Budgeting tips for students
Being a student is expensive. A college education in Ireland is one of the biggest expenses you’ll have to cover in your life. Beyond the cost of college fees, there’s a lot more to plan for financially – especially if you’re moving to a new town, city or even a different country.
Here are some tips to help you navigate your student budget and find some savings along the way.
1. Set a budget and stick to it
This seems like an obvious tip, but it’s more important now than ever to watch every Euro you spend. This might be the first time you’re responsible for covering your own basic needs. Setting up a budget doesn’t have to be complicated. Make a list of your fixed expenses (rent, food, phone bill etc.) and how much they cost each month.
The money you have left over after covering those expenses is what you can spend on discretionary things like recreation, entertainment and shopping (your wants). Knowing how much you have to spend and tracking your money helps to keep you from overspending, prevents having to dip into savings and avoids building debt by resorting to overdrafts, credit cards or student loans.
2. Plan how you’ll pay for big ticket items
Aside from budgeting the cost of school expenses, you need to plan ahead for large expenses like accommodation, school fees, transport and text books. Do you have savings set aside to pull from? Or will you be using funds from a student loan or other forms of credit?
And when it comes to actually paying, you should check out to see if any additional charges apply. Are there processing fees? If you are paying for college in another jurisdiction, are there foreign exchange or additional processing fees. Debit and credit cards, depending on the issuer may have a various fees, others don’t. Factor this into your payment decision as those fees can add up year after year.
3. If you get a credit card, use it wisely
If you don’t already have one, now could be a time to get a credit card and begin to build a personal credit profile. Here in Ireland, there are two credit reporting agencies; the Central Credit Register and the Irish Credit Bureau. If you end up studying abroad, the credit reporting landscape is much more complex and in many cases, starting a credit profile can be much more important if you decided after college to remain there for work. Using credit cards is pretty straightforward; make your payment on time and always look to pay off the outstanding balance quickly, otherwise compound interest will kick in making the original credit used very, very expensive.
4. Take advantage of free money
There are many scholarships or bursaries available that can help offset some education expenses. For example, colleges in Ireland, the UK and the US offer a broad range of scholarships to those with a range of academic and sporting achievement. In many cases, those benefits can go unapplied for simply because students are not aware of them.
5. Save money on text books
Textbooks are notoriously expensive, and often, you can find ways to get around purchasing them from your school’s bookshop. There are also some online portals for buying and selling college books between students that can offer books at a competitive price. If you can’t get around buying a new textbook, you can try to do a textbook share, where you split the cost of a new textbook with a classmate and alternate who has possession of it. Tip: sell your textbooks when you’re done with them either online or to other students on campus – at least you’ll get some of your money back!
6. Save money on meals
Food for those that live away from home costs an average of €1,500 per academic year. Meal delivery services always seem like a great idea when you’re hungry, but we’re all familiar with that pang of guilt we get looking at our empty food boxes. Meal delivery can be pricey and not always efficient or healthy. Planning and preparing meals in bulk can save you hundreds of Euro per year. The BBC website offers thousands of easy-to-follow recipes, many of them ideal for student living. Save money buying in bulk and spend one day a week preparing your meals. From an environmental perspective, it is important to avoid food waste to make sure you only buy what you are certain you’ll actually use.
7. Find the best student discounts
Many retailers, financial institutions and transport companies offer a range of special rates for students. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. Calling your bank offers, using your student card at the cinema and taking advantage of student bus or train fare are easy ways to take advantage of your student status and save some money.
8. Shop second-hand sites
Moving out on your own for the first time requires a haul of items that can really add up. By joining online groups, such as local buy/sell groups you can save a lot of money on things like furniture, kitchen appliances and utensils, and more. Even if you’re staying at home while attending school, these online sites or thrift stores can be a great place to find clothing, gift cards and other great things for reasonable prices. Best of all, you’re upcycling, which is great for the environment.
Life as a post-secondary student is an exciting time and with these tips hopefully you can worry less about your money and more about keeping up your studies.