Budget hacks for broke students
University can be an extreme test of the human condition. Your mind is stretched in the most unimaginable ways, and so is your budget. Those fortunate enough to receive an allowance might want to know how to make it last as long as possible instead of watching it disappear into thin air, as it seems to do more often than not.
With a few hacks, managing money at varsity can also help set the pace for healthy financial habits when you enter the workforce.
Teach yourself how to budget
Start building a sound definition of needs and wants, and allocate your funds accordingly. And be strict about what constitutes a need. Set up a spreadsheet, or get a small notebook in which you keep a record of the money you get and what you spend it on.
Get a bank account
Part of managing your money and preparing for adulthood is knowing how to keep a healthy bank account. But don’t settle for just any bank account. Find one that’s cheap but covers all your needs.
Take advantage of student discounts and buy in bulk
There are plenty of perks that come with having a student number, and one is the student discount. This can be a discount on travel, food, clothing or textbooks.
Before you pay the full price for anything, find out if you can get a discount.
You can also set up a “necessities” stokvel with your peers, where you buy things in bulk at a discount and share them among you.
Buy second-hand textbooks
Textbooks can be incredibly expensive, and can really eat into the money you have for your week’s supply of noodles, eggs and bread. As far as you can, try to get your hands on second-hand textbooks.
Or partner with a friend and share a textbook, splitting the cost between you.
Share costs such as Netflix
Sometimes all you want to do is de-stress with a session of “Netflix and No
Textbooks”, but paying those subscriptions can be a bank breaker when you have too much to do with too little money.
One way to benefit is to split your Netflix bill among friends. Your subscription will allow you to connect up to six devices to your profile, and you can stream two movies or TV shows at the same time.
Keep an eye on your credit
Often, university students are encouraged to start using credit cards and to begin building their credit score early in life. However, this can easily lead down a path of terrible debt headaches.
Before you apply for a credit card, or take on that store card, do your research. What are the interest charges like? How does this affect your credit score? Can you get a better deal? Are you disciplined enough to handle this responsibility?
Invest, invest, invest
If you are fortunate enough to have some money left over, or if you find time to earn some while studying or during the holidays, consider investing some of it.
If building a credit history is vital for the future, starting your investment portfolio as early as possible is even better for you and should take priority.
Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world, but you want it to work for you, not against you — as it does when you get into the debt trap.
Exchange-traded funds might be a good place to start if you’re a beginner.
Use your tax-free investment allowance to your advantage; the sooner you start contributing to your tax-free investment, the better.
Worried about minimum investing amounts? There are several platforms that don’t discriminate on this basis.
Investing can be expensive, so you also have to do thorough research on the fees that come with some investment platforms.
Factor in minimum-investment amounts and brokerage costs, and don’t forget to look at monthly fees.