Managing your money in Uni
All of us came here to get a degree - in order to get a good job. So that we may follow our dreams and make money OR just make good money.
Whether we like it or not, money is a huge part of our lives and it influences the problems we face, opportunities we receive, and inevitably, the quality of our lives. Yet, not everyone does a good job of managing their money. Maybe you're rich. Maybe your mummy and/or daddy do it for you. But let's be real. This is where we all grow up — and become independent. This is when we need to step up our (financial) game as well. So let's dive into it!
Note: I am no expert in financial planning and the following content is merely a list of suggestions. Pick what works for you!
Saving VS Spending
You need to know how much you are spending and how much you are saving. Period. Ignorance is bliss but knowledge is power. Knowing how much you make and lose is the first step. But how do we do it? Let's look at some ways!
May not be necessary if you are sticking to a strict budget
Automated monthly deposit from your savings account
Allowances & income go here (no-touch policy!)
Bank balance with a limit (e.g. < $500)
Deposit a minimum amount monthly
Linked to budgeting app
*Some people may choose to open a few savings accounts, e.g. one to save up for tuition fees, one for holidays, and one for really long-term goals like marriage and buying a house.
**Check out this article for an overview of budgeting apps!
Ways to save your money
Capsule Wardrobe - Buy a set number of tops, trousers, etc and mix and match them to maximize your outfit combinations. Check out this non-minimalist guide to building a capsule wardrobe.
Meal Prep - Buy the ingredients needed for a week's worth of meals and make simple and nutritious meals that can be easily packed, reheated, and eaten on campus. Prepping your meals for some or all days of the week can substantially reduce the pressure on your wallet! This is because you can work your way using a set of fixed ingredients bought in bulk and reduce the average cost of your meals dramatically. In addition, making these meals beforehand motivates you to eat them instead of readily eating out as well!
Don’t have the knowledge or the time to get started? Check out this brief guide to simple meal prep recipes as well as ways of storing the food you make!
Ultimately, there is no fixed way of doing this. Saving and spending wisely involves both good decision-making and discipline. It helps to find friends who share these goals with you too!
Recently, we have seen the rise of Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) platforms where customers can make purchases but pay for them over a period of time. Call it short-term financing or installment payment plan - what matters is that this works and it is quite appealing to the average consumer.
Advantages of BNPL
It becomes easier to stick to a monthly budget, especially when large expenses are incurred as the payments can be split up over a few months.
It is less stressful to make big purchases like those NIKE shoes you have been wanting to buy!
You may be able to afford more expensive, and big-ticket items more easily.
Different BNPL platforms will have different promotions or discounts for users as well.
Using BNPL is more accessible than credit cards or taking out loans.
Disadvantages of BNPL
Impulse purchases - Yes, unless you are a saint, you will be tempted to buy items that look nice but may not necessarily be what you need.
Overstretched budget - Even though you only need to pay a portion of the amount initially, you still need to pay up the remaining amount in the following months.
Paying a late fee - If you are unable to make the remaining payments on time, the total amount you have to pay will start to rack up. Being able to pay ‘later’ does not mean one can be careless.
In the end, it boils down to how you choose to spend your money. They say fire can be a good servant, but a bad master. The same goes for money.
Seeking Financial Advice
We are young and most of us are probably noobs when it comes to managing money well. In fact, what does it even mean to manage one's money? You can spend wisely, save diligently, invest carefully, and insure yourself against setbacks. It can seem overwhelming at first, but luckily for us, there is a whole range of financial advice platforms that are affordable, accessible, and most importantly, UNDERSTANDABLE!
Here are some platforms where you can learn more about personal finance!
Lisa’s Adulting in Singapore The Financial Diet
The Financial Coconut DollarsAndSense
Aside from online posts and podcasts, there are also online courses on personal finance as well as modules here in NUS like CFG1003: Financial Wellbeing - Introduction.
Planning your Future
If you don't get serious about your money, you will never have serious money.
Personal finance is a long journey; along the way, you will have to adjust your budget and reevaluate your plans - depending on which stage of life you are at. Here is a basic framework of how you can take control of your finances:
So what is something you can get started on today? Figure out your cash flow and how much you have already. Next, think about how you'll settle the following.
Building your emergency funds - 3 to 12 months of living expenses set aside for future mishaps and unexpected expenses.
Long-term debts - For most of us, it is the impending tuition fee loan; think about how much you want to save up every year to pay this off.
Investing - If you are a complete beginner, learn the basics of investing through some of the resources shared earlier. It is okay if you do not have a lot of money to invest. The key is to start early (the earlier you start, the more you gain) and it is completely alright to start small and learn along the way. It's all about taking that first step! For those who have no idea how to get started, check out this video by popular YouTuber, Ali Abdaal, for a beginner’s guide to investing!
I would like to end with an apt quote by Peter Drucker, a prominent management theorist.
I hope some of the ideas discussed here have set you thinking and quite possibly, set you into action as well!
Some of us may do it better than others. Some of us may have it easier than others. But your life is your responsibility - and financial planning is one way of stepping up your own life.