“Cash or debit?” was the question of the moment as the mouth-watering aroma of baked cheese and pepperoni tickled seductively at your salivary glands. The dinner of champions—well, students anyways—is at your door and only moments from your hungry belly.
“Debit please,” you answer, taking hold of the POS machine, like so many times this month, often at places like the Shell station, Starbucks, and Thrifty Foods. The plastic is so much more convenient than having to pack cash with you, now isn’t it? You accept the total and plunk your secret digits onto the keypad as fast as you can. Your stomach grumbles and seconds feel like minutes.
“Oh . . . Uhh . . .” The delivery guy stutters as his eyes flick up from the debit machine to look at you with a sympathetic awkwardness. “Sorry, it says declined. Do you have another form of payment? Cash maybe?”
“That’s impossible,” you say. Then the excuses start to speed out of your hungry face, “I just put money in the bank today or maybe it was last week, your machine must be broken, my card must be cracked, the lines must be down, someone must have hacked my account . . .”
Or maybe you just weren’t paying attention and overspent?
Being a student is tricky, as you are typically on a tight budget. It can be a tough balance paying your bills and tuition and still having a little something left over for extra stuff and entertainment. The only exception from having to think about where your cash is going every month is if you’re independently wealthy. Since that is uncommon on campus, most of us need to have a grasp on what we spend every day, as to avoid the painful rejection of our debit cards.
Welcome to the world of cash; in this universe, there are no embarrassing terms like “declined” or “obtain card and shred.” There is no moment when the restaurant owner comes to your table and offers you kitchen work to pay for your meal. No, in this world, if there isn’t any cash in your wallet or purse, you just don’t get to spend any money. Simple concept really. This is where you have to focus on making sound spending decisions and avoiding spontaneous purchases.
Let’s face it, there is more than enough stress associated with being a student on a daily basis without even bringing finances into the equation. It’s a pretty tough feat, to finish that 10-page paper due in a week on an empty stomach because you overspent last weekend.
Here are a few things that you will need to start your journey into better controlling your monthly finances;
A heavy-duty lock box. This can be found at places like Walmart or Staples, starting at $25, and it looks like a big solid lunchbox. It will pay for itself a hundred times when you don’t have your money walk mysteriously out of your room when your roomie has people over.
A cheque-sized accordion folder. Just like the type people use to keep track of their paperwork, only smaller.
A clear set of priorities. Don’t be afraid to write them down and keep it posted on your fridge.
Check out this article for the Kickin’ it old school guide to drafting and implementing a proper budget.