It’s that time of year – back to school. Your seasonal work while possibly not the most interesting, provided you with an acceptable income. My (Debra’s) first job was at Christie’s Dairy in Grimsby, Ontario scooping ice cream for several summers while in High School. The money wasn’t great, but the two cone a day fringe benefit was wonderful!
Perhaps this summer you took in some festivals like Edmonton’s Folk Fest, the Fringe, or perhaps Big Valley, and what’s left of your saved income is now earmarked for your living expenses this school year. Hmmm… it has to last, so you need a really good plan for allocating those funds wisely!
No one likes budgeting. No one. But it’s a necessary action to ensure we don’t spend more than we make and can meet our responsibilities. A few hints and tips will help you meter out those funds wisely through the year so you’re not scrounging for food at the end of your last semester and can avoid a buildup of unnecessary debt.
- Calculate your fixed expenses: Your rent or residence costs, any utilities not covered, your phone, bus pass, any costs you must pay which are non-negotiable! What’s left over?
- Set a food budget: If you’re in residence then you’ve already added the fixed cost of your daily sustenance into the equation. If not, try to shop wisely checking out discount grocery days (e.g. Safeway & Sobeys: 10% off on the 1st Tuesday of every month) and take advantage of coupons and deals for students.
- Discretionary spending: This is a tough one! The hot spot for discretionary spending is entertainment and eating out. What can you afford to spend per month? Figure that part out first. It’s important to get out and socialize with your friends, make new ones, blow off some steam, and enjoy life while you’re in school: just decide how much you can realistically allocate on a monthly basis without blowing your budget.
Tip: Segregate your summer earnings in a savings account. E-transfer monthly a bulk amount intended to cover the fixed and discretionary budgeted expenses being withdrawn. This will ensure you see in real time what’s left each month and help to keep you disciplined.
Tip: Think about buying your study snacks in the grocery store bulk section and splitting the cost with a friend or two. Another idea is to get together with friends once a week to cook up a dinner where everyone makes a contribution to the cost.
Tip: Avoid becoming spend-happy with your credit card! Do your best to review your statements regularly and pay-off full balances owed as often as possible so you don’t get stuck in a rut of paying only minimum balances due each month.
The Wooding Group at CIBC Wood Gundy, 780 498-5065