Where Did Your Money Go & How Can You Get It Back?

Picture the scene; it’s eight in the evening and you’re at the supermarket after a whole day of classes. You’ve just ticked everything off the list of things you need to buy, you’ve checked it twice, and you’ve waited fifteen minutes to reach the till. You’re ready to pay; you inform the cashier you’ll pay by card. You’re already mentally preparing your lunch. It’s been a long day. You’re tired and so ready to go home. Perhaps you’re absentmindedly commiserating with your fellow shoppers still queuing behind you, simultaneously feeling an acute relief for almost being home free. And then your card is declined.

You stare at the card in question perplexed. Surely you have some money left in there. You inwardly go over your purchases during the past month. Queue the awkward fumble to decide what items you could do without combined with the intense feeling of being judged for delaying the queue and your abhorrent financial choices both. You finally leave the supermarket downtrodden and ever wondering: where did all my money go?

Let me preface this by stating; that horrible feeling of being judged by the entire shop? Unfounded. It’s a sad truth universally acknowledged that, at a certain point in time, most of us have found ourselves with five pounds to our name until the next paycheck rolls in. And even though university students are renowned for surviving on ramen and energy drinks, there are some tried tricks to help you manage your money better and survive university without depriving yourself.


1) Store Brands & Why To Love Them 

Store brands are a line of products branded by a retailer within a single brand identity. They are managed with the sole purpose of selling them in a specific chain of stores. The design of the product is modelled in such a way that a connection may be created between the store it’s being sold at and its customer base. They are distinct in being cheaper than national brand goods, mostly due to reduced advertising costs.

Though commonly misperceived as being of a lesser quality compared to national brand goods, nothing could be further from the truth. Choosing store brands over national brands can save you up to 33% on each grocery bill. This is no laughing matter, especially when your budget is nothing to write home about to begin with.

According to recent research, the time during which generic label products were looked down upon is almost behind us. With many store brand products scoring well in blind taste tests, even the staunchest opponents of generic labels have to admit there would be little point in keeping up their prejudices. So get with the times; give store brands a try and your bank account some breathing space.


2) Credit Cards; Friends or Foes? 

Credit cards have slowly been usurping cash in our everyday transactions; flexible in their repayment methods and helping you build up your credit score, they are continuously rising in popularity. The truth of the fact is they are easier to use. Faster too; and in a world where everything is accelerating, faster money transactions seem nothing but the next logical step.

The caveat; credit cards are also proven to make you spend more than you would, had you actually been using cash. While credit cards do represent actual money, they remain a piece of plastic. You can’t see the money you spend, can’t perceive their physical absence from your wallet. And, with credit cards entrenched in our lives as they are, it would probably prove quite difficult to stop using them altogether. What then are we to do?

The solution that has proven to work best, is also the simplest one; write everything down. You know what your credit card’s limit is; make sure you subtract from that every purchase you make, keeping a tally of the money left to spend. The more you see that amount lessening the less inclined you will likely be to spend thoughtlessly.


3) Counter Impulse Buys But Treat Yourself 

You’re simply walking down the street; you haven’t planned a shopping trip, whatsoever. And then you see it. It doesn’t truly matter what “it” is. “It” might be anything, from a pair of shoes to the new collectable bobblehead you’ve been eyeing. But “it” is there, and it’s calling you. The devil on your shoulder screams that you need “it” and, before you know it, “it” is in a bag and coming home with you.

We have all, at some point, fallen prey to impulse buying in various degrees. In every case, the euphoria from the actual purchase tends to vanish the moment reality makes a swift and unforgiving return. That’s when you realise that purchase might have made you momentarily happy but, added to the rest of the impulse purchases you have indulged in lately, it has also made your bank account a rather sad sight. But how does one counter impulse buying?

Firstly, be honest with yourself; you know your likes and dislikes. So, if you’ve decided to go for a walk, make sure you avoid the stores most likely to draw you in. Make a list of the necessities for the coming month and roughly calculate the amount needed to buy them; add what your prospective impulse buy costs to that amount. If the amount you get exceeds your available funds, simply think of all the things you will have to go without; it will most likely curb your enthusiasm enough to avoid making the purchase.

And finally, moderate your impulse buying by treating yourself. Though that statement might, at first sight, appear contradictory, there is logic to its madness. Firstly, make a list of five things you would like to buy simply for your personal pleasure, within a reasonable budget. Then, set goals for yourself; think of the five things you most wish to accomplish during the coming month. Finally, make it so that each item from the former list becomes a reward for completing a task from the latter. Studied for that mid-term early? Brilliant! Here’s that new scarf you coveted. Submitted your essay a week before the actual deadline? You go, Glen Coco! Here’s the special edition Blu-ray of that movie you love.

This way you will not only get a similar -but lasting- satisfaction to impulse buying, but you will also motivate yourself to achieve your goals and increase your productivity, all the while safeguarding your bank account.


Eleni Vlassi is an international relations graduate. She has acquired an MA Degree in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy from City University and an LLM degree in International Business Law from Neapolis University of Paphos. She is now pursuing a career in international relations and journalism. Check out her LinkedIn here.

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