For many students, budgeting and managing their own finances are a nightmare. It might be your first time being responsible for all your expenses on a regular basis, or just that you have bad habits and tend to splurge on things when you shouldn’t. Either way, living on a student budget is difficult. Here are some tips on how to save your money and build good spending habits.
1. Buy used textbooks and sell them when you are done with them
Textbooks are expensive, and often available second-hand through seniors, or even some bookstores around campus. So, save your money and don’t buy brand new textbooks that you’ll most probably end up using for that one paragraph on page 394.
2. Never go grocery shopping hungry
When you go grocery shopping hungry, you tend to get a lot of food you may be craving but will not eat when you get back. Or worse, you will buy a lot of junk food which will affect both your health and your budget. Remember to make a shopping list and stick to it. Also, it is generally a good idea to go grocery shopping in the afternoons, when the store will be less full so that you don’t feel rushed or crowded.
3. Limit the number of time you eat out
Those of you who were thinking, “Nah, I’m not going to go grocery shopping, that doesn’t apply to me,” about the previous point, remember, eating out is a lot more expensive than cooking your own meals. Small, simple meals that require little to no effort can also save you a lot of money compared to eating out every day.
4. Use cash, not card
It’s great to have one for emergencies, but when you start paying with your debit or credit card instead of cash, you can lose track of how much you’re spending. You often end up buying things without thinking of the costs because you aren’t handling the money, just swiping a card.
5. Shop when there are sales
This is a no-brainer. Take advantage of back-to-school sales and holiday promotions! There’s nothing more exciting than going shopping and finding out your favorite item is half off. Or maybe there is. We love to shop.
6. Look out for student discounts
Many restaurants, cafes, even clothing stores will have student discounts. Also, places like theme parks, amusement parks, museums, movie theaters, etc. might also have student specials. Take advantage of your student card while you still have it.
7. Compare prices of expensive items online
Always shop smart. If the same item is available at another store for $50 less, you know what you have to do. This usually happens with groceries too. Upscale stores may add a dollar here and a dollar there to all their items, and over any grocery items over a lot of trips, you could be spending $100 more on groceries a semester and not even realize it! Try to shop smart. (That also means not travelling an additional 10km for a $5 discount on one item.)
8. Use public transport
Don’t take cabs or drive everywhere. Public transport is both cheaper and better for the environment. So, do your part for both the world and your wallet and take the train/bus. (Unless the public transport where you live *cough* KTM *cough* is unreliable most of the time)
9. For short distances, get a bicycle, or even walk it’s healthy and inexpensive!
Always remember to stay safe, not travel alone when you feel it is a risky or isolated area, and let a friend or family member know about your whereabouts and destination.
10. Sell items you no longer need
There are many online marketplaces for students to sell their used goods, like bar-fridges, mattresses, clothes, books, bicycles, etc. Sell what you don’t need to get more money and space in your room!
11. Don’t get a fancy gym membership, use your university’s gym or go for a jog outside.
You are paying for all your campus facilities, so make use of them. Most universities have fully equipped gyms and swimming pools available for all their students. Try using those instead of signing up for a fancy gym membership. Plus, you’re more likely to go to something that’s on campus and already close to you, and you can bring a friend along!
12. Save electricity turn off lights, unplug chargers and turn off electronic devices when not in use
If you’re living off-campus, or have to pay electricity/airconditioning bills on campus, try not to waste electricity. It’s a good idea even if you don’t have to pay for it because you’re not wasting energy and saving the environment.
13. Collect change in a jar it adds up
10 cents here and 50 cents there-who’s going to keep track of that? But if you have a jar in your room where you empty your coin purse every few days, the change adds up!
14. Use Whatsapp, Skype and other apps rather than spending money on texts and calls.
Your phone bill can add up to quite a lot if you’re a heavy user. There are literally thousands of apps that will provide the same services for free. Use them and save your money!
15. Recycle gifts you don’t want
Often we receive gifts we can’t imagine using, ever. But they’re from friends or family who really do mean well. Those times, the best idea is to just recycle the gifts and re-gift it to someone who would appreciate it more. Of course, keep track of who gives you what. It would be embarrassing to give someone their own gift back!
16. Do your own manicures
As a student, beauty treatments and expensive spa packages are most likely out of your budget, especially on a regular basis. Buy an inexpensive manicure kit or facial mask and learn to manage your own grooming regimen.
17. Most importantly, make a budget!
If you don’t have a budget, you will not remember how much you can spend on a category, like eating out or movies; and if you don’t have an account, you won’t keep track of how much money you are spending. It’s important to plan out your finances and review how you are doing so that you can adjust and stay on track. Good luck!
Written by: Peh Xin Ying