When you’re in university, you’re out thousands of dollars from the first day so it’s almost as if every little expense you make during your time here is basically putting you further in the red. This post is not meant to scare you; it’s just meant to bring to your attention a very important part of school life that students can often overlook.
If I had the chance to go back and do my 4 years of university all over again, there are a lot of things I would do differently; managing my money better would be in my top 3 things to change. In my first year at U of T, I didn’t have any money of my own because I didn’t work during my summers in high school. So when I started university, my entire budget came from government loans, RESP and my parents’ monthly allowance.
In a city like Toronto, there are so many things to do, things to eat and things to buy (for me, it was the things to eat for the most part). Sometimes, I lost sight of the fact that none of the money that I’m spending is actually mine. I usually ended up spending a lot of money unknowingly by buying $5 lunches every afternoon in the week. Or by getting all new textbooks every semester and not trying to sell them back. Now when I look back, even getting a grande Americano every morning cost me a whole lot.
One of the things I could have done earlier was to start looking at my monthly transactions and track my expenditure. This way I could prioritize the kind of expenses that I couldn’t avoid (like textbooks or school supplies). After that, it would have to be about the kind of expenses that I really wanted to make (like coffee). So for me, something as simple as having a general idea of where my money was going instead of mindless debit card transactions turned out to be really helpful when I was trying to strategize better management.
In my second year, when I started working part-time, I set myself a strict budget for groceries, coffee, phone bill and subway tokens but I also had an upper limit for those dinners out when I spend extra time at Robarts. Having that extra little bit as a safety blanket helped me in both scenarios; if I didn’t spend anything extra I would feel good about having saved money and if I did end up spending it, then I would still feel in full control of my budget.
All in all, I had to realize that I wasn’t going to get it right on the first try, it took a lot of bargaining with myself to figure out where I needed to make changes. There’s also the fact that we are only get to be undergraduate students once so we might as well live the life – let us all order Chinese food at 3 am with an extra delivery charge once in a while, right?
With only a couple weeks left until school starts, this would be the time to talk to your parents about monthly expenses or look for resources online that give you suggestions on money management as a student. I found that this Government of Canada site was a good place to start and U of T Student Life has a student focused approach to money management.
Let me know if there are any tools or strategies you use to manage your money in the comments!