How to balance your student budget without being perpetually broke
The lifestyle of a typical student is commonly associated with poverty, barely making ends meet, and an inability to maintain a stable situation. And while it’s true that it can be difficult to stay afloat when so much of your time is consumed by classes and other academic appointments, it’s definitely not true that you have to barely get by until you get your degree. As long as you’re smart about it, you should be able to come up with a budget that works and allows you to live relatively comfortably – and maybe even put a little to the side while you’re at it as well.
Take advantage of scholarships
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students fail to realise the huge benefits that lie in most scholarship programmes available out there. You need to take your time and compare what you are eligible for very carefully, but as long as you do this right, you might be able to get a large portion of your tuition fees (and maybe even other expenses) compensated.
The problem is that most students don’t even bother to look up these programmes because they see them as too much effort right off the bat. In reality, it usually doesn’t take that much to get approved for most types of scholarships and the requirements may be pretty lenient.
Stick to a budget
Another tip that will make some roll their eyes with a “Really?” attitude, but the percentage of students who simply live on a day-by-day basis with regards to their finances is staggering – and a bit disappointing. All it takes is an hour with a spreadsheet, and you should have a pretty solid budget planned for the coming months. And after that, all you have to do is stick to it and make sure that you don’t slip.
That part is what many people seem to have problems with. Coming up with a budget is only part of the task, you have to make it a point to actually follow that budget as well. It’s just a habit like any other, and it takes some time until you get used to it. But once you get to that point, spending money on unnecessary things will start to seem senseless and you’ll have a much more responsible attitude towards your expenses.
Do you really need a car?
While a car can be quite useful for those who need extra mobility in their daily lives – like most students – you should think carefully about whether it’s actually worth maintaining it in your current state. That’s especially true if it’s an old beater that just drains your wallet month after month. Sometimes, replacing that with a nice cheap bicycle can make all the difference in your monthly expenses.
If your car is too old to sell, that’s not a problem either – you just need to learn how to scrap your car and take it to the nearest lot. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that you’d be throwing away a large portion of the car’s value that way. The reality is that after a certain point, scrapping a vehicle becomes the only sensible option for getting rid of it, as selling it would simply not make sense when you consider how little you can get in the end.
Sometimes spending more is better
Another common mistake students tend to make without even realising it, is spending too much on various things in the long run. Somewhat ironically, this is often the result of a desire to save some money in the immediate sense, for example buying the cheaper version of a product because you can’t afford the more expensive one right now.
But what actually happens in most of those cases is that you’ll end up replacing that cheap version over and over, paying several times the price of a proper product over the course of a few months. You might not even feel it in your budget at any specific point, but when you draw the bottom line and consider how much you’ve been spending on various aspects of your life, you might quickly realise that those little “saving opportunities” are actually the costliest part of your budget.
Being a student and living comfortably don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and in fact, now is the best time to get started with organising this aspect of your life. Graduating with no financial sense is a recipe for disaster, especially if you get a high-paying job straight out of college. That’s the fast track to finding yourself with a £100k salary and debt that you’ll never get out of. But if you develop the right kinds of habits early on, you will be able to have a much better life in the long run and will be prepared for adulthood.
Photograph by Janeb13