Don’t know what to do with (what little) money you have? Know that budgeting is something adults do…but aren’t sure how to actually do it? Overwhelmed by all the choices while grocery shopping? On Tuesday, September 22, Jordan Perry, director of wellness promotion, presented a super helpful workshop to an audience of students eager to get answers to these and other financial questions. Are you concerned about your financial health? Wondering what you missed? Read on for lots of great information!
At the start of the workshop, Jordan shared data that indicated that a significant percentage of Hampshire students reported experiencing difficulty in managing their finances in 2014, and that, in some cases, these challenges impacted their academics. Jordan went on to acknowledge that resources are often limited in college, but that budgeting can be a key tool to help students to prioritize their needs, wants, and to better plan for the future. In this interactive session, participants were actively engaged in the process of making a budget, identifying needs, and sharing tips about how to maximize resources when shopping for groceries.
As participants arrived for the workshop, they were each given a copy of this worksheet, which was used as a guideline for the creation of a group budget.
The group then walked through a sample budget, sharing examples of bills, needs, wants, and things to save for, in an effort to identify the remaining amount. The group’s first budget landed at -$150, so they opted to reduce the cost of items in their “wants” and “savings” categories, as these areas are more flexible than “bills” and “needs”. Even then, they still had to find other things to reduce, so they cut their phone plan and finally got out of the red. This process looks different for everyone, but group sharing allowed folks to hear what kinds of things others needed to budget for, and reminded them of costs that they might not have previously considered. After reviewing this initial budget, the group then created a budget to account for what it might be like to be out of college. Income was increased, but rent was added. Food and gas budgets were increased and entertainment costs went up. No surprise — they ended up losing money again. So they dropped their entertainment and food costs in order to be able to afford their new lifestyle. They also discussed how much money they’d need to make in order to live modestly after college.
Jordan used Google Spreadsheets to illustrate what budgeting can look like because it’s free and available to anyone with internet access (although there are lots of other budgeting tools out there). Using a spreadsheet or other budgeting tool allows you to make changes to your budget without having to re-create it each time something changes, like your cell phone bill goes up, you cut entertainment costs, or you get a raise, etc.
Jordan also led the group in a discussion about how to shop on a budget, and shared some helpful hints with the group. What did they learn? Check this out:
- Buying things on sale or on clearance can be a good thing, but can also tempt you to buy things you don’t really need.
- Buying simple ingredients and making meals from scratch can help you save a lot, as prepared food generally costs more to purchase.
- Plan ahead and buy in bulk! Bulk shopping is much cheaper because the packaging cost per unit is much less.
- Think name-brand food is always the best choice? Think again! Buying store or generic brands can save you a lot of money, and they often taste just as good!
- Do your research! You can usually find store circulars online and can compare prices of particular items across stores. Store savings cards are generally free, and can help you to unlock these weekly deals. Stop by the service desk at your favorite grocery store and sign up to start saving.
- Compare, compare, compare! Be sure to compare unit prices rather than labeled prices to ensure that you’re getting the best deal. Unit prices usually appear on the top left hand corner of the price listing, and will tell you allow you to compare the price per pound (or other unit) across lots of different brands, package sizes, etc.
Get in Touch:
Have questions about what was covered? Jordan Perry is happy to help, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the Wellness Center (by the basketball court in Enfield).