How do I make ends meet?

Q. I am hoping to return to school to update my degree and am having trouble managing my money.

Trying to keep myself out of debt is a very hard task. I have been working for a few years, but not making very much (falling in the lowest earning bracket) and I am paying rent amongst other bills and financial responsibilities that I have.

I have been able to get by debt-free so far, but returning to school means tuition and books and working less hours. I would really appreciate any advice you could give me on how to set up a savings fund for myself.

I am 25-years-old and just want to be led in the right direction when it comes handling my finances. I do not know where to go or how I should start?

— Denis L.

A. Staying out of debt can be a daunting task.

Updating your degree on the other hand is an excellent choice providing it will improve your current financial situation when you are completed. To ensure the transition is smooth, there are a few things you may need to consider.

Review your monthly expenses and list them in two categories: Required and discretionary expenses. If possible, eliminate or reduce the discretionary expenses. Determine the tuition for the duration of your studies and split that amount into the number of months you plan to save.

Start putting that amount aside immediately (it now becomes a required expense). Visit your local bank and set up a savings account. Some banks offer higher interest rates so shop around. It is important to keep your money safe with the opportunity for some growth.

You may need to consider the option of a second job to help with your cash flow. Once things are under control, continue with the ‘save first’ approach to build up some extra funds for future expenses and even investments for your future. Your local financial institution can provide more information and help you get started.

– Chris Alexander, MBA, BBM, PFP, FICB

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