You may want to switch off as soon as you hear the word budget, but budgeting really is one of the biggest keys to managing your money. You might think that to budget means to sacrifice and give yourself restrictions, but in truth budgeting stops you from overspending. Budgeting helps you make the most of your money which in turns helps you make the most of student life. Don’t fear it or dismiss it – embrace it!
How to budget as a student
For students of Lonsdale Institute that have just arrived in the country, budgeting is a crucial part of finding your way. Australia is home to some amazing activities and places, and to enjoy them all (or at least a good chunk), you’ll need to watch what you spend. Budgeting for you might not just be following student budget tips, but backpacking budget tips too.
Tip #1 – Make a plan
The best way to start any budget is to start with your known expenses. Download a budgeting app like Mint or Clarity Money and input all your regular expenses such as accommodation/rent, utilities, public transport, student fees, library fees and groceries. The next step is to write down what you want out of your time studying in Australia and jot down estimated costs that are associated with your goals. From there you can start allocating money towards entertainment, travel and outings.
Tip #2 – Pocket some extra cash
If your current income isn’t quite hitting the mark, look for ways to get yourself some extra cash. You’re here to study, so why not extend on that and tutor? Perhaps you could babysit a couple of nights a week or pick up a shift in the student bar? Maybe you could use your love of vintage clothes to hold a stall at your local market? Extra cash equals greater flexibility, just try to keep your shifts limited to under 15 hours a week during term time to leave adequate time for study.
Tip #3 – Get active
Public transport can eat into your budget if you’re not careful. And besides, do you really need to jump on a train to go a couple of kilometres? Riding a bike or walking to your short-distance destinations might require you to leave a little earlier, but if you spend $5 a day on public transport getting to and from classes, that’s $25 a week, which totals $100 a month. Spread that across the year and that’s $1,200 you could be using for entertainment, a holiday, or savings. Plus, because you’re staying active, you won’t need to spend money on going to the gym or your local spin class to stay fit.
Tip #4 – Find cheaper alternatives for entertainment
Going out for dinner with your new friends can be a lot of fun (and especially tasty in a city such as Melbourne), but dinner out a couple of nights a week soon eats into your budget. Instead of eating out, why not come together at someone’s house and cook up your own feast? Instead of going to the cinema, why not host a movie night at home? Budgeting doesn’t have to mean missing out when you simply swap your favourite things with cheaper alternatives.
Tip #5 – Look for student nights or weekly specials
Where to Tonight is a great online source for finding weekly specials and purpose-built student nights that won’t break the bank. Simply choose your location of Melbourne or Sydney, enter a search into the calendar, and then browse what’s happening around you and where you can save. Another alternative would be to talk to your favourite local restaurant or bar to find out what night is their quietest. Mention you’d like to hold a weekly get together with your friends and you might be able to strike a deal.
Tip #6 – Shop supermarket specials
Plan your grocery shop around weekly specials and you can save yourself a considerable amount. Stock up on non-perishable items when they’re half price, or build your meal plan around the cheapest buys. Try shopping online too, as a ‘click and collect’ order based on the latest specials will stop you from entering the store and being tempted to pick up other things as you browse.
Tip #7 – Pack your own lunch
While there are some great cheap eat lunches located around both Melbourne and Sydney campuses, it’s still cheaper to make your own sandwich or pack your leftovers for your lunch each day. You could also try making your tea or coffee at home and packing it in a travel mug.
Tip #8 – Bank smartly
Find a savings account with low fees and a credit card with a low interest rate. Cut down on your ATM charges by finding a bank that allows you to use ATMs for free. Consider internet banking for paying bills and set up direct debits for regular payments. Just make sure you keep enough money in your account to cover these payments or you could be charged overdrawn fees or payment default fees.
Tip #9 – Learn to cook with staples
Staples are the basic foundations on which tasty meals can be created, but they can also be your saving grace when money is tight. Develop a repertoire of low-cost meals using staples and not only can you throw together something to eat at short notice, you will end up saving a lot of money on your grocery shops. Check out this ultimate guide to cooking with staples to get you started.
Get budgeting today
Most students that don’t set a budget end up overspending. This limits spending power in the future and means more of their salaries are applied to debt repayments. Don’t let this happen to you. Set a budget today!