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Student looking at phone and figuring out budget
January 29, 2019
3 mins read

Money Sen$e: Managing money anxiety in university

Money Sen$e

As students, it can feel like we’re constantly depleting our bank accounts on tuition, school fees, extra-large coffees, or Pit Nights.

Maybe you don’t have a part-time job or, like me, you rely on student loans. If so, watching your bank account empty throughout the term can be anxiety-inducing.

When this would happen to me, I’d start to avoid checking my bank account and would feel guilt over things like buying my lunch on campus rather than making it at home.

But being a ‘real adult’ means I can no longer run from my finances, so these days, I’m trying to develop a healthier relationship with my money.

What does it mean to have a “healthy relationship” with money?

Personally, I see it in two parts:

  1. Present mindset: Appreciating what is in your account and making purchases with the peace of mind that it’s worth your hard-earned cash. You find your purchases add to your quality of life.
  2. Future mindset: Having a reasonable amount of debt that you feel able to pay off. You don’t necessarily need a six-figure salary to do this. It’s feeling confident that you’ll be able to budget part of your future income to pay back your loans when you finally get that full-time position.

Having guilt over buying another fake plant is normal and a good indicator that you know your money should be going to, uh, possibly more useful things? (Unless of course, fake plants are your life’s passion!)

But if you constantly dread the feeling of tapping your card, or if the thought of handing over a five for coffee churns your stomach, then you might need to re-evaluate how you think about money.

Here are 3 approaches that can help you develop a healthier relationship with money.

1. Recognize that money is not your enemy

We’ve all been there (especially after a vacation)—we avoid looking at our bank accounts because every time we do, the amount is shockingly lower than we expect.

You can’t run or pretend like your money doesn’t exist, and it’s unlikely a long-lost rich uncle will suddenly deposit a large inheritance into your account.

It may seem like the only solution to your money anxiety is to stop hanging out with friends or cut costs on food. However, this may only shade your view of money if you see it as something that limits your enjoyment of life.

That doesn’t have to be the case though. Money is meant to add to the quality and value of your life. As long as you can spend it wisely, it isn’t the enemy.

2. Make a “fun budget”

A “fun budget” is essentially a portion of your spending that is reserved for dinners with friends, movie nights, new clothes, and general self-care.

Look at your monthly budget and subtract your necessities of housing, food, and transportation. From this, you can allocate the rest to savings, to repaying back any debt, and to your fun budget!

Give yourself a total amount for your “fun budget” each month. Be strict with sticking to this amount, but don’t tie it down to specific things (like shopping, vacations, massages, etc.) because your preferences might change—be flexible!

And know that, as long as you stick to the allotted amount, you can absolutely spend with peace of mind—because you aren’t subtracting from other needs in your life.  

Whether it’s online shopping or tickets to a hockey game, take this money to invest in something that makes you feel good for more than just a second.

For me, I spend the majority of my fun budget on dance classes. Staying fit, relieving stress, and practicing self-care are what I prioritize and for which I find an outlet in dance. If dancing away your stress isn’t your style, think of what fits your lifestyle and adds to your wellbeing!

3. Align your budget with your priorities

Making a budget can often be associated with restricting yourself, and can be overwhelming since there isn’t one set way to create a budget. You might also feel frustrated if you create one but can’t stick to it. This can lead to a vicious cycle where you resist creating a budget and then worry you’re spending too much.

Break that cycle by first understanding your priorities and then aligning your budget to those priorities.

For example, in the winter months, I like to enter my “hibernation phase” by consuming more food and taking more naps than usual. I find myself spending a lot more on food, so I cut down on doing activities like watching movies and shopping and opt to stay in instead.

What happens if you accidentally go over budget? If this is becoming a habit, take time to really understand what you’ve been spending extra money on and see if it can be changed.

Staying accountable and flexible with your budget

Keeping yourself accountable can be hard, but learning to forgive yourself and to keep your budgeting flexible to meet changing needs and circumstances will be immensely useful now and in the future.

Be conscious of why you feel anxiety over spending your money to see if you can make changes that feel better and work for you.