It’s no secret that students tend to be short of cash. In fact, your college or university years might be some of the most challenging when it comes to your finances.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be difficult but it isn’t something you can do once and then forget about. Your budget needs constant tweaking and maintenance throughout the year. Ideally, you should look at your budget every week to make sure you’re still on track.
When you get your wages or allowance, make sure that your big monthly expenses, such as rent, are paid first. You don’t want to overspend as soon as you get paid, only to find you don’t have enough money for rent and food.
How to draw up a budget
Start by making a list of all your monthly expenses using an app, spreadsheet or budgeting template. If you don’t have exact amounts, round them up a little.
This will give you an idea of how much you need every month to get buy. If this amount is higher than your income, you’ll need to make adjustments to your expenses.
In a separate column, keep track of your purchases and expenses, no matter how small, throughout the month. Make a habit of keeping your slips, at least until you’ve had a chance to enter each expense and deduct it from your remaining income. This way, you’ll always know how much you have left to spend for the month.
Here are some useful apps that will make keeping track of your budget easier:
This budgeting app links directly to your bank account so your purchases are automatically tracked and your budget adjusted.
Slice will help you keep track of your online purchases and spending.
A simple app that gives you an overview of your budget as a pie chart for easy tracking throughout the month.
This app also links to your bank account and automatically files your transactions into categories.
Tips to save money
There are lots of ways to save money on a day-to-day basis as a student. Here are a few that may make a significant difference.
Buy second-hand textbooks
Take advantage of student discounts
Never go anywhere without your student ID. Lots of places offer student discounts; so don’t be afraid to ask. Even small discounts make a difference over time.
Learn to cook
Takeaways are overpriced. Even if you just learn the basics, buying and cooking your own food will save you a lot of money. There's no shortage of cooking channels on YouTube to give you some tips.
Walk or cycle to campus
If you have a car, paying for petrol could be draining your coffers unnecessarily – and even public transport is expensive. Walking or cycling everywhere will save you transportation costs, and you won't need a gym membership either!
Pitfalls to avoid
Even if you have the best intentions, there are some things that can trip you up.
Underestimating your expenses
If you can’t be 100% accurate, it’s better to round up than down. Always assume something is going to cost a little more than you anticipate. That way you’ll get a small bonus if it turns out to be cheaper.
High days and holidays
Holidays and weekends are when you’ll want to go out with friends, and it’s easy to forget your budget. Give yourself an entertainment allowance in your budget and keep a tally so you don’t overspend.
Credit is very tempting when funds are low but credit cards, overdrafts and store cards are considered bad debt. They carry fees and interest, and can easily trap you into a cycle of debt. Don't end up forking out more for repayments than for necessities.
Save on storage with XtraSpace
For students, space can be just as short as money sometimes. Storing items to free up some room makes sense. However, renting a garage or a full self-storage unit is an unnecessary expense if all you want to store is a box or two of textbooks, clothes or other personal items, or a bulky item like a bicycle or surfboard.