My university days are not that far behind me, so before I grow fat off my software developer’s salary (fat chance! – pun intended) and forget what it was like, I though I’d write down some eminently practical advice on how to be more money conscious as a student.
None of this is going to be mind blowing stuff, I am not going to tell you how to make millions so you don’t have to worry about money. Oh alright I will, all you need to do is write the next big social media application and “wham bam thank you ma’am” you’re on easy street. For those of us back on Earth however, I’ll just try to give some tips on how you can hopefully save money and go from being perpetually out of cash to being perpetually low on it (let’s face it there is no tip I can give that will make you perpetually loaded with cash as a student, unless that social media thing works out for you). I am also going to try and make these tips fun unlike some other articles such as this one or this one, which are great but less fun.
Anyway, let’s begin. After careful analysis, study and collaboration with a multitude of experts with impressive titles such as Ph.D. I’ve concluded that 98% of students need more money to do stuff (the other 2% are waiting for their trust fund to mature). Now that I got your attention by quoting respected scienticians and citing highly relevant statistics (they tell me that kind of stuff works on the internet), we can really begin.
It boils down to this. There is only a limited number of things that are important to students/young people, and these are as follows:
- A Place To Live
- Getting Home Late At Night
- Books (textbooks)
- Fees (you know, all that money your school
gouges charges for your education)
Ok , there are lots of other things, but plenty of dating sites/blogs already cover those pretty well, so I won’t be covering that here. We are going to go through each one of the point I mention above and see how to be more money-savvy with each one.
1. Alcohol (also known as Alcamahol)
I am not going to preach about the dangers of drinking and how we should all quit and become missionaries in the jungles of Columbia (help save the drug lords from themselves). Students have always drink, are probably drinking right now, and no doubt will be drinking in the future.
You can however be smart about your drinking. Firstly, drinking less certainly helps, but that’s not for everyone. Therefore secondly, don’t drink while you’re out! Drink before you go out. That’s right, get your drink on at home and then head out all buzzed up and ready to party. The reason you do this is because you can buy alcohol in bulk and store it at your house which comes out a hell of a lot cheaper then getting drinks one at a time in a bar. It’s not rocket science, so why don’t more people do it.
Thirdly, when you’re buying your alcohol in bulk, buy it at the right time. For example, in between holidays and not during holidays. It’s supply and demand, during holidays alcohol is in demand so it will be more expensive, during a holiday lull it will be in less demand and therefore cheaper. So, find these times and stock up. Here are some calculations (I love calculations):
- 1 bottle of vodka = 24 standard drinks – $40
- 3 bottles of soft drink (to mix with the vodka) – $10
- overall you’ll need $50 to have 24 drinks
- 1 drink at the bar – $6-$10
- 24 drinks at the bar – $144-$240
- see the difference?
If you’re REALLY short of money, temporarily cutting alcohol (and other illicit substances) out completely will certainly take you a long way plus your liver will thank you when you’re forty.
We all want to wear nice clothes, the best brands and all that, especially the metrosexual guys and the girls who like “Sex And The City”. However, the whole point of brands is that you’re paying a premium for the brand name. The quality or the look of the clothes is not necessarily improved by having a brand name attached to it. They are all made in China in the same “factory” anyway.
What I am saying is, you can buy generic brand clothing that will look just as good and will be of the same quality, you just need to shop smart and only buy stuff that you really like (rather than what the cute shop assistant liked). Shopping becomes an even more time consuming process, but you have time, it is money that you’re short on.
However, if you simply can’t deal with not having a cool piece of leather with a funky name stuck all over your jacket, then consider this. There are plenty of little known brands trying to break in to the business, these are once again the same exact clothes (with possibly minor cosmetic differences), but you’ll be paying much less of a premium for the brand name, since it is not very well known. So buying some niche or new brand clothes can save you some cash, plus you can brag to your friends about how you’re supporting up-and-coming young designers.
One last thing, girls, sorry to crush your spirit and all, but guys really aren’t impressed by how expensive and trendy your clothes are or how well the brands complement each other. They really seriously don’t know the difference, if they it seems like they are interested, they are only pretending because they like you, that’s a good thing, but trust me, you’re not wowing them with your fashion sense.
Have you considered if you actually really need a car. Cars are expensive, registration, insurance, regular servicing, the costs are ongoing and not insignificant. If you really have a think about how you live your life, you might find that 99% percent of the time, you can get everywhere you need to go by public transport. Sure it is not as comfortable and possibly slower (unless you need to drive during peak-hour), but once again you have the time, you’re short on money.
Getting rid of your car can relieve you of a significant financial burden. Sure sometimes, the car is necessary, but even in most of those situations, you could probably get away with getting yourself a bicycle. Haven’t thought of that one have you? It can be almost as fast as a car in many situation, can take you pretty long distances and as a side benefit get you fit. There is only a very limited number of situations where a car is strictly necessary for a student, the rest are just throwing money away. Consider carefully which group you belong to.
