Student life on a budget
Thinking of student life and the idea of struggling financially will come to many people’s minds, so learning how to save money as a student is going to be a useful skill. Read more for tips on how to save money as a student.
There’s no denying that students often get a pretty bad reputation for their questionable money management skills.
Going to college is likely to be your very first time living away from home, and with all of that newfound independence, combined with a lump sum of cash dropped into your bank account at the start of the term, comes the temptation to spend your money exactly how you want to.
Although that’s certainly not the case for everyone, it’s still no secret that when you’re a student, money is tight nonetheless.
With student loans barely stretching to cover the cost of rent alone, it’s no surprise that these days, the very thought of having to get by on a student budget is putting more and more young people off the idea of going to college at all.
Whilst it’s definitely no easy road, living on a student budget is, of course, entirely possible – all it takes is some money savviness.
To help see you through the academic year, here are some easy peasy ways to save money as a student to make sure your money stretches further at college.
Importance of saving money as a student
However, the truth is that there are lots of ways that you can ensure you’re spending your money the right way and saving some as well. And not only will you have a fresh outlook when you come back from college at the end of the day, but you’ll also have a sound financial footing to fall back on.
When you have access to some form of financial aid such as a student loan, or a scholarship from your college, you’re able to keep a tight grip on your budget.
The biggest downside of student life is the fact that once you graduate from college, the world’s economy isn’t quite as nice as it is when you’re a student – especially when the financial crisis is in full flow.
Most of the money you will earn throughout your student life will be spent on living costs, so you need to spend as little as possible. Not only is it better to have some leftover to get a student loan when you finally apply, but there’s also the importance of building a savings account to pay for that great coffee or lunch every day when the term finishes.
For many students, spending your hard-earned cash on an oversized pizza, or a pint of ice cream is the ultimate student pastime. However, it can be very dangerous to not use that money wisely.
It’s important to remember that being a student is about choosing to save for something much more valuable, like further education, or, in many cases, a career.
Find ways to cut back on the amount of money you spend each month, and to make sure you’re putting it in the right places.
Set yourself a budget, and stick to it, it’s a good idea to set some realistic money-saving goals.
Once you’ve been at college for a while and you’ve got a handle on your finances, you can begin to treat yourself to the things you like.
Make a Budget
While not everyone is as resourceful as Nick Knowles when it comes to organizing his finances, it is possible to get a rough idea of what you’re spending your money on.
Think about how much you eat, how many books you’ve bought, how many pizzas you’ve had, and if there are any traditions you’re not a fan of.
Once you have a more detailed picture of how much is in your bank account, it’s time to break out the pen and paper.
College is a long, unbroken period of time, with the majority of your time spent inside the College walls. Time is a very precious commodity, and the idea of having to spend a substantial amount of your studying time in a lecture hall, or eating at a campus restaurant can be daunting.
One of the most important things to do if you want to save money as a student is to get a budget.
Whether you’re living away from home for the first time or not, you’re going to want to set yourself a financial limit that you know you can only spend and stick to.
Once you know exactly how much money you’re allowed to spend on food and how much you’re allowed to spend on your coursework, you’ll be able to keep a keen eye out for places to economize and get yourself some great bargains on things that you normally wouldn’t consider buying.
The key is to keep an eye on your cash flow; knowing how much money you have in your account each month, how much you’re spending each week, and how much money you’ve got in your savings account is all it takes to set yourself up for a healthy financial future.
Track your expenses
If you’re aiming to save as much money as possible, the best way to do that is by spending your money in the best way possible.
Just like every other form of spending money, you need to make sure you’re tracking your spending.
Ideally, you want to be recording how much you spend each month on certain products or services. This can be a painful process, but one you’ll learn a lot from.
You don’t need to treat every single time you spend money on the same level as you would a luxury item. You can avoid this by making sure you go through your accounts and identify which of your spending categories really aren’t good for your money.
Start saving and then budget your spending. It can be difficult to break the habit of spending your money as you see it, but the truth is that you will only get a better grasp of your finances if you start tracking your spending regularly.
Once you start doing this, you can create a budget for yourself so that you know exactly where your money is going and what you need to do to save.
You need to be organized with your money if you want to enjoy a clean slate and keep your bank account happy.
Track your expenses throughout the month, or better yet, mark them down on your weekly bank statement and write out a monthly summary to keep a close eye on your money-spending habits. “If you aren’t tracking your money and expenditure, it is difficult to even know where your money goes,” financial expert Patrick Connolly explains.
I suggest buying a decent Excel spreadsheet to track income and expenditure. You can either use paper or upload an Excel file.”
Identify needs and wants
Student life means that you’re going to need quite a few things getting started – in your books, phone, laptop, and snacks, to name a few – but you need to make sure that you’re aware of the real costs of purchasing the items you need. These need to be based around your needs, so for example, you’re likely to want to buy books, stationery, and snacks, so it’s helpful to buy all of these in bulk or bundles.
