Trying to save money can be difficult for a lot of people. It’s even harder for people who are living on their own for the first time and have no idea where to start. Whether you’re seventeen or fifty-six we can all use a few extra tips to make that dollar go farther. We’ll take a look at some money saving tips that will be useful if you’re trying to save up for a specific goal and some tips that are great if you’re just trying to give yourself some breathing room.
It’s important to identify and set clear goals for yourself. Do you want to save money so that you can afford to move out of your parents’ basement? Maybe you want to go on a great trip abroad between high school and university or college that you need to save for. Perhaps you want to save up for your post-secondary education so that you don’t have to use student loans. Your goals can be long term or short term, but it’s important to set them. Without a goal, you’re more likely to take that money that’s burning a hole in your pocket and spend it on something impulsive instead.
Set Your Goals
As I stated before, you want to have goals and they should be something realistic. Starting small is also a great idea, especially if you’re new to the money-saving game. Some examples of great small goals can be:
- A book, movie, or video game of your choice.
- A meal out at a restaurant you normally wouldn’t go to. Think something along the lines of The Keg.
- A shopping trip for new clothes, computer parts or whatever else tickles your fancy.
- An overnight trip (think hotel, food, attractions) somewhere outside where you live now.
The key point here is to set your sights small. If it’s manageable and achievable, the success will propel you forward for more success! If you try to do something beyond your means and fail, that failure might taint future attempts. Once you’ve got the smaller goals nailed, you can try for something bigger: like tuition and student fees.
Take a Look at Your Wallet
Goals and everything are nice, but you also need to have a good understanding of your current financial situation. That means looking at the money coming into your bank account and the money going out. What are your sources of income? These are things like your paycheque from your job, payments from government benefits like Income Assistance or Employment Insurance, student loan payments and money from parents or family. Now, what are your expenses? Here is a nice list of some common expenses:
- Cell phone
- Childcare (if applicable)
- Bank Fees (most accounts will have a fee associated with them. There are some special accounts that may not.)
- Credit Card Payments
- Vehicle Payments (this is for money you pay for a lease or towards a loan)
- Utilities (think your water and hydro)
- Vehicle Gas and Insurance
- And so on
One of the best ways to get a good snapshot of your income and expenses is to write everything down. If paper and pen is too archaic for you, try using a digital platform. For some fantastic interactive worksheets and tips visit the website of Canadian financial guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Most of the resources are free and easily downloadable.
Show Me the Money
The biggest obstacle people face is how to reduce their spending. If you just want to learn how to save money on a regular basis and not for a particular goal, you might be in this category. So how do you save a few bucks here and there? Here are some general tips:
- Grocery shop with a list. The rule in my house is if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t go in the cart.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry! Everything looks good when you’re hungry.
- Bring your own bags when you shop. Even though the plastic ones are five cents, they can add up.
- Try to limit eating out. You can probably make it at home.
- Coupons and flyers are your friend, no matter who you are.
- Bundle services like cellphone and internet if you can. You’d be surprised what kind of deals you can get.
- Be mindful of your interest rate on any loans or credit cards. If you have a high rate, call your lender and see if you can negotiate a lower one.
- When paying off debt, try to pay off the ones with higher interest first. It’ll save you in the long run.
Put It In The Bank
Once you’ve got that figured out, the next question becomes how to save the money. You can open up a separate savings account (some banks have special online only ones that earn high interest) and set up an automatic payment of an amount you can handle. For example, you could put away $25 every two weeks. That’s $650 a year! Of course, the more you want to save, the more you’ll have to put away. Review your budget and your expenses to see what’s reasonable.
This isn’t impossible. You can do it. Once you get in a rhythm you can easily save up for those large purchases like a car, your education or a well deserved warm vacation. Cuba anyone?
About “The Navigator”
“The Navigator” is a monthly blog about student life by the Campus Manitoba Virtual Help Desk. Check back monthly to find more tidbits of wisdom with “The Navigator”. You’ll be sure to find all kinds of information that will help you be successful in your educational journey. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news and information!