How to Structure Your Finances as a Student

Whatever your means, there’s no need to fall into the cash-strapped, debt-ridden, student stereotype that exists worldwide as it does in South Africa. It’s a perception that doesn’t need to be a reality. These days, students are becoming more knowledgeable and clever when it comes to making financial decisions that will affect their futures. But there will always be those that need a bit of help. So whether you’re a full-time student or a working student, and regardless of where your income comes from, you should know and constantly keep in mind that the key to financial success is being aware of how you’re spending your money and cutting out the bad habits.

A taste for fine wine on a cheap beer budget.

As long as it’s not utterly outrageous, it is fine to have expensive taste. Quality above quantity they say. So if you have fine wine tastes on a rather cheap beer budget, it’s ok – most students are living on a tight budget. If not, they’re likely students getting themselves into a cycle of bad debt. While neither is fun, you can become smarter about the way you spend your money. How? By knowing that there is a big difference between being cheap and having savvy spending habits. It’s way more fun and rewarding to live within your means, rather than beyond.

How do you structure your finances as a student?

As a student, the key to getting the least out of your pocket with the greatest returns on what you spend is to practice the art of budgeting (and it truly is an art form as many struggle with it, albeit an easy thing to do). Too many students are often left with too-much-month-at-the-end-of-their-money and are forced to phone mom or dad, pleading for money, or worst case scenario, take out a small student loan or rack up credit card debt that they struggle to repay. Thus, however big or small the balance of your bank account, you can structure your finances in a manner that makes a cash-strapped student life disappear into the abyss.

Here’s a few tips on getting the most bang for your buck:

Draw up a budget

A little boring and long winded – yes. The majority of student’s dread analysing where their money is really spent. But drawing up a student budget is the best start you can make to saving money. A little time spent searching online will yield great tools that you can use.

Find student discounts

One of the best benefits of student life is undoubtedly student discounts. Being a student can get you money off almost anything, from a new clothing purchase to a trip to the movies. And if you can’t find any notices of student specials, ask!

Separate wants from needs.

After a few months on campus and tracking your expenses, it becomes easier to distinguish wants from needs and to put a plan into action. You can even give yourself a weekly cash allowance rather than carry a debit card, and when that week’s allowance is gone, wait until the next week for more “wants”, come rain or sunshine.

Apply for a student bank account

A no brainier, if you don’t already have one, apply for one as soon as possible. Student bank accounts are hassle-free accounts specifically tailored to the needs of students. They generally have lower fees and offer many tools to manage your finances in a timely and convenient manner.

Shop smart and keep track

From buying secondhand textbooks, buying food in bulk and learning to cook from scratch, there are many ways by which you can be a smart shopper. Don’t make impulsive purchases, hunt for freebies, pack a lunch, and remember to cut out vices – smoking and binge drinking are terrible for you and expensive.

Open a savings account

The decisions you make and the habits you form throughout student career will form a big part in your life after studies. So by getting on track with a monthly savings plan will set you up for future financial stability.

Use comparison sites

There’s an amazing thing out there called the internet and you should be using it to its full potential when looking for ways to save money. There are plenty of price comparison sites where you can compare the cost of all kinds of items. It’s easy, so there’s no excuse not to save money this way.

The Bottom Line

College can be expensive, but learning the basics when it comes to money management means you don’t have to graduate with massive debt. All you have to do is lay the groundwork for smart budgeting and spending habits that will enable you to handle responsibility and to learn the value of accountability – lessons that are just as important as knowing economic theory. So, it is possible to still have a “jol” whilst being a student on a tight budget after all.

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