A quick look at spending trends that will keep students wallets empty for years to come!

You’re probably wondering who exactly I think I am to be writing an article about how to spend your money. What makes me an advocate for students trying to avoid debt? What do I know about saving money?

I’m not a financial advisor in the making. What I am is a 21-year-old student who is irrevocably broke, with just under $20,000 in debt. Since I am learning from my mistakes, I figured I would share them with you.

To keep things short and sweet, my eight simple rules will ensure you stay in debt as long as you are a student (they have certainly always worked for me):

8. Theatres trump Netflix and TV

Going to see movies is a common pastime for the student who is not in the mood to be binge drinking and stressing that finals are approaching only $12 plus more including snacks, it is much easier to rent movies, or stay home and watch TV and make popcorn! A lot of good movies are usually on TV, Netflix or Shaw On Demand. You can also easily have a Jersey Shore marathon for free! I know you’re watching it anyway, so you might as well make an event out of it.  

7. Drive everywhere! Gas doesn’t count as spending.

This rule is fairly self-explanatory. Gas is expensive and consistently inflating. Even if you volunteer to drive to save costs of drinking or taxiing, transit is a cheaper option. Parking is free throughout the city’s train stations and bus fare is only $2.75; it’s even cheaper if you have a school transit fare pass. Don’t feel guilty about accepting as many rides as possible! If it’s easier for a friend of yours to pick you up, ask them! If you are making a budget for yourself, be sure to include gas costs.

Smoking can cost you up to $1200 a school year

Photo illustration by Stephanie Watt6. Become a smoker. It’s the new hot thing.

This is a very important rule in saving money. It’s definitely easier said than done to tell you to quit smoking if you are already an addict. I personally cannot even listen to my own advice on that account. However, when you really factor in the amount of money smoking costs, it’s easy to see how it takes away from your finances. For instance, I smoke about four packs of cigarettes a week. At $9.40 a pack, (and that’s me buying the cheapest of the cheap cigarettes) that rounds to about  $150 a month and $600 a semester. That’s a big chunk of money that could go towards your bills, or even just more cash in your pocket for personal spending or gas!

5. Go out at any cost!

 Finding new exciting things to do in Calgary, like dance classes or student social nights, can be less expensive than hitting the club with your friends every weekend. But don’t worry, you can still go out and have it be cost efficient. Pre-drink at home and you should only need to buy one or two drinks to maintain your buzz when you get to the club. Try to go to places like the Amsterdam Rhino where cover is less expensive ($5 versus $10) and even free if you arrive early enough. Opt out of taxiing home. Don’t drink and drive, but find a parent or friend who is willing to pick you up. Or go home early enough when transit is still running.

4. I won’t pack a lunch today, I will just grab something from the cafeteria at school.

This is one of the many rookie mistakes made by spenders across the globe. This also happens to be the hardest one for me to master. Everywhere you go there is the temptation to buy a coffee, a sandwich or a snack. The problem though is that $6 on a latte and a snack three times a week turns into $72 or more out of each pay cheque. Another especially important one to watch out for is fast food when you’re drunk. Not only are you in the wrong state of mind to realize you might not have enough money for the double combo, you also usually forget how terrible you will feel about it in the morning.

3. Avoid paying bills, the longer you put it off the more money you have to pay it Counting your pennies? Then it’s time to man up and make a budget!

Photo by Stephanie Watt
with!

I had to learn this one the hard way. The longer you avoid paying your cell phone bill, the worse it is. Not only does it accumulate and hit you at your lowest financial point, but it also affects your credit, and when you screw up your credit, you can screw up your finances for the rest of your life.

2. Put everything on your line of credit, you have to pay it off anyway…

This one took me a long time to understand why it is a bad idea. It’s true, you do have to pay off your student line of credit eventually. However, the more money that you transfer onto your line, the more your interest will go up in the end, and this inevitably raises the amountyou are required to pay monthly. Instead of putting off the payment, pay as much as you can, even more then the minimal interest coverage. That way you are knocking away at your debt and not just the interest that your debt is accumulating month after month.

1. Living pay cheque to pay cheque is okay.

This is probably the easiest thing for students to do, but also the worst. Earning $1,000 a month and spending $1,000 a month may seem like a good idea, but its not. I’m sure all of you have experienced a dilemma with this method of spending.  I often would get down to the $20 I had left two days before getting paid and pop a tire or desperately need more money for gas. Living pay cheque to pay cheque leaves you stranded in moments of desperation. Saving money slowly from each pay cheque will build up faster then you would imagine, and is easier then you would think. It also not only covers you when emergencies pop up, but it also makes it easier to pay off bills or even save up for a summer vacation.

Further help for students in debt (from real experts):

Credit Consolidation – Debt Managers

Canada Student Debt

Debt 101

swatt@cjournal.ca