College is often considered a period of abundance. Friends and close buddies are aplenty. Time is generously sufficient. Activities are almost limitless and you have boundless energy to spare!
What could you possibly be short of, you ask.
Probably money. In fact, for most students, it’s definitely money.
Needless to say, most college students find themselves running short on cash nearing the end of the semester.
But this does not have to be the case! You can have a generous amount of money left if you learn how to manage and be more vigilant with your money.
The essence of managing money can be summed up by having clear goals and working towards those goals by cutting expenses and increasing income. Allow us to bring you through these essentials so that you can embark on a journey to achieve your financial aspirations in college.
A. Manage Your Money with Constant Tracking and Goals
#1. Always start with a budget
Like everything else that you set out to do, there’s always a good starting point. And in terms of managing finances, it’s best to start with a budget at hand. Without one, it will be extremely difficult for you to track and evaluate your progress.
Trust us, if you cannot track and see your progress, you’ll throw in the white towel soon enough (bye financial goals).
Setting up a basic budget is quite simple. Some basic steps to bear in mind are:
- Keep a notebook for your budget or simply use Microsoft Excel to create one. You can also download a budget template online easily.
- Set financial goals (how much to save, to invest, for entertainment, etc.) for your budget. This is where you prioritise how your money should be spent.
- Use separate columns for your source(s) of income and expenses respectively.
- Differentiate and list down every single item for both income and expenses. Breaking everything down allows you identify them easier.
Set reminders to always do your records and check with your budget so that you can continuously evaluate your progress.
#2. Make tracking your budget easier with tools and apps
We know, we know. It’s can be a lot of work and inconvenience for you to have to constantly remind yourself to record your expenses. Some of you may not even recall what you had for dinner last night!
But rest assured, there IS a convenient way to track your spending against your budget.
If you have a smartphone (which we assume you do in 2016!), there is a long list of money management apps that you can choose from the app store!
Some of the best financial tools that you can try out are:
- My Tabung (for Android and Apple)
- Saved (for Apple only)
- M2U Planner (integrates with your Maybank account)
With simple features that allow you to add entries hassle-free, sync across multiple devices, review reports with clear visualisations, you can have all your personal finance insights at the tip of your fingers!
B. Cut Unnecessary Costs
#3. Get what you’re entitled for
Put your student status into good practical use. These days, many merchants and retailers offer generous student discounts to compete for value.
And as a student, it is totally a no-brainer to take advantage of this.
Most merchants and retailers will ask for your student card to verify your status as a student. So remember to always bring yours out.
Not only that, as a student, you are also entitled for the Kad Siswa 1Malaysia, so do put it to good use! The list of merchants include fashion, entertainment, books, electronics and even hotels.
#4. Find out where you can reduce your spending
Constantly updating your budget will be very helpful in tracking and identifying which area(s) you have overspent. It’s also easier for you to scrutinise your expenses and work towards lowering your expenses for the next round.
Make it a habit to always compare prices. These days, you can get the best bang for your buck by comparing and shopping for the best values online.
Due to fierce competition, many online retailers are also aggressively dishing out discount coupons which you can make the most out of! Coupled with sites like Shopback offering cashbacks for your online shopping spree, you can be rest assured that you are getting good value for every ringgit.
To put it into context, you can easily save up to 70% (Lazada) and earn up to 12% cashback (Shopback) just by shopping online for a pair of jeans!
Oh, and if you are privileged enough to have been bestowed with a credit card, do pay attention to its perks, like cashback and reward points! Credit cards, if used right, can help you stretch your ringgit even further with its many attractive benefits.
C. Increase Income Generation
#5. Put your talents and time to good use
As a college student, you will have plenty of time to spare, not to mention an insatiable hunger to gain new experiences.
So why not put your time (and technical knowledge, if any) to good use, and at the same time, earn some spare cash along the way? Get a part-time or freelance job through sites like You.my, PartTimePost or even Fiverr!
Just our two cents – it’s always best to aim for a job that can add extra value to what you’re studying so that it’s easier for you to relate your work with what you’ve learned in college.
#6. Optimise your money – let it work for you
If you’ve always been curious about investing and have some extra cash to spare, consider learning about investment products and building an investment portfolio.
Investing, whether in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, futures, or even real estate, essentially uses the money that you have to generate more money, either by earning interest or by buying / selling assets that increase in value.
Learn about the ins and outs of investment and see how your money can work for you, instead of having it idle away in your savings account.
Explore different financial instruments (stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc.) and learn about portfolio diversification. If you’re looking to trade stocks actively, try out Investopedia’s Stock Simulator to get some hands-on experience without risking your own money.
Whatever you decide, make sure it is in line with your overall financial budget and goal. Investing can be a risk, but if done properly, can reap huge rewards.
#7. Take initiative to read, learn & practice
Admittedly, we are not money management gurus, so we are not promising you a pot of gold if you follow these tips to a T. There are probably more than 10,001 ways to manage and optimise your finances, and not all will work for you.
What we do want to encourage is the habit of self-initiated learning. Practise and improvise relentlessly until you finally find a formula that works for you.
Until then, keep an open mind and persistently seek out new knowledge. There is no silver bullet on how one can easily generate optimal financial results. However, it is never too early to start building good financial habits, as it will set you up for success well into your working life and beyond.