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OSS Teaches Smart Money Management Strategies

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Differentiating between wants and needs and developing discipline when budgeting were the principal guidelines at the Introduction to Budgeting workshop Wednesday evening held by $uccessful Start, Boston College’s financial literacy program.

Sponsored by the Office of Student Services (OSS), the workshop was the second of seven events scheduled for this semester featuring topics ranging from credit and debt management to understanding financial aid. Ultimately, the program hopes to provide BC students, both undergraduates and graduates, with the information necessary to become financially literate and responsible for their lifetime.

Budgeting, said Craig Noyes, direct loans and corrections specialist in OSS and BC ’08, who presented Wednesday’s workshop, “requires a lot of intent effort on your part and a bit of time.” This investment of energy pays off, though, as seen by a direct correlation between time spent budgeting and our ultimate success in managing your expenses.

Noyes outlined a three-part process to budgeting that involves planning, tracking, and reviewing our monthly sources of income and expenditures. The key to this process, said Noyes, is taking an active role in your budget, consciously keeping track of purchases, saving, and setting goals.

He conceded that budgeting can seem like a bothersome task, though he stressed the importance of active money management on a long-term scale.

“Connect the immediate monotony of making a budget with where you ultimately want to be in the future,” he said.

Noyes also emphasized how we should always be aware of all of our debts, especially recent college graduates who are likely carrying thousands in student loans, and have a “slush fund” prepared for unexpected emergencies.

Another topic particularly relevant to students are dangerous “money leaks,” or areas from which you can scale back on relatively unnecessary purchases. Certain categories for spending, such as food, often add up without us realizing it, and prove more costly than we would have thought when we step back and look at the bigger picture.

An example Noyes cited was a hypothetical student who goes out to dinner every Saturday night with friends, buys one tall Starbucks drink every weekday, and downloads a new album from iTunes once a week. These habits, Noyes said, would cost more than $2,330 over one year, proving the dangers of costly elements of our daily routines.

To prevent this kind of overspending, Noyes suggested being willing to make tweaks to your spending style by researching cheaper alternatives and prioritizing what is most important to you.

If you run into a roadblock when budgeting, Noyes said, do not hesitate to reassess your current plans.

“None of us want to elongate a timeline or temper what we want to accomplish, but it’s okay to alter your goals,” he said.

Getting an early start to budgeting is an excellent learning exercise, Noyes added. “It’s a great thing to start now, building the budgeting training wheels,” he said, especially for undergraduates doing work-study as he did during his time at BC.

Whenever you start, though, Noyes emphasized that it is imperative to write down your budget, and that even doing a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel is adequate for creating a basic, organized budget.

He also named several useful websites, including his personal recommendation, mint.com, for promoting responsible money management habits.

“There is a blossoming of blogs and financial resources online,” he said, but he also suggests talking to friends and getting advice from those that feel comfortable sharing about how they manage their money. “Make it a conversation.”
Aside from workshops on financial literacy topics, $uccessful Start also offers information and links to online financial management resources on its website, and the individualized Peer Money Mentor program, which provides personal assistance with budgeting, loans, and other aspects of financial health.

Karen Wullaert, graduate assistant with $uccessful Start and LGSOE ’13, said the program sees a steady turnout of 15 to 25 people at each workshop, with up to 40 people attending the presentation on taxes, a popular and often confusing topic.

The most frequent questions $uccessful Start programs often field from students, Wullaert said, are on student loans and budgeting. Credit card debt, she said, is a common topic because “it is something we don’t usually want to talk about.”

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