There’s nothing romantic about being a poor student. I know. I was one until last year.
Being short of money when you’re at Uni is a fact of life for virtually all students. The good news is that there are ways to lessen the pain – and your debt hangover when you finish.
Student money doesn’t have to be all pain. There are ways to stretch your money that you won’t even know you’re doing once you’ve trained yourself. Here are my top 10 money hacks for students that helped me survive Uni:
- Use cash. Credit cards can be dangerous and can get you into uncontrollable debt. If you use cash instead you can’t spend more than you have
- Stay home. Invite your mates (and a few members of the opposite sex) over and socialise. It won’t destroy your social life to do this a couple of nights a week. There are distinct advantages as well. The drinks are cheaper. Maybe you just hang out, play Xbox or PlayStation, or watch a movie together. Even $8 for a new release movie isn’t much shared between a few of you.
- Take your lunch from home. I know you thought you didn’t have to do that after leaving school. But cafés are expensive. Even on campus. Make sandwiches and buy fruit from the supermarket or fruit shop.
- Become a freegan. Freegans find ways of getting free food and other things they need. That doesn’t mean that you have to go as far as dumpster diving. You could also look around for events involving free food. Can you get invited to a gallery opening? It may be worth working in a restaurant or café part time if it comes with a free meal. If you need things for your flat, then check out Freecycle.org. The last time I looked there was everything from a piano to two wooden retro armchairs on offer for free. If you’re really keen, then Google the words “urban foraging” and find free fruit in your town or city.
- Give up caffeine. How much money do you waste on coffee and fizzy drinks? Probably a lot. Even if you must have fizzy drinks, buy them in bulk from the supermarket. They’ll be half the price.
- Work. Yes there are jobs out there and someone has to get them. Ten hours a week isn’t going to kill you. Don’t just restrict yourself to answering ads at student job search or jobsites. The easiest way to get a job is walk in off the street and ask for one. You can also make your own job. Offer your services (such as building, babysitting, dog walking, window washing) in your neighbourhood.
- Look for scholarships. You don’t need to be super bright to get scholarships. Sometimes they’re given out because you live in a certain area, come from a certain ethnicity or are in financial hardship. Search the BreakOut database for free at most universities and polytechnics, public libraries, or the Citizens Advice Bureaux.
- Get a spreadsheet. Yep. Make a list of all of your expenses on a spreadsheet and allocate money to each on a weekly basis.
- Downsize your phone package. Can you save money on your cellphone? Most of the major providers such as Telecom, Skinny, Vodafone and 2Degrees all have basic $16 to $19 a month packages. Get one and limit your usage. Switch to WiFi whenever you can and make free calls to friends with the same provider or on Viber or Skype.
- Sell anything that moves. Trade Me really is your friend when you’re a student. Sell the trainers you don’t wear any more, sell any old toys or books that you’re not nostalgic about, and sell last year’s text books. If you run out of your own belongings ask your parents if they have stuff they no longer want and can’t be bothered selling themselves.
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