Post-Secondary Education, Money and Me! Some ideas to help students look after money – Part 4

Part 4: Be Your Own “Accountant”

By the Association of Saskatchewan Home Economists

There are many apps on the computer and phone that can help you keep track of your money. You can also design your own unique way that best suits you and is easy to understand. Here are some suggestions:

Debit Card Method

  • A debit card allows money for your purchase to be deducted directly from your account.  
  • A debit card does not allow you to go into debt except perhaps a very small amount.
  • You can check your account to determine the amount of money you have in the account.
  • The disadvantage is that it is hard to determine your spending pattern and to see if there are specific types of items that you could do less spending on.
  • The debit card can be used to withdraw cash from your financial institution’s ATM for no charge, but from other institutions there will be a fee.
  • Debit cards are obtained from your financial institution.  Have them tell you how the debit card operates at that institution.

The Envelope Method

  • Used by people for cash purchases
  • Prepare an envelope for each category of expenses you have (school, food, rent, entertainment, etc)
  • On each envelope write the month and the amount of money you put in that envelope. 
  • Keep receipts in the appropriate envelopes. 
  • Subtract each expense from the amount written on the envelope. 
  • Review and replenish the envelopes each month.
  • Using the envelope method for weekly non-essential expenses is a good way to control how much you spend on little things like coffee, pop and snacks.  Using a combination of methods may work for you.

Money In and Money Out Method

  • Your money is in your chosen financial institution.
  • This method will resemble a bank statement but is kept by you at home.
  • On a sheet of paper, draw 5 columns or make a table using a computer program such as Excel.
  • Title the first column as Date, second as Item, third as Money In, fourth as Money Out and fifth as Total Money Left. 

Record of Money In and Money Out of Financial Institution Account

DateItemMoney In financial InstitutionMoney Out of financial institutionTotal Money left
Oct. 1Balance in Bank1, 237. 80 1,237.80
Oct. 1Rent 600.00637.80
Oct. 3Pay cheque200.10 837.90
Oct.3Visa payment 50.25787.65
Oct. 5Cash withdrawl 400.00387.65
Month endtotals387.901050.25 

Money In and Money out for Cash withdrawn from financial institution

  • This reflects how the cash was spent that you withdrew from financial institution.
  • It is a variation of the Envelope Method.
DateItemMoney In WalletMoney Out of walletTotal money left in wallet
Oct. 5Cash from bank400.00 400.00
Oct. 6groceries 20.25379.75
Oct. 7coffee 2.50377.25
Month endtotals400.0022.75377.25

Category Method

  • Your money is in financial institution.
  • This method gives you more details about your spending, and is often used by small organizations/groups to track their money.
  • Decide how many categories you want. That could include: Date, Item, Money In, University, Rent, Food, Transportation, Telecommunications/ Digital, Entertainment, gifts … total.
  • List the number of columns wanted for the table. Use an app such as Excel or draw the number of columns on a sheet of paper. Check your financial institution to see if they already have programs that does this.
  • Excel can be programmed so each row and column can be totaled. It takes time to set it up, but saves lots of time in the future. 
  • This method enables you to evaluate the spending you have done.
DateItemMoney InUniversityRentFoodTransDigitalOtherTotal
Oct.1Bank       1,237.80
O. 2Rent  600.00    637.80
O. 3Pay200.10      837.90
Oct. 3Visa      50.25787.65
Oct.5Groc.   20.25   767.40
Oct.6Coffee   2.50   764.90

Keeping track of your finances allows you to be in more control of your spending and not have your spending in control of you. This eases financial stress. This is a habit worth continuing once you have finished your post-secondary education. A major column to add is Money Saved. Aim to have enough money saved to get you through a 6 month crisis and to do investing for large purchases and/or retirement.

Basic money management skills learned by keeping track of your money can often be transferred to other areas such as understanding large company budgets or even as simple as understanding financial reports of the community association, work’s coffee or social coordinator funds.

Never be afraid to ask for help from professional sources!

Part 4 of a 4 part series:

Part 1: Financially, what does your academic year look like?

Part 2: How to be your own Financial Manager and How am I doing?

Part 3: Tips to stretch your dollars

Part 4: Be Your Own “Accountant”

Home Economists and Educators Linda Ashley and Millie Reynolds are the chief compilers of information collected from professional financial institutions, high school and university students, ASHE Board of Directors and computer sources.