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How to keep to a budget while at uni
If you think being a student means being poor, think again! With careful planning and a little self-restraint, you can learn to keep to a budget and not skimp on life’s necessities.
Set a budget
If the thought of drawing up a spreadsheet or tracking your purchases makes you cringe, you may just need to grin and bear it. It can be helpful to map out your major weekly, monthly or yearly expenses in advance (car insurance, rent and petrol, for example) and see how these fit in with your savings — especially if they are clumped together in one month, or worse, in one week. Setting aside an amount for emergencies means that if you’re suddenly hit with an unexpected expense, such as a large phone bill, you will be more prepared. As you plan your budget, this is a great time to think about any areas where you can cut back to save money; while expenses such as rent are a necessity, weekly outings and designer clothes are not.
Prepare meals at home
This is a student budgeting staple. While takeaway meals are quick and delicious, the cost really does accumulate over time. Even the relatively small cost of a takeaway latté can add up — a coffee each weekday over four weeks can cost more than $70!
Even if you only commit to taking your own lunch to uni (whether you make a sandwich or snap up dinner leftovers), you will find yourself saving upwards of $40–50 per week. You can even draw up a cooking roster or pre-make and freeze meals to eat throughout the week, which will save you both time and money. When you do go out for lunch or dinner, look for cheaper options — splitting a pizza or dumpling dish with a friend are both good examples. And remember, pubs and bars may also offer discounts when you show your student card.
Learn to ‘shop smart’
Whether you’re buying food, clothes or even heading out with friends, a little bit of smart shopping can pay off in the long run — and doesn’t mean always saying ‘no’. Instead, you might do some research to see which stores offer student discounts or how prices compare between your local supermarket and the nearby fruit and veg market. You might also find that certain nights of the week (cheap Tuesday) are more ‘budget friendly’.
Take advantage of second-hand options
This includes anything from clothing and furniture to electronics and textbooks. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save. A brand new textbook, for example, can cost around $100 (more if you are studying a theory-heavy degree). Purchasing a second-hand copy from a past student is guaranteed to save you money (especially if the book goes untouched until exam time). You can also scope out garage sales or local markets and snap up a few bargains — or better yet, contact the market organiser and set up your own stall to earn some cash.