How to survive on a student budget

16 Dec 2019

Student finances Surviving on a student budget is a difficult lifestyle to keep up with, with hefty tuition fees infamously known as putting numerous students knee-deep in debt. Some countries are lucky enough to host universities which offer free education, but for those students who do not get to experience this luxury, what often awaits them is never-ending student loans, even years after completing their degree. 

But with a bit of balance and a monthly-budgeting plan in place, it is possible not only to survive on a student budget, but also to thrive – rewarding yourself with a few extra luxuries on occasion, just for when you need to give yourself a boost!

The following are a number of useful tips which can help you when managing your student finances: 

1. Set a budget plan 

The first and most important step to surviving on a student budget is setting up a budget plan – be it monthly or weekly. It can seem like an extra, mundane chore to add to your already-packed list of things to do, but budgeting is crucial to managing your limited finances as a student. There are several mobile apps which can help you track your spending, but sometimes all it really takes is a simple Excel spreadsheet. It is important to keep a record of every single purchase – from a pack of gum you bought at the grocery store, to your monthly haircut appointment. Establishing a monthly or weekly budget plan will help you keep track of where your money is going, and provide insights on how to cut costs.

2. Avoid dining/lunching out 

It may sometimes seem like the easiest option is to order takeout, or pick up a ready-made meal on the way home – especially when you have four assignments due next week and absolutely no time to cook! (It’s okay, we’ve all been there).  However, one of the most popular ways students squander away their money is on fast foods, take-outs, and casual dining. Cooking at home is a sure-fire way to drastically reduce your expenses across the board. 

While cooking is the cheapest option when it comes to food consumption, it is far from free – which is why it is always important to be smart when grocery shopping. Firstly, it is ideal to limit your grocery hauls to once a week, and if possible, share with roommates/flatmates if available. Secondly, buy in bulk – not only is this the cheaper alternative, but it is also more economical, as it will save you extra trips to the supermarket. Lastly, always go for value products and supermarket-own brands. These are often very similar to the higher-end goods, and will save your extra unnecessary costs.

3. Shop second hand 

Whether it is for clothes, books, or appliances – thrifting is in! And it will definitely help you reduce those crazy expenses. Shopping for used items does not mean you have to give up your sense of style. Opting for second-hand clothes is a great way to stay on trend, on a budget. In the case of charity shops, there is also the added benefit of knowing you are contributing to a good cause. 

With regards to books, always search for an online version or soft copy before purchasing heavy, expensive, literary items. Not only will it save you money, but it is also eco-friendly. Furthermore, scavenge for websites where former students will be looking to get rid of their books, meaning you can buy a barely-used version, probably for half the price!

4. Exercise for less 

The majority of students own gym memberships which, although are barely ever used, are still kept for that one day they decide to start exercising (sure, we believe that will happen). Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is paramount – especially when your daily routine involves being stationary for hours on end - but this does not need to come at a hefty cost. 

Staying active is a good way to care not only for your physical health, but also mental health, and you can do so in very simple ways that do not involve splurging on expensive monthly gym memberships. Instead, try introducing physical activity into your daily routine, like walking or cycling to university rather than catching a bus. You can also opt for at-home workouts which will not only take care of your pockets, but also save time out of your extremely busy day. 

5. Check for student discounts

Student discounts can help your save money on a multitude of things; from everyday items such as groceries and food, to more big-ticket products such as white goods, clothes and books, as well as entrances to museums and cultural hotspots. And the good news is: most universities offer student discount cards, meaning that wherever you decide to pursue your studies, you will most likely benefit from fantastic offers!

6. Part-time jobs 

If you have tried all of the above and yet are still struggling to somehow make ends meet, you can always find other means to earn a little extra cash, by taking on a part-time job. Whether it is working at the local corner store or offering private tuition, putting in a few extra hours of work can help you live more comfortably. It is important not to overdo it however – make sure you restrict your part-time job to 15 working hours per week, as not to distract yourself too much from your studies, which should remain your top priority.