No one said surviving financially as a student is easy — so many obligations, so many temptations. Yet, while procrastinating may have worked fine for your last term paper, you don’t want to leave your financial well-being till the last minute.
Ellen Roseman, a business columnist for the Toronto Star, says debt — that ever-present cloud looming over most students’ shoulders — can be managed with a little care and restraint.
Credit cards, while potentially a good way to build up your credit record, can become a trap, Roseman says. Always pay back what you borrow and if you can’t, try to pay as much as you can.
“Never pay just the minimum. It will take you forever to pay back your debt that way,” Roseman said.
If you do have some trouble paying your debts off, Roseman strongly advises being up front about it to your lender.
“You have to keep in touch with whoever it is who has your debt, even if you can’t pay. If you don’t, you can end up with collection agencies and other kinds of harassment. Most lenders will give you options,” Roseman said.
Most importantly, Roseman suggests calling up the credit bureau to see your credit record, not only to know what lenders think about you but also to make sure the information is correct.
As for actual spending habits, watch out for cell-phone costs — it’s easy to get carried away or signed into a suffocating plan.
“One area where people always pay more is cellphones and the worst thing to do is to sign up for a long-term contract because you become trapped. Shop around and really get to know what your options are,” Roseman said.
Food can also be a big source of expenses so when in doubt, make and bring your own.
“Whenever you can do a bit of planning, pack a lunch, take a beverage with you, learn how to cook. Everything is pretty well double or triple the price at a restaurant,” she said.
Other tips Roseman offers: Buy beer at retail stores instead of always hitting up the bar; rent more videos; stick to discount supermarkets like No Frills and Price Chopper; and keep a lid on your couture collection.
“If you can get over the idea of having brand names, you can get very stylish fashions for good prices,” Roseman said.
The bottom line, she says, is that keeping on top of your finances is about understanding your expenses and picking the right things to spend money on.
“Try to keep in touch with what your life is costing you. Exercise some self-control and keep a budget. There are still inexpensive ways to have fun with your friends,” Roseman said.