Among students, it is quite normal to casually admit to having a lot of month left at the end of the money. But the same thing happens to WUR graduates with an excellent salary and you never hear them talk about it: taboo! Shame won’t get rid of money worries, however. On the contrary.
To help employees stay or become financially healthy – money worries often leave their mark on someone’s life and even work – WUR regularly offers an online workshop on financial resilience via vital@work. Resource attended one such session and noted the following eye-openers.
1. It’s not about money
Financial stress is not about money, but about behaviour — things you do or do not do with your money, emphasize the trainers, Eef van Opdorp and Petra Verstappen, both budget coaches. The biggest pitfall is that a lot of behaviour happens on autopilot.
And as money stress increases, the rather hedonistic primitive brain (‘yolo’ – you only live once) increasingly takes over from the more sensible neocortex. Result: the greater your money worries, the more irrational your (intuitive) financial decisions. The remedy? Avoid impulsive decisions about money, because your yolo brain is bound to dominate those and you will stay broke. So: shop with a list, sleep at least one night on any major purchase, constantly remind yourself that a new purchase is not the same as instant happiness, and so on. In other words: train your brain.
2. Avoid the minefield
Retailers know exactly which buttons to push to tempt you into making that purchase. Are you feeling a bit wobbly or are you just sick of all that constant manipulation? Stay away from shops, including online ones. Limit yourself to your essential shopping – and compare prices, say some workshop participants, who save up to 40 euros a week by doing so.
3. The influence of your past
To handle money wisely, you need to build a healthy relationship with money. But if money carries an emotional charge from your youth, that can go on reverberating for a long time. For instance, were there money worries at home, or did your parents argue a lot about money? Chances are that your subconscious equates money with hassle and urges you to stay away from it. The trick is to see money for what it is: just money. It doesn’t bring happiness, but neither is it filth that you should stay away from.
4. Having enough money makes you careless
As people start earning more, they often get more casual with money. There is no need to keep track of your spending. But if anything unexpected happens – your energy bill triples, you’re laid off work or your partner kicks you out – you still end up in trouble. And, less dramatically but still a shame: you unwittingly spend a lot of money on things that aren’t worth it. A daily caramel macchiato for 4.95 euros may not seem like it breaks the bank but it adds up to nearly 1300 euros a year. Do you really want to spend that much on it?
5. The 10-cent rule
Financial resilience requires a buffer, everyone knows that. But how big should such a buffer be? According to budget coaches, a good rule of thumb – one that is also worth teaching your children if you have any – is to set aside 10 cents of every euro that comes in.
6. Just do it…
Hate administration? Tell me about it. But the budget coaches’ advice is: just think of it as a well-paid job. Knowing what comes in and what goes out is the only way to keep track of your money.
Reluctantly, Resource bites the bullet on a rainy day in the Christmas holidays. I cull my subscriptions, cancel unnecessary paid apps, call insurers and internet providers about cheaper options… and yes: in one afternoon I saved over 400 euros! That’s the way to get the hang of it.
Blogs on students and cents
Journalist Maaike Wind didn’t dare look at how high her student debt was for years. Until she did look, got the shock of her life, and was so horrified that she paid off more than 30,000 euros in two years. Her blog Fuckdiestudieschuld (Fuck that student debt) is highly recommended for anyone who wants to get smarter with their money. The blog Skere student by Resource columnist and finfluencer Emma Mouthaan is also full of useful money tips.
Help with serious money worries
If you have (looming) financial problems, the sooner you tackle them the better. Don’t keep trying to muddle through on your own; overcome your diffidence and get help. Useful addresses in Wageningen include Humanitas Thuisadministratie en Schuldhulpmaatje Wageningen, where buddies will help you organize your administration, get an overview of your finances and start dealing with any debts. If your money worries are so big that they affect your work or studies, you can also go to WUR for support. Staff can consult the occupational social workers and students can go to the student deans to work out their options together.