Manage Your Cheddar Better in 2022

Disclaimer: The following article does not constitute professional financial advice.



It’s that time of year again! I scoff at my now-deleted unsustainable 2021 new year resolutions shabbily typed on a word document – the human urge to carve out some alone time to do up New Year's resolutions just before the new year begins…


As we transition into adulthood, money matters pop up more often than ever. Here are some realistic ways to tame that material girl~



Accounting


Have you ever felt broke but weren’t sure what you even spent on? That was me at the end of 2020. I then decided once and for all to account for all my expenses.


Today, there are so many free and great mobile applications that help people account for their expenses. Most of these applications feature plenty of spending categories such as food, clothes, transport, insurance etc. All you have to do is to record and categorize your various expenses.


The extent of details is then up to the individual. For example, I classify all the food I eat in school as ‘lunch’, I don’t go into the specifics like ‘cai fan’.


Screenshot of my "Food" expenditure in November

With this convenience, there is less resistance for me to sustain this habit of accounting for my expenses. More importantly, I am able to review the amount I spend each month and compare my expenses of the month under various categories with previous months. Being aware of your spending habits is the first step to identifying the areas in which you probably could spend less.


Screenshot of my "Groceries" expenditure in September
Screenshot of my "Groceries" expenditure in October


Coffee


Of course, a whole section of this article is dedicated to coffee.


The price of coffee stands on a large spectrum. We have the $1.20 vending machine coffee, $1.45 Koufu coffee, or the at-least-$7.00 coffee from major coffee chains. The rational choice here seems to be the cheapest option available but that doesn’t always hold true when we account for the differences in quality. I am all for choosing the option that makes you the happiest because that $7.00 could be the price for a good morning (or even day!). However, there is no denying that the money spent on a daily basis does add up.


I used to only drink instant mix coffee before my family decided to purchase a coffee machine. Now, every morning, I make my own coffee and bring it to school. Maybe it’s just a placebo but I believe that my freshly ground coffee beans taste and feel better than the commercial ones sold outside, at a fraction of the price.

Credit: SMUSA's Instagram @sgsmusa

I know coffee machines aren’t cheap, but perhaps you could aggressively hint to your friends that your birthday is coming, or simply try your luck at SMUSA giveaways! Who knows, you might save on your morning coffee with their next Nespresso Essenza Mini C30 giveaway!



Collect them all


This brings me to my next point: Make your tuition fees worth by claiming all welfare packs and entering giveaways. The budget/sponsorships universities have for welfare packs are insane.There are university-wide, faculty and CCA welfare packs that are given out every semester. However, slots do run out very quickly (actually why am I telling you this) so do keep an eye for their announcements by subscribing to their Telegram channels.


Recharge with the SMUSA x SMU Libraries Goodie Bag

These welfare packs contain extremely practical (and almost bizarre) items like a full-sized shampoo, make-up remover and snacks. The coffee tumbler I carry to school was from the welfare pack prepared by SMUSA in collaboration with SMU libraries.


A coffee tumbler from the aforementioned Goodie Bag

Giveaways are also very common in school with extremely attractive prizes to be won. What do you lose by joining them? Nothing! So save money with all these perks and opportunities given by the school.



Wear-all-your-clothes Campaign


One of my largest expenditures is on clothes. I love clothes and I find joy in choosing my outfit every morning. This is coupled with and feeds my insatiable desire to buy more clothes every single month despite my bursting closet. How this ‘Wear-all-your-clothes campaign’ works is that I make a conscious effort to wear all the existing clothes in my closet. This acts as a reminder for me to fully utilise the clothes in my closet before buying more.


While I must admit that I still purchase clothes every other month and I don’t end up wearing all my existing clothes, there has still been a noticeable improvement. I’ve rediscovered clothes that I had long forgotten about, waiting to be worn.



Side Hustle


Unless you’re lucky enough to have all your expenditure taken care of by your parents, a side hustle can be really helpful in giving you some ease and allowance in managing your finances. Ideally, side hustles should be a value-add rather than a fruitless toil.


Choose a side hustle that allows you to learn while still getting paid. The student employment unit in SMU hires students for various jobs such as research assistants, social media student associates, gym student assistants, etc. for an hourly pay that is often higher than the market rate. You can also consider signing up as a teaching assistant which is sure to be a value-add.



Keeping Yourself Busy


The rise of online shopping would have been, and could still be, the death of me. I often find myself mindlessly scrolling various e-commerce sites daily and end up buying things I don’t actually need. Yes, there are infographics online to help differentiate a need from a want. But who even follows these?


One final suggestion I have is not giving yourself a choice. Make yourself so busy and tired that you don’t even have time to succumb to your temptations. Reviewing my expenditures over the past 12 months, I found that I spent the least in my busiest months when I was overwhelmed with work.


If you’re not convinced, you can watch Kai’s succinct explanation on how this works.


However, overwhelming yourself with work is certainly unhealthy in the long run. Yes, it could probably help you save money but it could also take a toll on your physical and mental health. A more sustainable solution would be to reduce exposing yourself to tempting situations.


 

With that being said, I do think it’s tiring to constantly think about money. A make-or-break of finance-related resolutions, and perhaps of all resolutions, is whether they are sustainable enough such that you don’t end up abandoning them totally. Do give yourself occasional treats so that you can really best enjoy your life!


As the wise Ariana Grande once said, whoever said money can’t solve your problems must not have had enough money to solve ‘em, if it makes you happy to go for that overpriced spin class and drink expensive coffee, do it, albeit not too often.