition to worry about. She needs to secure permanent, full-time employment but in the meantime, she’ll continue to stress about money. She currently doesn’t have a budget, and knows that it’s not sensible.
“I probably should. Last year, when money was really tight for me and I was working two jobs and going to school full-time, I created a budget for myself,” she said. “I started by taking my fixed expenses and subtracting them from my cheques. From there, I set budgets… I was very good at sticking to this budget but it kind of got thrown out the window once I moved and got a different job.”
So make sure you manage your pay-cheques this summer, just in case those deposits stop coming in September.