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We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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Putting the YOU in university: Securing your finances

September 15, 2021

Check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the Putting the YOU in University series.

Secure your finances (secure the bag)

This is going to blow your mind. Not really, but it will make you smile at least. Avoid spending triggers first of all so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot (notice what I did there?). 

My advice for this is very simple. Most financial problems I’ve seen tend to stem from bad spending and money management habits, so let’s attack the bad habits. I have a rule I follow when I need to rid myself of a bad habit and take on good ones. 

ELIMINATE - EXCHANGE - EMBRACE 

Eliminate

To be in the best financial standing, you need to get rid of bad money habits. I’m going to mention some common unnecessary habits I’ve observed so don’t feel attacked. I’m just doing my job. 

  • Instead of spending money on eating out... meal prep in advance 
  • Instead of spending money every day on buying coffee... invest in a coffee machine and make yours every day
  • Instead of buying groceries when you’re hungry… buy them when you need to restock
  • Instead of buying clothes on impulse… plan your wardrobe
  • Instead of buying snacks impulsively… carry healthy snacks with you to be ready for the hunger
  • Stop buying bottled water if you can help it… carry a water bottle and refill

These are a few bad spending habits that can get your brain warmed to eliminate but I’m sure you have specific ones in your life. Take 10 mins to write them down in your notes App. Think logically about the purchases you don’t NEED. Write them down. Look through them again. Try eliminating them for a week and if you’re still alive at the end of the week, try another week. Then try another week. Keep taking it one week at a time till you notice you haven’t spent on those things in a month and boom. You have your solution. 

Exchange

Exchanging has to do with the habits you can’t eliminate but you can substitute. 

Example 1

I need to get from my apartment to the mall. The fact is I need transportation, but does it need to be expensive? Instead of using that ridesharing app (I shan’t mention names), use the bus instead. 

Example 2

I need to wash my huge stack of dishes but my dishwasher runs up my utility bill every month. The fact is I need clean cutlery and plates, but can I spend time instead of money doing it? Instead of loading the dishwasher every time, spend the extra 20 mins each day washing the dishes by hand. 

Example 3

I need to buy food/groceries. The fact is I need food to eat, but can I buy in bulk and save money in the long run? Instead of purchasing pre-made meals which tend to be more expensive than making it from scratch all in the name of saving time, commit to spending some extra time making your dishes from scratch. This could mean exchanging microwave dinners for good ol’ homemade rice and chicken. 

Similar to the ‘eliminate’ section, note down things you can exchange for cheaper alternatives and try exchanging them for a week, and then another week, and then carry this weekly challenge for as long as you can. 

Embrace

This is the most fun part of securing your finances. This is when you take upon good habits you never had before. This is where I’ll be more general to recommend my top 5 good spending/saving/investing habits you can embrace to secure your finances as a student. 

Number 1: Save & Pay Taxes 

Saving is not a concept that brings immediate evidence of benefit, but rather the positive impact can be noticed over time. What I do is I have a fixed percentage of my income I save. This could range from 5% - 50%. Just save something. In addition, if your taxes aren’t already deducted from your income, please go ahead and deduct that too. Don’t do illegal stuff. 

Number 2: Budgeting 

Like an organization would start by identifying your fixed and variable costs. That is, identify the things you need to spend on on a monthly basis every month (rent, gas, food, etc), and identify the purchases you need to make that are circumstantial (movies, restaurants, etc). Give yourself a realistic allocation of money to work within those two categories, and only if you have leftover money shall you allow yourself to spend on luxuries. 

Number 3: Save again 

Most people tend to save whatever is left after spending when the reserve scenario should be the case - spend what is left after saving. What I do is I save up a good chunk of what I have left after going about my ‘allocated spending’ (check Number 2) so I don’t get the temptation to spend the money since it’s sitting in my account. This causes me to patiently wait until I make money again to do the whole process of SAVE-SPEND-SAVE-SPEND. 

Number 4: Have a steady source of income 

It won’t make sense to have the budget of someone who has a steady source of income when you don’t have one, so if you can help it, why not get one? There are many ways to go about doing this. This could range from getting a part-time job (Restaurant, Retail, Administrative, etc) to being a freelancer (Photographer, Designer, Tutor, etc) to even being a business owner (Clothing line, Consulting, Food delivery, etc). 

Obtaining a part-time job is perhaps the most common of the three since there are MANY options available. Freelancing usually requires you to take the time to develop a specific skill of yours and then offer that skill to make money. It’s perhaps the most flexible option and could even make you good money too if you’re very skilled at what you do and have a solid reputation. Starting a business could potentially be the most difficult of the three but could be the most rewarding in the long run when it really takes off. I’d recommend this more from a motive to develop a long-term source of income as you shouldn’t go in with the mentality of expecting immediate returns on your investment. 

All in all, having a steady source of income makes it easier to create a budget since you can intelligently predict your income so you can plan for your outcome (see what I did there?) 

Number 5: Do some research on investing and saving for the long term (retirement + education fund for your children) 

Speak with a financial advisor at your school, bank or get advice from credible sources (not opinion sharing platforms - again I won’t mention names). Ask them for the options available and come to an independent decision as to what works best for you and make it work for you.