How Co-op Taught Me to be Financially Smart

3D illustration by Quince Media

As kids, many of us have probably had a piggy bank, a toy ATM, or maybe a jar to fill with what we called our savings. Growing up means entering the world of banking.

I am a big planner so I had been excited for a long time about opening up my own savings account to start saving towards big goals. It wasn’t until my co-op term as a Student Recruiter that I really got motivated to make plans with the money I was now earning.

Co-op has given me both the satisfaction, and responsibility, of a steady paycheck, and with that came some opportunities. You see, with taking a year off after my second year of university in order to work, I would still count as a third year student when I went back to school, which means I was still eligible to go on a study abroad term to Spain for my Spanish minor. I had plans to go last year but unfortunately did not have my own finances to back me up, but with co-op, that door opened again. All of this meant one thing: time to make a plan.

1. Making a goal

Knowing an end goal with your plan is key. My financial goal at the start of my co-op was to be able to pay for a study abroad term in Spain while still paying for my living expenses.

One of my first steps was to make an appointment with my bank. I was able to get advice about the savings accounts that best suited my needs, as well as set up a Registered Retirement Savings Plan to save for my future self a bit each month (probably the most responsible thing I have ever done haha). My bank advisor then spoke with me about the importance of budgeting.

2. Making a budget to fit your basic needs and your goal

This was the fun part. I sat down with my transaction history and a notebook and figured out how much of my paycheck went towards things like food, rent, bills, etc., and how much I had left to save.

After crunching the numbers, I figured out a number for each category of my life, as well as how much I needed to save per month to reach my goal, and found it was very doable…if I stuck to the plan.

3. Stick to it!

This is the hard part. With things like the holidays and unexpected expenses, it is smart to leave some wiggle room in your budget so one emergency payment or shopping spree doesn’t blow your whole plan.

Remember to reward yourself once in a while but be smart about it. Trade a ramen dinner for a night out at a nice restaurant because balance is key. Trust me, if you stick to your plan and keep seeing yourself at the end goal like I see myself in Spain, you will get there and you will thank your past self for planning ahead.

Lastres, Spain

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