Where has my money gone?
One aspect of your life that would become different after you enter the university is that you will be expected to be the manager of your money. Your parents may entrust you with a much larger sum of money in your bank account. They don’t usually go after you for every single cent you spend. The assumption is that you are now mature enough to manage your finances effectively.
Is that assumption valid for you? When was the last time you bought something on impulse and somehow wished you had never bought it afterwards? Have you ended up borrowing money from your friends and only paid them back when “new capital” from your parents comes in?
In fact, personal financial management is surprisingly absent in our modern education. While it may not sound as intellectual as studying the movement of planets or the history of Germany, it is no less important. Do you want to have a crash course on how to manage your money more effectively? Let Digital Senior introduce you to Managing Your Finances 101.
Understanding your expenditure
Do you know the percentage of money you spend on food every month? How about Transport? Entertainment?
Very few of us can give a good estimate. And that’s because we never keep track of our expenditure. The only time when we know how much we have spent is probably when we receive the bill from the bank. By that time, it is too late to stop over-spending. The only thing one can do is to regret after the credit shock.
To avoid such unpleasant surprises, you need to keep track of your expenditure. Digital Senior understands that during this age, recording your daily expenditure on a notebook, like what your grandma has done, looks too old fashion. But don’t worry. Technology has caught up with our need. There are plenty of phone apps that enable you to do so. Every time you spend, you also take out your phone and record the item in the app. Many apps also have customizable interface that lets you category the items the way you want. They may also have budget warning that reminds you to tighten your belt a little bit when you are exceeding your monthly spending limit that you set at the start of the month.
Gain insight into your spending habit
The good thing about using such an app does not stop there. If you consistently key in data on a daily basis, over a period of time, usually more than one or two months, you will develop a good understanding of your spending habit. You may realize that you are actually spending more on movies than you think you are. Probably you visit restaurants more often than you think you should. Knowing your true spending behavior enables you to better control it. As said by management guru, Peter Drucker, “what gets measured, gets managed.” You can set a budget for every major area of spending and aim not to exceed it. We often fail to control our spending simply because we don’t know how we are really spending.
Look for discount
Other than monitoring and controlling spending, there are many other ways for you to manage your money better. One way to reduce your expenditure is to look for student discount. Like the relevant shopping pages on Facebook or other social media that you are using. They periodically update discount or promotion, sometimes for university students only. Some phone apps also act as your specialized agents looking for discount. Moreover, check the restaurants or shops around your campus. They may offer you discount once you flash your matriculation card. Lastly, some student clubs, such as the Student Union, cooperate with some electronic, attire or entertainment outlets where you can enjoy cheaper price after showing your student identity. Watch out for their brochures, campus posters or emails.
One effective way to reduce expenditure is to share some major expenditure with our friends. One common expenditure is on textbook. If you think buying a textbook is better than borrowing, you can consider sharing the cost with your course mate. Students don’t normally read textbook every day. Hence it makes perfect sense for two or three students to share one textbook and take turn to read it.
Beyond textbook, you may also want to share stuff with your roommate. You can share detergents used for cleaning, book shelf that you buy from IKEA or cooking utensil if both of you enjoy cooking. Sharing doesn’t just help you save money. It also helps you create stronger bonding and friendship.
Avoid impulse buying
One common “sin” of spending over one’s means is what we call impulse buying. In the age of consumerism, we are constant bombarded by all kinds of promotion and advertisement. For young people, probably electronic products are the hardest to resist. They are often enticed to buy things on “imaginary” benefits, only to realize that the true benefits don’t really worth the cost.
Think about your spending habit (looking at your phone app can be helpful). Once you realize you are vulnerable to impulse buying when it comes to certain product, make a mental note. Next time when the impulse comes, think about the last time when you bought on impulse and go through a careful cost and benefit analysis before you bring the good to the counter.
Avoid impulse buying. Alternatively, create a “cooling period” for yourself. Walk away from the store and come back a few hours later or a few days later. Meanwhile, you will have a clearer understanding of your needs when you are away from the fancy advertisement and persuasion of the salesperson.
Managing your money is not easy. It takes dedication, patience and skill. But it is such an important skill! It does not just make you live a better life. It also shapes your character and makes you understand yourself better. Don’t wait! Start to manage your money today!