Heading to college or university for the first time is a rite of passage for many youths. Every day, you get to explore a whole new city, meet interesting new people, or even gain exposure to new ways of thinking. Though this newfound sense of independence can be extremely liberating, adulting can be hard.
However, it also means that you become responsible for a whole lot else too, chief of which is the art of financial management. As various loans and grants start to flood in, many students suddenly find themselves with the kind of spending power that they’ve never experienced before and, as a result, they do what they want. As our favourite neighbourhood Spider-Man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”. It’s important to maintain control, therefore, and learn to balance your lifestyle costs without stretching beyond your means.
The question is: “Do you even need to budget?” The answer (clearly) is: YES!
To be honest, I don’t really want you to have to put a whole ton of thought into budgeting. It should be simple and, after some initial setup, it should become little more than a background process in your head. It shouldn’t be an item of too much concern once you’ve structured everything correctly and fixed your spending habits.
Let me tell you a secret (not so secret anymore though): budgeting is very, very important. The lack of cheat codes and the general importance of having enough money to eat mean you need to have a little bit of budgeting competence.
If you’re stressing over not being able to make rent next month or having to eat ramen noodles for dinner again, worry no more! I’m here to impart my thoughts and experience in the realm of budgeting in university life. As a student, you’ve got to deal with several factors that don’t come up in other stages of life – and you’ve generally got pretty small coffers to boot. If you want to actually graduate from college and be debt-free, well, you’ll need to master a few money-saving tips.
Here are a few ways you can help yourself live on a budget.
Everything goes more smoothly when you plan. Budgeting is no different. It can definitely be challenging to add to the pile of things on your to-do-list, but once you get the hang of it, it's worth the effort.
First, weigh in how much cash you have coming in to manage how much of it can go out. Put together all the money you receive monthly, whether it's from your family, scholarship or grant, or a job. Then, start to think about the essentials that you have to spend on each month.
Things like rent, utilities, and transportation should be fixed expenses that you need to set aside each month. Variable expenses like groceries, dining out, medical care, clothing, and entertainment are the things you should focus on budgeting as much as you can. Once you have it all written down, decide whether you want a monthly or weekly budget, and give yourself a specific allowance based on your calculated expenses.
As tempting as it may be to exchange your newfound wealth with non-essential clothing, snacks, and etc., putting a small amount on the side at the start of the month is a sensible idea. It isn’t only an essential adulting skill but also forms the basis of financial security and independence, ensuring you’re never short of money towards the end of the month. It’s definitely easier than you think too! Even if it means putting all your coins in a piggy bank in the corner of your hostel room, it’s still a start.
Whether you're in an off or on-campus residence, there should be a kitchen with appliances. So hibernate your Grab and Foodpanda applications (use them once in a while to treat yourself) and get cooking! Ordering take-outs is undoubtedly more comfortable and faster, but it's also hurting your wallet! If it's about not having time to cook, then the solution is to meal-prep every weekend for the entire week. If cooking is a new thing for you, text your mom to send your favourite home-cooked recipes and make it a challenge to cook them just like her. You can even invite your friends to help and make a fun activity out of it.
As some on-campus residences do not allow cooking, make sure to look into places which do. Even though they do not offer a stove, you can invest in a portable one like a butane gas tin or an induction cooker (if you can afford) and you are good to go.
Ideally, you should try to live as close to campus as possible, even if the rent is a little higher, it might still be cheaper overall because you wouldn’t have to pay for transportation costs. But if this isn’t feasible, then consider ways in which you can minimise your commuting outlay. If driving is your best option, consider carpooling with your friends. That way you can split parking and petrol costs. Alternatively, look for student deals and offers on public transport!
Carrying your student ID wherever you go will guarantee you discounts at many places. Most public transportation offers student discounts as well as restaurants, cafes, and some local museums and entertainment centres. Once the COVID-19 situation settles down and everyone’s back on-campus, you can participate in activities that Taylor’s organises instead of spending money from your pocket on external events!
Living on a budget can be restricting, especially as a student, but as you can see, with some due care and attention to your financial outgoings, you don’t need to compromise your fun and successful time at university. In fact, planning your finances in advance makes it easier to tackle any issues that may arise along the way, minimising unnecessary stress levels and allowing you to be thoroughly prepared to take action.
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