College and university students should take a closer look at their budget before heading off to school if they want to avoid running out of money come April, says student financial planner Ryan Chen-Wing.
Chen-Wing is the founder of Waterloo Student Banking, a start-up financial institution that boast 'banking for students, by students.'
The biggest financial challenge for students is understanding how to budget when most are dealing with a lump sum of money, made from summer jobs, said Chen-Wing in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition.
But, he says, making a budget, and sticking to it, can help quell many of students' money problems.
"A little work you put in before the school year starts can really pay off in terms of less stress and being able to focus on your studies," said Chen-Wing.
Be honest about spending habits
Chen-Wing says a good starting point is keeping a journal for a week, tracking day to day expenses. Using that as a guide, students should start to draft a weekly, then monthly budget, focusing on static costs, like rent and tuition, and then factoring in their fluctuating costs like food and entertainment.
"It's better in the long run to take a look at your finances and add things up," said Chen-Wing.
"If in September I know I don't have enough money to finish the term I can find a part time job. If I don't discover that on my own until November then a lot of options are closed because that time has past," he said.
Chen-Wing says being honest about your spending habits, and cutting costs where possible, is also key.
"Once you've chosen your university and your program you can't change that," said Chen-Wing.
"But when students look at their discretionary spending, whether they make their own dinner with food from the grocery store, compared to going out, that can make a big difference over time."
Listen to the full interview (runs 6:54)