Part of being a university student is starting to take responsibility for your own finances and spending. As a new fully-fledged adult, you’re entering into a world of managing your own money for the things you need, and this can be a daunting task for any student who may be unsure where to start, or how to effectively plan where their money is allocated. Luckily, there are lots of tips and tricks to surviving on a student budget, and making the most of your student experience.
Establishing a budget and planning ahead is extremely important when looking to effectively use your money. Don’t just ‘wing it’ and hope your expenditures fall into the right place. Either draw up your own monthly budget, use an online spreadsheet, or search for a pre-made online tool for managing where your money goes. Include everything you might need to be spending money on in the near future, and calculate where you will be with the expenses you have now or ones you know will be coming in. Stick to that budget, and you know you won’t go over.
The first point of discussion in managing money is school-related expenses, because tuition and other educational costs make up a lot of what most university students worry about paying for. Hopefully you know how you will be paying tuition throughout your degree, whether it be through loans or money saved from working, but it is also worth looking into scholarships offered. Not all of them will be presented to you upon your application to university (such as an academic one), and you must apply on your own to be considered. It is always worth looking into scholarships that are offered, especially particular ones that not everyone is eligible for, as this undoubtedly gives those applicants a better chance. Additionally, there are often paid positions offered to students (usually communicated through mass email) that can help you earn a bit extra. Usually these are research positions or on-campus jobs, such as being a Residence Advisor. You should also be aware of extra costs for classes not taken in the core term, such as online classes which are extra, something to take into account if you are thinking of trying to get ahead during the summer. Lastly, textbooks are a necessity but an extra cost, and it is always worth trying to rent, and ideally rent used, which can save a huge amount of money. You should also check around with older students or students who have taken the course previously, as they may still have old textbooks lying around that they are looking to sell – probably at a reduced price.
Groceries are another unavoidable expense, but one that can, with the right planning, be a cost greatly reduced. First and foremost, make sure you know if your grocery store has a student discount day. Most do, where one day a week students get a small discount – but it is not often widely advertised, so do ask. Grocery stores also always have weekly sales and deals on specific items, so it is always worth looking through the flyers. It can save a ton of money if the purchases you make are based on what is on sale, or if you can buy items together that are part of a deal. Regardless, you should always have a premade list written out before you shop, ideally based on what you actually know you will need that week. Meal planning and meal-prepping comes in handy here, and guarantees you won’t be wasting food, buying things you know you don’t need, or tempted to eat out every day of the week. Walking into a huge grocery store and picking things up randomly because they look good is possibly the worst way to buy effectively. Most students also usually enjoy a good cup of coffee, so if you are drinking coffee every morning, it is 100% worth investing in your own coffee machine, and also a reusable cup that you can bring with you to class – that way you won’t be able to make the excuse that you have to buy your own coffee because you didn’t have time to drink coffee at home. There is nothing wrong with purchasing the occasional coffee, but having the option to make your own is a good money-saving technique for any student who often needs a caffeine-boost.
Rent and housing is another needed cost to add to your budget, and one that is a bit easier to calculate since you know your rent will be the same each month. It is worth noting that having roommates to share the cost is usually a cheaper way to rent, and guarantees all costs are shared. You might also consider really scouting around for deals on necessary household items. Value Village, for example, often has great deals on kitchen and bedroom items. You might also consider looking into selling old items at second-hand and consignment stores to generate a little more cash, and get back a bit of what you spent on the item.
Lastly, but still importantly, it would be ideal to have some money at your disposal for fun. A night out here, a meal out there, a movie or a coffee, anything that isn’t deemed “necessary” that you would like to treat yourself to. If you can, leave a small leeway for fun things to make your day a little brighter. Calculate into your budget one or two coffee shop drinks, a biweekly meal out, a new book or study notebook – whatever you feel you might want to spend a small part of your budgeting on that isn’t necessarily needed, but perhaps will help you through your day or week.