Top tips to help cut costs
College is expensive, fact. Whether you’re living at home or renting,you’ll find that your money will disappear pretty quickly when you’re on a tight budget and paying for food, bills, travel, books and more.
Luckily,a little know-how can mean the difference between finding your self in debt and being able to afford a night out with your mates.
1Choose the right student current account
Lots of banks will be trying to get you to open an account with them, so they’ll offer freebies to entice you.
Try to look past the free flights or cash on offer, and focus on the fees and charges.
Most student accounts are free of transaction fees, but this doesn’t cover overdraft fees, which can be expensive.
So if you think you might use an overdraft, it’s worth choosing an account with the lowest fees.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) personal finance website, www.itsyourmoney.ie, has a handy student account cost comparison section, which will help you compare your options.
2 Become a domestic god/goddess
Even if your college canteen is subsidised, you could end up spending as much as €50 a week on food, when you factor in snacks and drinks.
If you cook for yourself, or make your own sandwiches, tea or coffee, you could save a fortune.
If cooking is unexplored territory for you or beans on toast is your speciality, www.cheapeats.ie offers lots of helpful information, including money-saving recipes, details of special offers in shops, and tips on using up your leftovers.
3 Be careful with credit
If you can avoid using a credit card, do. But if this isn’t an option for you, then make sure you choose a credit card with a low annual percentage rate (APR).
Only use your card for essential purchases (no, a round of drinks is not an essential purchase) and try to pay your bill in full each month.
When it comes to loans, again look for a low APR and try to borrow over as short a term as possible; that way you’ll pay less interest.
If you’re not sure what’s on offer, check out www.itsyourmoney.ie for comparisons of student credit cards and loans.
4 Look for discounts
Lots of shops will offer discounts to students with a valid student ID card, so it’s always worth producing your card at the till.
A Student Travelcard will save you money on Inter City Rail, Dublin Bus and Luas services. It also entitles you to more than 200 discounts nationwide including restaurants, entertainment and much more.
Log on to www.studenttravelcard.ie for more information. However, don’t be dazzled by discounts, no matter how tempting they seem.
You’ll only save money if you were planning to buy in the first place!
5 Maximise your money
If you worked during the summer, you could be entitled to claim tax back. The relevant forms can be downloaded from www.revenue.ie .
A part-time job will boost your income, but could mean less time for studying and socialising, so you’ll need to weigh up your options carefully.
It’s a good idea to wait until you get your timetable before you apply for anything, so that you’re sure of how much free time you have.
You could also be entitled to a grant. For detailed information on grants and funds for students, go to www.studentfinance.ie.
6 Keep track of your spending
It’s not the most exciting thing you’ll do this year, but making a budget is always a good idea. It will help you see where your money is going and make sure you can afford the essentials.
It can also show you areas where you might need to cut back.
There is a handy budget planner on www.itsyourmoney.ie to help get you started.
As well as making a budget, checking your account statements regularly will help you ensure you have money to pay direct debits and standing orders, so you can avoid expensive penalty fees.
The Economiser on the NCA’s consumer rights website, www.consumerconnect.ie, is a good place to start if you want to compare grocery, energy, TV and mobile phone spend to other households’.
This may identify further savings you can make.
7 If you need help, get it
If you are having money worries, look for help as soon as possible.
You can talk to your student welfare officer or, if you are having problems making repayments on a loan or credit card, contact your bank to explain your problem.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the problem as it will only get worse.
And remember, missed repayments will affect your credit history and could mean difficulty getting future loans.