I was in university for 7 years during which time I accumulated quite a bit of debt, surprisingly of that debt only about half of it was actually student loans. Since I finished university I realized some of the mistakes I made and figured if I could help other students maybe the hurt on my bank account would be somewhat worth it. So below you will find my top 10 things I wish i’d known about budgeting before I went to university.
#10. Jobs aren’t always easy to get
I am from a very small city (which actually has the population of a large town) and the upside of being from a small city is everybody knows everybody (which can also be a major downside depending on you POV). Anyway, when I was living at home (up until after my 2nd year of college) finding a job was not an issue I could walk into a place and get a job the same day because chances are I knew the manager, owner, employees etc. When I went to university I moved with 2 other people, my husband (boyfriend at the time) & his sister. None of us had ever had a problem gaining employment. Unfortunately we moved to an University city two hours away that was full of students looking for employment and there are only so many jobs to go around. My husband got one pretty quick, my sister-in-law got one about 6 months later, it took almost a year for me to find one. So the three of us were living in an apartment in an university city that overcharged in rent on one income for six months. Another major downfall to this scenario is even though I had been working since I was 14 I had no savings what so ever to help myself through those six months.
#9. Jobs aren’t always easy to keep
The next five years were a whirlwind in terms of finding, gaining and keeping employment. First my husband got laid off from his job due to the new management wanting to hire their own staff, He got another job but it was just as a christmas temp, I worked summers two hours away but as far as during the school year I couldn’t find a job to save my life. When I finally did get a job waitressing the restaurant went out of business two months later. It was like this for five years, random seasonal employment and layoffs.
#8. Roommates are not always reliable
In the first 2 years we went through 5 roommates, my sister in law moved out to live with her would be husband, we had a roommate who flaked on rent and just left, we had a roommate who never paid rent, one who broke all the rules and one who was just a slob. I realized after those two years that we would be better off getting a smaller place just for the two of us, downside to that is all the rent had to come out of the same pot.
#7. Credit Cards are not free money
Okay so this I already knew but it doesn’t mean it registered when I was maxing my credit card on pizza, pepsi and cigarettes the first six months in the new city. I guess I always figured I’d get around to paying it eventually, it was no big deal, what’s the worst that could happen? Well seeing my credit score after university was very good at answering that question.
#6. Cable is not a necessity
I still have cable and I love it and would not give it up unless absolutely necessary, luckily at this point in my life I can afford the extras that I couldn’t before. Following university I had to spend a year paying back cable companies from during my university days because I was just never willing to give it up.
#5. An emergency fund is necessary
During my time as a student I worked summers as a waitress and I made great tips doing so. One day I just went out and bought a desktop computer with that days tips “just because” . Basically every summer I made about $1000 a week in tips and just blew it all on essentially nothing because when the time came to go back to school I was back to being broke. Thinking back to the days when I was scrounging for the smallest amount of cash for food or gas or whatever I realize that tip money would have came in handy so many times.
#4. Prioritizing is important
Before university I never had to NEED anything so I always just got what I wanted. I worked for 6 years while not paying any bills or for food or clothes I could just spend my money on what I wanted, unfortunately that behaviour didn’t change although my situation did. I was spending bill money on pizza and rent money on cigarettes, bills weren’t being paid and I was scrounging for rent money at the end of the month.
#3. Meal Planning & Shopping the flyers
I don’t remember a trip to the grocery store where I spent less that $300 in university, now to feed the same two people I spend $55-$60 a week. The difference is before I would just grab anything i wanted and throw it in the cart not thinking of the price, now I pre-plan my meals based on weekly sales and what I have at home then make a list based on that plan.
#2. There are plenty of ways to make extra cash
While in university I tutored anyone from elementary school to university, the school also paid me to be a note-taker for students taking the same courses I was. Given that I always re-typed my notes anyway (which you can read about in my 10 steps to be a straight A student post) I got paid to basically send an email. I also got a part-time job supervising the anthropology lab. Regardless of your skills or time availability there is always a way to make some extra money.
#1. Student loans are not just ” extra money”
I’m not exactly sure how other country’s financial aid system works but in Canada you get some much for your tuition, books and living expenses. One of my obvious mountain of financial mistakes that I made in university is when I got the “living expense” part back from my student loans I basically went on shopping sprees (TVs, Surround Sound Systems, Bluray players, laptops you name it) and then in a week I was wondering what I was going to eat for supper.
So incase you didn’t realize my biggest issue in school was inpulse control and income. If there is anything I would like students to get out of this is that sometimes you need to do odd jobs, jobs you don’t like or even sell your belongings if finding solid, reliable employment is not doable and most importantly it is important to learn to say no to yourself.
any other former students around? What would you’re tips to current students me?
any current students reading this? What are your financial struggles or successes?