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Your Money

August 9, 2023

Budgeting 101: Hacks if You’re Heading Away for School

If you’re heading off to college or university for the first time this fall, you must be feeling all the feels: Excitement that you’ll finally be off living on your own, disbelief that it’s happening so soon, and possibly, a bit nervous when you think about how you’re going to survive in the real world without your parents’ help.

Well, first things first: You’re a smart cookie. You only got this far because of that brilliant brain of yours. (Right?)

But when it comes to figuring out your finances, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve been an A student your whole life – it’s not like they teach Budgeting 101 at high school! Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. If you use even some of these hacks, you can feel confident you won’t go into credit card debt before the end of the year is up.

Staying on Track This Year

1. Research government grants.

You’ve still got time to look into the different types of grants and bursaries available to you. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you’re eligible for one… or several! Carve an hour out of each day for the remainder of the summer, and commit to filling out one application form a day – to up your chances of being selected.

2. Give yourself an ‘allowance.’

Get yourself a part-time job that’s not going to mess with your school schedule, and then give yourself an amount that you’re allowed to use until Pay Day rolls around. Take that amount out in CASH and commit to not spending beyond those bills until your next pay cheque. And of course, be sure to put the remainder into your savings.

3. Get help for free.

These days, there’s a free or low-cost app for pretty much everything. So if you need a little extra help creating a budget, finding the best deal on groceries, or purchasing second-hand items in your neighbourhood*, well… there’s likely a (free) app for that! If you like the idea of free help at your fingertips, you may want to go one step farther and create a little ‘Finances’ folder on your phone to keep your budgeting apps nicely organized and easily accessible.

4. Have whole life insurance?

If your parents bought you whole life insurance when you were still small, your policy may have accumulated enough of the cash value portion (the part of your policy you can borrow from yourself**) or the portion that acts like an investment (the part of your policy that you don’t have to pay back***) to pay towards tuition, rent, groceries, or a new car. You just have to be sure the policy is in your name, so it may be a good time to schedule a talk with mom and dad and have a grown-up discussion about your finances.

5. No credit card, no cry.

And by far, the easiest way to NOT go into credit card debt is by not having a credit card on you – that means don’t sign up for one in your own name, and definitely don’t carry mom and dad’s with you. When you’re a little older and wiser, consider getting a credit card (start with the lowest limit) so that you can start building your credit score from an early age. But remember, you need to pay it back to have a good score – so be sure to wait until you’re ready.

Thinking Ahead to Next Year

1. Work longer hours during the summer.

Ask your part-time job if you can go full-time over the summer months. Or look for something different that pays more. A lot of times, the more physical, outdoorsy type jobs come with a more lucrative pay cheque, so you may want to do some digging – literally and figuratively – to see your pay multiply.

2. Apply for a scholarship.

If you want some extra money to put towards your tuition or other living expenses, consider applying for a Serenia Life post-secondary scholarship (value: $1,000). While you must be a Serenia Life member to be eligible, you have until December 31, 2023 to purchase a life insurance policy and unlock a number of unique member benefits, including this one-time scholarship.

3. If you need community hours to meet the scholarship application criteria

Good news, members also have access to Serenia Life’s Action Team benefit (value: $250) – this is essentially free money that will help you cover the costs of organizing a fundraising event to support a cause you care about. Not only will it help you get the community service hours you need to apply for the $1,000 scholarship, but your volunteer work will also look great on your resume – making it easier to snag that hot summer job all your friends are eyeing.

4. Remember that life insurance policy we mentioned above?

(See #2) Assuming your parents didn’t buy you that whole life policy we mentioned above – and that you’re still young and healthy – a term policy will cost you less per month than your daily coffee run. And while it may not help you save in the near term, it will definitely help your loved ones pay for any student debt you accumulate if something were to happen to you.

5. Park your money now, profit later.

Have a lump sum of money you’d like to put away while earning a bit of interest? Consider a GIA (the insurance version of a GIC). It’s a great way to make your money “untouchable” for a set period of time (e.g., 12 months, 18 months, 5 years), while watching it grow. Because this sort of investment is super low-risk, you don’t have to worry about losing your hard-earned money if the markets take a nosedive.

Have more questions about getting your finances in order before you head off to school? A Serenia Life advisor would be more than happy to provide you with a FREE needs analysis to help you determine your short-term goals, and what steps you need to take to achieve them. Fill out this short form to get the ball rolling!

*Serenia Life Financial is not responsible for third-party website content. Please ensure you do your due diligence before downloading or installing any new software on to your smart phone.

**You must repay the loan as per the terms of your policy, or the death benefit will be reduced by the amount borrowed, plus any interest accrued. Learn more about how this process works

***If you choose to withdraw any dividend earnings during your lifetime, the money withdrawn will not be added on to the death benefit. Learn more about how this process works

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