Student budgeting: Don't graduate into a life of debt
Always overestimate your expenses and underestimate your income. (Shutterstock)
A recent survey by savethestudent.org found that about 80 percent of students worry constantly about money. With increasing annual tuition fees, coming to approximately £12,000 (Dhs 63,390) for international students in the United Kingdom, this comes as no surprise. Combined with living expenses and a highly competitive job market, it is the perfect recipe for a stressed out university student.
These are some top tips to budget smartly and save a buck or two on the way.
Put pen to paper
Jotting down a list of predicated income and expenses is always a good idea. Whether you are paying your way through college using a student loan or with the help of the parents, estimation is useful.
This might be a little harder if you are heading to a whole new city for university. But seek guidance from older siblings, cousins or friends through this process.
Always overestimate your expenses and underestimate your income. The best-case scenario would be that your bank account is not in single digits by the end of the semester.
Refrain from splurging
The temptation to go out on a shopping spree at the start of the year, with a hefty looking bank balance, will be there. It might be upon receiving an invitation to a fancy dress party or to an expensive dinner out. Either way, your desire to impress these new friends might get the best of you.
Although it is okay to want to impress, try to embrace the smart spender that lives inside you simultaneously. Rummage through your old closest to find something to wear, make use of student discounts while shopping and eat a heavy lunch so you will be happy with soup for dinner. There is always a cost efficient way out.
Cooking is key
Those planning to live in halls, especially in North America, would most likely have a meal plan. Unfortunately if you are not living on campus or if you are heading off to the UK, where meal plans are not as commonly found, you will have to fend for yourself.
If this is the case, always try to cook. Even though the pizza menus slipped under your door might be calling out your name, do your wallet and waistline a favour and silence them with the sounds of your sizzling stove.
Cooking can be as minimal and simple as pasta in tomato sauce or a turkey sandwich. Either one is as easy to make as it is to pack for meals between classes.
Speaking of which, avoid the extra cash spent on Starbucks coffee. Accompany your homemade meal with a travel mug of coffee to keep you going for the day.
As mentioned above, student discounts can be a true blessing. Always stay up to date on new student offers and always have your student card on you.
Shopping smart does not just mean clothes and shoes. Groceries too can be bought in a highly budget friendly manner. Try splitting groceries with your flat mates. This will not just result in you spending less money on staples like rice but will also makes cooking a more social activity.
Fun tip: many grocery stores have a reduced price section with items that are close to their expiry date or fresh products that need to be sold before closing time. There is no shame in making use of such cheap buys.
Minimise the terror of textbooks
Get yourself mentally prepared for textbook buying season. When this time of the year comes around, expect you bank balance to drop in double digits.
One can minimise this damage in several ways, starting with waiting until your first class before your run to the bookstore. You may discover that you want to drop the course, or the professor might give you tips on how important each book will be for the course. Either way, patience will pay off.
Another tip that many first year students discover a little too late is the magic of second hand books. Most universities have Facebook pages for students to sell off their old textbooks and if not Amazon is always a safe bet. You may also be able to get your hands on e-books from other students for a cheaper price, or even for free. Be sure to explore all your options and to sell your books when you are done with them.
Use your cards with caution
Make a visit to your bank. Although half the words thrown at you may bore you, you will walk away having learned something.
For example you might learn the importance of a savings account. Put aside those inevitable monthly payments, such as rent and bills, in a separate account. This will allow you to have a more realistic grasp on your financial standing and monthly expenditure.
Other lessons include reducing your credit card usage. Making the minimum credit card payment each month and watching your bill pile up is never a good feeling. Use your credit card with caution and try to use ATMs that do not charge a fee for each withdrawal.
If you want to be extra cautious, be sure to download a banking app to keep tabs on your spending at all times.
“Lets Uber it?”
You will hear this question a ridiculous number of times during your university years. Of course if you are heading off to a distinctly college town, smaller in size, expenditure on transport will not be an issue.
However, if a big or even reasonably sized city is where you see yourself, getting from point A to B could be tricky. The very first thing to do is secure accommodation close to campus, allowing you to get to and from classes depending on nothing but your legs.
Secondly, travel smart. If you are a frequent public transport user, get a student travel card. If your friends need to go on a monthly grocery shop, rent a car and split the cost among the group. Finding cost efficient ways to travel will be crucial, especially for the big city kids.
Maximise your income
A little extra cash never hurt anybody. So why not get yourself a part time job if you have some time to spare? Working 11 or more hours a week on minimum wage can add up to quite a bit of disposable income. Plus, nothing beats the feeling of spending your own hard earned money.
However, if time to spare is not something you have, you could always look into less time demanding alternatives. Try taking part in paid online surveys or market focus groups and make some extra money on the side with minimal commitment.
By Natasha Malik
© Motivate Publishing. All rights reserved.
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