It’s September!! And for many of you guys, this means a brand new semester to a brand new year… some of you are probably just starting out your post-secondary experience altogether.
It’s a super exciting time and somewhat overwhelming! I remember that that’s how I felt when I started the first year of my Bachelor in Nursing back in September of 2010. *oh the memories! And I can’t believe that’s over 6 years ago already*
I can imagine how it could be both exciting and overwhelming still today as I watch my little sister start her Bachelor in Social Work… first week and she’s already got a ton of readings, essays and assignments.
It’s definitely easy to focus most of your time and effort into your studies and forget something super important while you’re pulling all-nighters studying for exams and hustling to get those assignments in on time!
What’s that “super important” thing you ask? It’s money of course!
I ignored my money while I was in school…
That’s right! I was NOT a money nerd in any shape or form back when I started university. If you asked me if I had a budget and if I was saving any money, I would’ve passed over that question and complained about the amount of reading I needed to get through that night. I had no clue what TFSAs or RRSPs were and I believed that investing were only for the rich people to do.
I simply thought I didn’t need to take care of my money situation as much as passing my grades. Besides, I didn’t have much money to speak of anyways and most of my education is funded by student loans (which I didn’t have to worry about until after I was done school)… so why bother with money management while in school?
Any other students out there with me on this?
Well, fast forward four years later… I completed university with a $40,000 student loan bill, over $7,000 of credit card debt, $0 in savings and not enough of a financial foundation to handle the income I was making from my first ‘big-girl’ job.
Turns out, learning ‘money management’ basics was not hard to do…
Ha! I learned this AFTER I graduated and landed my first career job. It didn’t take that much time to study the basics of personal finance. And the return on (time and money) investments are so much greater than my ROI on my Statistics class in real life.
For me, my personal finance education started when I picked up my first money-related book and downloaded the Mint app on my phone. From there I found a bunch more other books, blogs and podcasts on money management. I took it a step further when I translated what I learned into action.
Had I known better when I was younger and educated myself on money matters, I probably would have made the following happen:
- Reduced my student loan debt because I wouldn’t have borrowed so much.
- Used more of my part-time job income to pay for my education instead of blowing it on liabilities.
- May have even started investing in my TFSA.
- Avoided credit card debt or at least reduced it.
- Lived on less by cutting down my spending.
- Learned to have a vibrant social life while still following a budget.
Although these are hypothetical, I’m sure my financial situation overall would have been better had I taken the time to take care of my money back then instead of ignoring how much potential it had.
I missed my chance but it’s not too late for you guys. If you think you can’t make the time or effort to take care of your money, you are wrong in thinking that and I’m going to share some tips you can use to make it easier.
Besides, it doesn’t matter what career you end up in, you are going to have to manage your own money. No one else is going to take care of it as much as you will so you better know some things about money (besides how to spend it!).
Tips To Ace Your Money Management Skills While Going To School
- Read a personal finance book in your spare time. I understand that “spare time” may be a luxury while you’re in school full-time. But if you can, try to squeeze in a money management book or two in a semester – you won’t regret it! Some of my recommendations are:
- An alternate to reading a book would be to follow money-related blogs/websites and read a few posts here and there (like just before bed or while you’re in the bathroom). It changes your thinking about money and it’s a heck of a ton motivating! Some of my favourite PF bloggers and websites are:
- Listen to a podcast about money management. You can always squeeze time in for these like during your transit to and from school or while you’re in the gym doing cardio. Why not make the most out of those moments by adding in a learning aspect? These are the podcasts I’m tuning in to:
- Get a part-time job or a side hustle. I recommend this for ALL students because not only does this help bring money in, it also helps you learn to manage your time and gain some work experience. If you’re super keen, maybe you can get a “foot in the door” in the industry you’re studying for which could help you land a job right out of university.
- Create a budget and spend within it! You’ll learn exactly where your money was spent on and you’ll get used to spending less than what you’ve earned. If a budget is not your thing, you could try spending just cash or using the “envelope system”. Do whatever works for you – the point is to never spend more money than you have. Some apps that could help you with this are:
- Reduce all of your debts!! This includes student loans and consumer debts. If you work on reducing the amount of debt you have while in school, you’ll be much better off when you start working your career afterwards. And let’s face it, some of you won’t land a job right out of university so having as little debts as possible will do you good.
- If you can, start investing as soon as possible (and make it automatic). It’s so easy to set-up investments and automatic savings now more than ever before.
- I’m raving about robo-advisors right now – companies like Portfolio IQ by Questrade (which I have an account with), Wealthsimple and WealthBar save me so much in management fees. Each of these companies help you choose the right types of investments for you as well! It’s really a “no-brainer” process.
- Set-up automatic savings. And if you invest these savings, you have those four years in university to (hopefully) watch your money grow.
- Do this and you will take advantage of compound interest and possibly grow your wealth while you’re still in school. Having a tidy sum set aside by the time you graduate is a god-send – you can use it to pay down any debts/loans, use it for a rainy day as an emergency fund or just leave it in your investments to grow more.
- FYI Investing isn’t just for the rich people to do!
- Check out LowestRates Back to School Money Saving Guide! They’ve put together this great resource so you can get an idea of how much post-secondary education (plus living expenses) might cost you. It never hurts to be prepared for how much cash you might need to drop during your university years… and learn some tips to save money as well!
A Contest To Boot!
I hope the information I shared above will be useful to you guys and I sincerely hope you take it to heart. If I had a chance to do over my university years, I would follow those tips I learned from my experience and those of others I’ve gone to school with.
But I’m not done yet!
My friends over at LowestRates are holding an awesome contest for all you Canadian students starting your semester this month. It’s the #StudentSurvivalKit and I am seriously all over this contest if only I was a student again this year!
In addition to their Student Savings Guide, LowestRates wants to help one Canadian student kick off their school year with some free swag. If you’re eligible, you could win:
- A cool new backpack carrying…
- 13″ MacBook Air + case
- Amazon gift card $25
- Best Buy gift card $50
- iTunes gift card $30
- Tim Hortons gift card $50
- Subway gift card $50
- A few servings of KD and Mr. Noodles
Want to try your luck? Head on over to the #StudentSurvivalKit Contest webpage to enter!
Students, are you taking care of your money while you’re going to school now? If yes, what other tips would you like to share with us? What are some challenges you’re experiencing in managing your money while going to school at the same time?
Or if you WERE a student, what would you have done differently with your money situation while you were going to school… if anything?