Student Advice Service – Money Matters

News from the Student Advice Service at the University of Brighton

You can turn small changes into meaningful savings

Sometimes the boring skills in life turn out to be the most important.

Most people are not that great at planning. People tend to be overly optimistic about how successful their plans will be, and to underestimate how much effort they have to put in. Our projects take much longer and more effort than we anticipate.

Why it is useful to plan

Planning is not something we are formally taught to do, but it is a really important skill, because you might need to plan something small, like a party, or a really huge project such as your career or future finances and you need to know how to go about it in order to have a successful outcome.

People are far less patient that it is helpful for us to be.  We tend to choose rewards right now (buying a takeaway) rather than rewards in the far future – such as saving for a deposit for our next student home.

Being able to change impulsive habits and think long term is associated with success across all areas of your life – health, wealth, education and more.

As we have learned this year, life is complicated and things beyond our control go wrong from time to time, but if we make plans and save ‘for a rainy day’ we put ourselves in a safer position.

Taking Planning Seriously

We need to set aside time to consider what we need to do and to plan for it. Perhaps you are not a natural saver, so you will need to counteract the urge to spend money now, by forcing yourself to map out the path ahead.

The same is true of writing extended essays and making work for a practical degree like fashion design – you will need to work out when you will be able to do work and schedule plans in to your timetable if you are hoping for a successful outcome

Map Out Everything You Need to Do

Once you’ve dedicated the time to plan, the next step is to break down everything you need to do in order to move forward on a project. To be successful, the plan needs to involve some detail.

If you are working on a savings plan, you may need to plan how you will pay off any debts you currently have – as you are paying interest on those debts, so it is important to get out of debt before you can expect to save.  Put any spare money into paying off your debts and you will be wasting less of your money paying interests to banks.  Please note – we are not talking about student loans here and don’t recommend you pay off or pay down your loans from Student Finance.

Looking for jobs, making time to write good job applications and finding enough time for researching what the job entails and planning what you’ll say in an interview all count as important planning for your savings goals. You need to maximise your income and reduce your outgoings to be able to pay off debts or save towards the future, so it is important to make proper time for these vital aspects of your potential financial success and independence.

Why bother with all this effort? Can’t you just cross those bridges when you come to them? We can tell you from experience that this approach tends to fail! The key to you being successful requires a little bit more planning.

Put the Plan in Your Calendar

When will you start? How much time will you dedicate to looking for bargains/coupons/cheaper ways of doing things?  How many days a week will you spend time looking for work? When do you expect to reach particular milestones?

All of this needs to be put in your actual calendar. You should put down all of the key milestones – dates by which you will have paid off a certain debt, days in which you dedicate some time to looking for work.

Why? There are two really good reasons for putting your planning goals in your calendar.

Firstly, it helps you to stick to a plan – it reminds you to get on and spend the necessary time planning. If you promise yourself you will be out of debt in two months and just leave it as vague as that, you may fail in your target if you have forgotten it’s a family member’s birthday and you are going to have to spend. If you don’t put your plan into your calendar, you’re not forced to confront these conflicts until it’s too late.

The second is psychological.  Putting the time in the calendar makes the plan a lot more real. Once you really see that you won’t be able to go out in the evenings for six months to make your plans come true, you are faced with a timescale – but it might help. Now is a good time to commit to not spending. We are all getting used to thinking long-term, so putting off spending for 6 months in order to be able to save may now feel like a reasonable target which we can achieve.

Start today!

The final step of any good plan is that it should tell you what you need to do today. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Today.

It’s difficult to get motivated about something happening in a couple of weeks – the more immediately you start, the more likely you are to take it seriously.  I can promise to go for a walk every day, but if I set a time for it and start today, I am more likely to stick to it.  The same applies to giving time to job searching, or really looking into what you are spending and changing your habits to cut out the stuff you don’t need. Being in financial trouble is pretty scary, and planning and saving can help reduce your stress, allowing you to get on with your studies.

Your plan should tell you what you have to do today to move forward. Planning is an active process which needs action and following through.  If you make a plan for yourself in the knowledge that following it is in your best interests, and you start today…you are far more likely to have successful results.

Good luck!

Student Advice

Helen Abrahams • February 17, 2021

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