One last thing, guys, sorry to crush your spirit and all, but girls really aren’t impressed by your car, and how modded it is and which way your rims spin. They really seriously don’t know the difference, if it seems like they are interested, they are only pretending because they like you (which is a good sign, but I digress). So it is not an essential accessory, it is just a mode of transportation, an expensive one.
When we are students there is one thing we do more than any other. No, it is not studying, it is going out. Parties, events, meeting friends etc., students are always out somewhere. Inevitably these things run late and by the time everyone is ready to go home, the only way to get there, is to take a cab.
Well my advice to you is this, if you want to save cash, don’t use them. Cabs are the devils own transport when it comes to being financially conscious, they don’t run on gas, they run on cash, your cash.
My advice to you is this, if you’re going to be staying out late, either organize somewhere for you to stay where you can simply
crawl walk to, alternatively just keep going through the night until you can catch public transport home again. You’ll get a sweet reputation as a party animal and save cash all at the same time. What more need be said.
5. A Place To Live
Just like those dudes in “Braveheart”, we all want out freedom. Students want to be fairly independent or at least want a corner of their own free from people bugging them. This is why many students move out of their parents house – big mistake. Sure it is sometimes unavoidable, many move away when they go to university and surely have to live somewhere. But if you’re not moving away or have close relatives where you’re moving away to. Do seriously consider bumming a free place to live for the duration of your student days.
When you move out, rent is going to be your second biggest expense (after alcamahol), so if you can avoid incurring it, do so at any cost. Not only can you save money on rent if you stay with your parents, but food, bills and a multitude of other miscellaneous things and you’ll get more time to
party study, cause you don’t have to rush around trying to switch your electricity back on cause you forgot to pay the bill.
There are downsides, certainly. For example, your mum might find your stack of magazines (by this age you’ll probably have a pretty respectable-sized stack) that your storing for the wonderful article content. But, it is a new age these days, most of those magazines are available online and we can password protect ‘em there – problem solved. All these problems, they are just details, saving a bunch of cash that you can use for more important things, that’s reality.
Before internet and Amazon and stuff, they used to have these places where they would store a bunch of books and you could just come and in and borrow some of these books for free, I kid you not. Libraries are sadly overlooked these days. We are constantly bombarded by things we should buy and how we should buy them. Textbooks, don’t have to be one of those things.
You don’t need to buy textbooks, chances are you can borrow the same book at the library if you need it. If you can’t borrow the same one, you can borrow one similar enough that it makes no difference. If you can’t do that you can probably find most of the info online anyway.
You have to really consider if the textbook that is assigned will actually be used to teach the course or will it be used as a reference. I’ve found that no more than 5% of textbooks are actually useful and about 2% of those are strictly necessary.
The key is not to rush, wait and see if the textbook is being used. If it is one of the essential ones then by all means splash out and buy one, otherwise don’t bother. With the amount of money textbooks cost these days, just following this simple tip can improve your financial situation considerably.
Ok not everyone will be able to swing this one, but it makes a tremendous amount of financial sense, if you can get a loan from your parents or relatives interest free, do it and use it to pay your student fees upfront.
The loans that you take out to pay your fees are not the bad thing, the interest is the bad thing, no matter how small. Trying paying your loans back over a decade or two and just watch that tiny interest compound. Paying upfront will save you from that interest, plus you can often get discounts when you pay upfront so it makes even more sense in that regard.
As I said, most people won’t be able to do this one since they don’t have anyone they can mooch an interest free loan off, but if you can find someone, go for it. Many people don’t consider this option even when it is available because they don’t want to place the financial burden on their parents. I say don’t worry too much about it, your parents would probably be happy to take on that burden (cause they hopefully love you and stuff) and when you’re all graduated and earning the big bucks, you can certainly help your parents out without having to worry about interest eating half your wages.
Ok, that’s it. I’ve covered all my points. Hmmm, doesn’t seem like enough does it, lets see, more tips… ummm… work hard, don’t do drugs, obey the law … gee really putting me on the spot here … don’t eat cheese with a little knife that just looks fruity, wear clean underwear if you’re gonna record yourself doing the Macarena and put it on YouTube. Ok, I am fresh out of tips now.
Just to put on my serious cap for a little while. As much fun as I’ve had with this post, the advice I give is very practical. The things I talk about can be the biggest money sinks for a student if you’re not careful. Therefore, if you remain vigilant with regards to your financial situation and take my tips on board, you can go a long way to keeping your finances in the black. Remember, while you’re “only young once”, you’re also old only once, but you’re a lot less able to handle the stress of living frugally when you’re older than you are when you’re young. The point I am trying to make is that learning to be frugal while you’re a student will not only improve your financial situation down the line, but will also teach you good habits where your money is concerned and that is the one thing that is sure to help you be financially secure throughout your life.