Getting Your Finances In Line
I like to think I am pretty good with money. One of the reasons for this is that I’ve always been reasonably independent and have made a few of my own mistakes along the way. To err, as they say, is human. To forgive yourself for the occasional mispurchase or blow-out is divine! While studying, these mispurchases or blow-outs seem to happen much more often than occasionally, don’t they? It can often get to the point that you need to stop forgiving yourself and do something actionable to stop these ‘mishaps’ from coming about in the first place! So, without further ado let me get on with the rest of the post – and my sterling student budget tips!
Read up on budgeting
If you’re new to the whole looking after your own budget thing, it can at first be daunting. This is just a fact. Budgeting is a skill. You might have an urge to spend a fat wodge of dosh down the pub, then eke the rest of your weeks out on meals of rice and water. Don’t learn this one the hard way. At best, you’ll be so miserable that you’ll want to cry. And at worst you could end up with scurvy.
No, seriously. Read up on budgeting
A lot of the money saving sites out there have some really canny advice. Money Saving Expert (MSE) has heaps of great advice for the impecunious, the thrifty and the just-plain-mean. It’s founder, Martin Lewis’ Twitter is also a great place to go for financial news and advice if you are the Twitter type. On the site there is also some brilliant ideas on how to save money at the supermarket, as well as a very down to earth philosophy about money generally.
Speaking of supermarkets, a lot of student money saving articles always tell you that you shouldn’t go food shopping when you’re hungry, as you end up spending more. This is absolutely true. But by the same token, don’t go to the supermarket when you’re stuffed after a big meal, because you’re liable to come home with a packet of chewing gum and not a lot else.
Gamify your saving
I find that with my budgeting I sort of start to compete against myself. Like if one month I manage to save a bit on food, the next month I aim to save more. Note: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT GOING WITHOUT. I am talking about going the extra mile to save some cash. Things like cooking chicken soup in big batches to reduce the cost. Things like finding the very cheapest deals in town. Sure, it requires effort. But then a lot of the things in life that have a bit of a payoff do require effort. Like going down the gym. Wait, did I say gym? Far cheaper to exercise without a gym contract, in my humble opinion. Okay, so I won’t win Mr. Universe but I can run for 13 miles without stopping!
Look at what you’ve got
Or to be more accurate: at what you owe. You might have a credit card or an overdraft, which is very common for students. There’s also a good chance that you have some sort of student product which you chose because you’re a student. It makes sense to do this, but a lot of the time you might not be getting the best deal possible here. Do your research, ask questions regarding the products. Is this the best one for me? How will this credit card benefit me? Don’t just get something because it says it’s for students. Use sites like Moneyfacts. They do this research for you, giving you a list of the best products around. They also give you little badges of honour so to speak, for example, so if you see such an endorsement, be sure to check it out. Chances are it’s a very viable option for your consideration.
Be long term
One thing that being the master of my own budgeting has taught me for real is that it’s always good to take a longer-term view of things. When I was younger, it would be fair to say that money burned a hole in my pocket. These days, it’s different. If a new phone comes on the market that I really, really want to buy I look at the spec it offers, the price of the contract – really get into the nitty gritty of what is really on offer. Most times while it’s a decent phone, what you’re paying for is the newness, the novelty. And as if by magic, a few months down the line the price drops a bit and is available SIM-free and then you can pick up a dirt cheap SIM-only contract separate. A few months after that, the prices will drop even further. It’s essentially a waiting game. I have picked up my last couple of phones A LOT cheaper than they were originally available for, but still while they were a very decent phone to own. Even better, I have a contract that rolls from month to month, so I’m not tied down to the provider beyond much more than a week or two.
It’s a balance Yes, I will readily admit that I am a frugal kind of a guy. But it’s all for a purpose. I eat inexpensively (but nutritiously). My purse doesn’t explode at the sight of a new piece of technology. But the good bit is that there’s always some money aside in case of contingencies, and while it’s really, really painful (like almost physically painful) I always stand my round.
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