Breaking Bad habits

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Reshani Fernando an MSc Innovation and Technology Management student shares her experience of managing money as a student and breaking bad habits.

Efficiently managing my money was without a doubt one of the biggest challenges I had to face when I first started university. As a fresher, you’re suddenly burdened with having to pay for your own groceries, to do your laundry, transport if you live off campus and the list goes on. Impulse buying was a horrible habit which led to my money disappearing at a rate and ruined any progress I’d made towards managing my money better. After being at university for 4 years I’ve become a lot better at dealing with it and thought I’d share some of my experiences.

Grocery shopping was one of the regular culprits which led to me purchasing things that I thought I needed in the moment, which I really did not. I never planned my meals and ended up picking up whatever I felt like cooking depending on what I was in the mood for. This meant that a roam around Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Fresh was pretty much a daily occurrence. The problem with my constant roam around was that products that I hadn’t even thought about buying before entering the store seemed to catch my eye, tempt my stomach and end up in my basket.

Seeing the effect this was having, not only my bank balance but also my waist line, drove to me to think about making some changes. I started off by having a budget, planning my meals and shopping on a Sunday to get everything I needed for the rest of the week. With a shopping list I had a lot more control over spending on products I actually needed rather than wanted in the whim of the moment. It worked to a certain extent, but I still had to physically walk around the store and would be tempted to pick up a box of chocolates on offer or a packet of crisps when they caught my eye.

My flat mates used to order their groceries online and one day I thought I’d give it a try. I wish I’d done it sooner, as with online grocery shopping you only search for the specific products you need without being tempted to buy anything else. I hardly ever buy anything I wasn’t planning to anymore and I spend a lot less on groceries than I used to.

My impulse buying was not limited to groceries, but to shopping for shoes, clothes and make-up as well, which I used to spend considerably more money on. Convincing myself that I needed another dress even though I probably had enough dresses in my wardrobe was a common occurrence till I came across the concept of a 30-day waiting list.

With a 30-day waiting list, if you see something you want to buy, you jot it down on your phone, laptop or on a piece of paper and keep it there for a month. After a month if you still want to make the purchase then, go ahead and buy it. If not, then it was probably a wise decision not to buy it in the first place. You will be surprised at how often you don’t actually want something when you look at it again after a month!

These are the strategies that I used over my time at university which have thankfully prevented me from denting my bank balance too often. By no means does implementing them mean that you will never buy something impulsively again, but they do help and I have personally found them to be quite effective. You have to start somewhere and I would say this would be a good starting point to breaking that bad habit. So do give it a try!

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