One of the biggest concerns surrounding university life for many people is money. How will I survive off of a tiny budget and still have fun?
I budget monthly, but last month however, I went quite significantly over the maximum amount of money I allow myself. How did this happen? Well…concert tickets are not cheap 🙁 nor is getting ill and having to pay out for medicine, and neither are society balls and the outfit you need in order rock up looking like royalty. The way I am coming to terms with this extra expenditure is to consider that these are rare events. Only once a year do societies tend to put on such lavish events, rarely do I get ill, and rarely does your favourite group come to your country on tour. Of course I would not have invested in these things if I could not afford them in the long run, but it just means that I’ll have to be a bit careful with what I spend over the next couple of months in order to balance that out across the year.
Of course the best way to save money is not to spend it, but that’s not feasible. What you can do is make lifestyle changes in order to reduce your expenditure, and I’ve listed some of the techniques that I aim to/already employ in order to cut down on spending:
1. Shop smart. By this I mean many things:
– Write a list before you go shopping. That way you go only with the mindset of what you need to buy, not what you might buy. It’ll make your shopping trip quicker and prevent your eye from straying to other yummy things.
– Keep an eye out for offers. Buy one get one half-price on packs of bread rolls? Get them and freeze a pack.
– Your freezer is your friend. Using it means that you can keep food for longer and prevent food waste, and also prevent waste of your money.
– Switch out brand labels for supermarket own brands. They’re often much cheaper.
– Buy things like pasta or rice in bulk, as bigger bags often work out cheaper than buying little bags more regularly.
– Reuse plastic bags each time you shop. Save the environment and some pennies.
2. Keep a little book where you write in what you spend. This keeps you aware of it and reduces the risk of going over budget.
3. If you’ve got fresh food that’s going bad and have no immediate usage for it, consider asking your friends if they want it, and ask if they have food they’re willing to exchange for it. This way it saves food waste as well.
4. I know it’s a hard thing to contemplate, but if things get really tough, it might be worth asking yourself if your subscription to Spotify / Netflix / Amazon Prime is really worth it…
5. Consider taking a month where you cut out things like alcohol/chocolate/meat etc. This will probably be great for your health too.
6. Find alternatives to going / eating out. Make a packed lunch instead of buying a meal on campus. Have a film night in with your friends instead of going out, etc.
7. Look for a part-time job. This isn’t an option for everyone, and as someone who tried to find a job for a long time, I know it can be an incredibly draining process. But if you have the time to spare, it can significantly add to your long-term savings and expenses. Even if it’s simply taking part in focus groups or surveys that the university puts on every now and then, for some of these offer financial incentives.
These are just some tips, and being on budget isn’t always easy, but it ultimately boils down to being aware of your money and careful in how you spend it, so you’ll have a better chance of being able to survive comfortably while still doing fun things.