Be responsible, not naïve
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. April 7, 2015
Take a look at your finances: do they look the like the peaks and valleys of North Vancouver? Probably, right? Many of us dream of a consistent cash flow where we can buy what we need and still have extra money to get what we want. However, for most of us in college, university, or simply pursuing a volatile career, we cannot always bet that funds will be there when we need them. So does that mean we are destined for a life of uncertainty?
Now, I’m not going to guarantee your success. Living on a fluctuating income is anything but a guarantee, so I’m not going to sugarcoat it. There will be days where paycheques are bursting from your wallet and other days where you are certain bankruptcy is just around the corner. The highs will be high and the lows will be horrendous. The key for living with inconsistency is to even out the peaks and valleys so there is some certainty.
When you do have an influx of money, don’t spend it immediately on something frivolous. Pocket it. Prepare for those downhill moments when a few extra dollars can make a big difference. Break it down to what you must have and what you could have, the leftover bits can then be set aside for indulgences like a night out, a new piece of technology, or a trip somewhere exotic—the choice is yours.
Think of your income as a whole entity and then break it up into various parts performing different duties for you. Determine an amount for savings and investments. I’m not the biggest believer in savings, because I enjoy living for the moment. The thing is I don’t want to be hungry and living on the street. If work dries up or an accident happens, make sure you have a bit of a cushion. Tax-free savings tend to be a good option for students and post-graduates because of the low-risk money saving attributes. You won’t get rich, but it might save you from being broke. Then determine what you have for survival: rent, food, fuel, and social life.
Don’t be naïve. It’s true that in the end everything will probably be alright—after all, we live in a society where nobody starves. Alright might mean returning home to your parents. Alright might mean being in debt for a few decades more than expected. Alright might mean job-hunting for several more seasons. Alright can mean different things to different people. You don’t want to be alright, you want to be well-off. So with something like inconsistent income, it’s critical to be responsible and resist lifestyle inflation until you have established some balance. Peaks and valleys are great for a rollercoaster, but it’s sure exhausting on a daily basis.