Are you stressing over not being able to make rent next month or having to eat ramen noodles for dinner again? A survey conducted last year indicated that 31% of students' mental health had been negatively influenced by financial anxieties. It's time to burst out of that loop and break free of the 'broke college student' cliche! You probably have that as one of your New Year's resolutions, and you surely don't want it to be one of those New Year's Resolutions Students Never Stick to that you've never followed through.
Students who manage their spendings and set savings goals don't only have a more relaxed college experience, but they also graduate with a decent amount of cash saved for the beginning of their adult lives. Here are a few tips on how you can still live well and enjoy your learning experience abroad but on a budget:
Everything goes more smoothly when you plan, and budgeting is no different. It can definitely be challenging to add to the pile of things on your to-do-list, but once you get the hang of it, it's worth the effort. First, you have to weigh in how much cash you have coming in to be able to manage how much of it is going out. So put together all the monthly money you receive, whether it's from your family, scholarship or grant, or a job, then start to think about the essentials that you have to spend money on each month.
Things like rent, utilities, and transportation should be fixed expenses that you need to set aside each month. Variable expenses like groceries, dining out, medical care, clothing, and entertainment are the things you should focus on budgeting as much as you can. Once you have it all written down, Decide whether you want a monthly or weekly budget, and give yourself a specific allowance based on your calculated expenses. If you need help with all this planning, there are plenty of student budgeting apps that will help you stay on track.
2. Get a Roommate!
Sure, living alone is liberating after spending over 18 years living with your family, but it's also expensive. Independence doesn't come cheap, and if you're trying to cut down on expenses, one of the best ways is to split living costs on two or even more. When you have a roommate, you'll save up on rent, groceries, utilities, and maintenance. Just make sure you pick a financially stable and dependable roommate. Sharing an apartment would not be considered a sacrifice, you'll end up having great new experiences, check out our 5 Reasons Why Students Love Shared Flats blog to put up that 'looking for a roommate' advert.
3. Walk It Instead!
Transportation could be a real money-drainer if you have to commute every day to class. When you choose your student accommodation, make sure it is within walking distance so you can scratch out that daily expense. As for your other outings, having a student room that is right in the heart of the city will be great for exploring the city in your free time.
Most restaurants, cafes, shops, and landmarks will be within walking distance. If you must ride something to class or elsewhere, think about getting a bike and cycling to places that are slightly far. You can also take public transportation after getting acquainted with routes and timings. Your last resort can be shared Uber, MyTaxi, OlaCabs, GoCatch, or Lyft rides that you can take if you're somewhere relatively far with friends or if it's late without any buses around.
4. Use Your Kitchen!
Whether you're in a private apartment or a dorm, there must be a kitchen with appliances, so delete your UberEats app and get to cooking! Ordering take-outs is undoubtedly more comfortable and faster, but it's also hurting your wallet! If it's about not having time to cook, then the solution is to meal-prep every weekend for the entire week. If cooking is a new thing for you, text your mom to send your favorite home-cooked recipes and make it a challenge to cook them just like her. You can even invite your friends to help and make a fun activity out of it.
This will not only help you in budgeting, but your body will thank you for not only giving it an unhealthy food. Here are Quick Tips on Eating Healthily on a Budget to help you get the nutrients you need to be able to ace those classes! When it comes to your daily caffeine dose, believe it or not, buying a coffee machine will be cheaper than getting coffee from cafes daily! It'll be one big purchase that will save you a lot of money throughout the year.
5. Get Thrifty!
When it comes to clothing, skip the shopping sprees at the mall, your bank account is suffering from all that credit! Yes, you too, online shopper, empty that cart with a ridiculous checkout amount and head over to your local high street, the thrift shop, or hunt down retailers like eBay or Amazon for perfectly-usable second-hand items. Books also cost a lot of money, and there are better alternatives to get what you need. For example, you can borrow used books from older students for classes or seek out bookstores that have a borrowing policy.
Make sure you don't spend your money on additional school supplies, you don't need all those highlighters and notebooks, my friend, especially if you have a laptop. We're trying to save trees, so go green!
6. Take Advantage of Being a Student!
Carrying your student ID wherever you go will guarantee you discounts at most places. Most public transportation offers student discounts as well as restaurants, cafes, and some local museums and entertainment centers. You can also take advantage of activities that your campus provides instead of spending money going out. Some universities organize free trips to local attractions or have social events that you can enjoy.
Make use of the facilities offered at your student home; you can have a movie night at the cinema room or invite your friends for a game of pool in the games area. Living in a student residence with an on-site gym will encourage you to stay in shape without spending money on a gym membership.
7. It's All About Self-Control
After living with family and not worrying about finances, as an international student, you are suddenly responsible for your finances, and you start spending money on whatever you want! That's the first step towards making that 'broke college student' cliche come true. It's all about maintaining control over your new spending power.
Your budgeting won't go down the drain with an extra cup of coffee or snack, it'll be from those 'in the heat of the moment' decisions, and that's according to financial behaviorist Syble Solomon.
"Students need to think through the 'what if' questions and be prepared for situations when they will spend money without thinking." What Solomon is trying to tell you is that you need to reason and ask yourself if you need something or want it before making a financial decision. He also believes that budgeting will help you have savings for those sudden expenses; "What if your friends are going to a concert where tickets cost $100, and you hadn't planned on that expense? What if your friends are planning an amazing spring break that is way more than you planned to spend? By being aware that things like this will pop up from time to time, you can be better prepared and not throw your budget out of order."
Touche, Mr. Solomon, but equally important: you should always be your own person and not get affected by your circle's spending habits. Don't concern yourself with other people's lifestyles or how much they are making, focus on your strategy, and it'll surely pay off.
At the end of the day, budgeting should be to ease your financial anxieties and not to add even more stress to your life. So don't be too hard on yourself and treat yourself with something you want every now and then without feeling guilty about it but also without breaking your bank account! Here're our two blogs on Best Student Banks in Australia and Best International Student Bank Accounts in the UK.