Starting university is a significant change in life and it affects your lifestyle and your whole personality. It brings many challenges, both academic and personal, which will require you to make tough choices, adjust to various conditions, face injustice and all that pretty much on your own, which will eventually result in making you a mature and independent grown-up. Therefore, that path is filled with moments of both despair and great happiness.
Your finances are one of the aspects of your life that will be affected. Not only will the whole dynamic of spending money change once you start uni, but also the things you spend money on. This is the time when you’ll realize that food doesn’t magically appear on the table, milk and juice do not regenerate in your fridge and if you don’t remember to buy shampoo or soap, nobody else will. The trick is to know how you spend money and to become aware of your budget and your expenses. You should learn to prioritize, so you should always know what you absolutely need and what you can survive without for another week or month. All this will be overwhelming, but here’s how you can start adjusting.
Buy essentials first
As soon as you receive your allowance, make sure to cover all your basic needs. Those may include rent, food, toilet paper, your monthly subscription for the gym, library, etc. Set aside all the money you need to spend on these necessities and leave it on the side. It’s not easy to provide food for the whole month, but make sure to buy canned food, pate, noodles and similar supplies that don’t expire quickly so you can have something to eat when you run out of money.
Set up a budget
Creating a spending plan sounds like a great idea. However, it’s really difficult and even the most realistic and experienced people find it impossible to make an accurate plan since unexpected expenses often arise. If one month is difficult to plan, divide your whole budget into four equal parts and have a weekly budget. It will be much easier for you to manipulate it this way.
Plan your shopping
After you’ve decided on what essentials you need to buy, you probably won’t be able to buy them all at once. If you cannot trust yourself not to spend the money you should leave reserved, try buying a gift card. For example, you can buy a practical Visa gift card for a bookstore and buy your books and office supplies when you need them. Also, try to avoid sudden visits to 24/7 shops. They are much more expensive, but if you suddenly get hungry at 3 am, you won’t have any other choice but to pay a higher price. This is why it’s important to do your monthly or weekly shopping in supermarkets where there are discounts and prices are generally lower.
Avoid unnecessary expenses
Your friends will often invite you for coffee breaks at uni. Also, classes stretch throughout the day and students usually feel sleep deprived due to obligations and especially during exams. This is when you turn to buying endless coffees and energy drinks. Not only that this is unhealthy, but it’s also expensive, especially when you calculate the amount of money you spend on these each month.
Save for a rainy day
This part is particularly difficult, but try to create a stack where you’ll hide money from yourself. Set aside a certain amount of cash each month and put it in your piggy-bank. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s good to know you have some money lying around in case of any sudden expenses. For example, you’ll need to buy a book or copy somebody’s notes, pay for some documents etc.
Make deals with friends
You should also have a good friend that is in a similar situation as you, preferably someone who is also a student. In case you need some extra cash, you can always turn to this friend of yours who will understand and won’t hold it against you. It’s great to have someone who is ready to jump in and lend you some cash or treat you to a coffee or lunch. However, this agreement should bring benefits to both parties, only at different times.
There are many ways to save money. However, don’t set your expectations too high when trying to get your financial life in order. It won’t be easy, especially since you’re new in this area. Not everything has to be perfect. For starters, try to survive a few months without remaining penniless. That will be a major success. Later on, try to be better every day and you’ll see some progress in the future.
Emma Miller is a marketer and a writer from Sydney. Her focus is digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends. She’s a contributor at Bizzmark blog and a mother of two.
All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.