There’s no point in buying your stationery in large quantities and stocking up all of a sudden in the middle of the term, as you’ll probably only have them for a short period of time. Instead, buy your stationery in smaller quantities and store them in your room.
If you’re interested in buying books, a good way to cut down on costs is to buy a used copy, or just re-use the ones you already own.
It’s a good idea to write out an outline of the things that you need and the things that you want in life, then compare the two. Are there any items that you’ll get tired of having around? How much can you actually put towards each item?
An ideal starter list would include things like a desk, bed, fridge, cooker, washing machine, and washing detergent. Not everything will be needed each and every day,
You may find yourself having to make some compromises, but using a simple Excel spreadsheet or an app like Quicken to track expenses can be really helpful in finding the best ways to keep your budget balanced and your needs fulfilled.
Stick to the budget
College is a time when many students do need to purchase clothes and equipment for their course, and also for enjoying some fun in between their studies. With that in mind, student life is about stretching a budget to its limits, so make sure you stick to the one you have been given.
You can’t afford to waste your money unnecessarily, so it’s a good idea to take the time to study your college’s budget and only spend what you have been allocated.
By putting a stop to the temptation to buy that new favorite drink or even that great mobile phone or laptop, you’ll make this year of your life so much easier.
The easiest way to ensure that you’re not just splurging on shiny objects, but also saving some of that cash, is to stick to the budget.
You’re still at the stage where you’re trying to establish a savings habit, so it may be hard to understand exactly how important savings are, but the more you put in the savings jar, the more you’ll end up with when it comes to paying for those shiny things later on.
Be smart about how you pay school fees
Tuition fees are undoubtedly a huge expense when going to college. The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) defines tuition fees as A fee that a college, or university charges every student, to cover the cost of teaching and/or student facilities, maintenance, and other services.
The cost of these services may include learning and research equipment and materials; maintenance; security; furniture; and maintenance. Tuition fees are paid directly by the student to the institution. The phrase, “You get what you pay for”, is one of those things that is very true – and for good reason!
Financial planners will warn you to plan your finances with your bank, even when you’re planning your student budget because they can see your spending habits. So, make sure that your bank knows exactly how much money you have available for spending, as well as the specific fees that you’re paying.
It may sound a little fiddly and time-consuming, but tracking your bank account will help you to understand your spending habits. As well as this, you’ll be able to see when you’ve already exceeded your weekly overdraft, so you can pay it down early.
DON’T WASTE your meal plan dollars
Remember, your meal plan is your saving grace when it comes to food. Having a plethora of food that’s absolutely free comes in extremely handy when your budget is a bit tight. This is not the time to be buying random takeaway pizzas and scoffing them in front of a row of mirrors in a club.
Go for healthy food options, like eating a salad instead of going out for a curry. By not having a meal plan, you need to think about how you’re going to make sure you’re going to eat.
If you only have a few meals in a week, think about packing a salad, eggs, soup, and maybe a tub of hummus and crackers. If you’re more inclined to go out and spend money on food, then find ways to save on this.
Learn to cook some meals that you can just reheat later, like grilled chicken and rice or roasted vegetables. Budget. Budget. Budget. Spend as much as you can on what you need and nothing more.
Don’t buy unnecessary items
Now that you’re no longer eating three meals a day cooked by your parents, you’re going to want to spend your spare cash on things that you know you actually need.
There’s no shame in buying a new phone or a new laptop, but you’ll probably be better off spending that money on something more useful that will last you for a while.
Even if you’re renting a flat or a house, there are a few small essentials that you should make sure you purchase in advance – like bedding or towels. Say no to things that you’re not interested in.
While it’s tempting to spend money on new accessories for your next tattoo or new leather jacket, you’re probably going to be better off saving up for those items and buying them when you’re ready.
Even if it’s only to cut down on those dreaded supermarket purchases, getting involved in all the latest news and exciting discount trends can help you save. But, there are ways to cut costs too, such as collecting coupons from online supermarkets and also organizing and attending local clearance sales.
Though I personally would always rather give a gift to the person who deserves it, if you can find a coupon for something you like (and are a little bit scared of), it’s worth popping it in your ‘special offers’ folder.
Being a student doesn’t mean you have to part with everything, or feel that you can’t splurge sometimes. Coupons are the perfect way to save a little money without feeling like you’re spending the rest of your month in student finance hell!
If you’ve read all of the advice above and still find yourself wishing you could save more cash, you might want to consider making a few changes to your spending patterns.
If you are finding it hard to save money, try using a list of all of the things you currently spend money on and prioritize spending cuts or changes you can make.
Rather than spending $4.13 on a coffee and spending $11.09 on a full-price meal, make the change and stick to the alternative. Making small changes to your habits can be difficult, but the benefits are incredibly positive, so give it a try!