independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

The Weekly Read: A simple guide to student savings

lack of money
Learn how to differentiate between what you 'need' and what you 'want'.

Like any student, I'm no stranger to the lure of a hot chocolate on one of the frequent days it's lashing rain.

Unfortunately for my wallet, hot chocolate costs in and around a steep €3, and you might call me stingy for calling this steep, but when you're buying these with the same religious fervour as I do this can add up – and up and up, until you don't have any cash for the important things.

From my time in college I've learnt that students aren't big on saving money. “I'm so broke” is the prevailing mantra, muttered in anguish as the speaker flashes the cash for another chicken fillet roll.

We're lethal for those little expenses, those minor coffees and muffins and pints that stack up until we're forced to feed ourselves on bulk-buy rice and scavenged scraps off friends' plates.

It’s pandemic how bad we are with money. But one of the most important things college has taught me so far – outside of my degree course, naturally – is how to hang onto every penny with rabid strength. And lucky for you, this isn't wisdom I plan on keeping to myself.

1. Take advantage of student discounts and freebies

I'm as guilty as the next person for forgetting that I have a discount card for somewhere and paying the full price, realising too late that I could have had a handy 10pc off.

Cappuccino in a disposable cup
Skip the takeaway coffee and bring coffee to college instead.

Avoid this by discovering what discounts are offered by your most frequent haunts: if you're big into clothes, never leave a clothes store without showing that student card.

And if food is your go-to, paying full price for a meal is an absolute crime.

Take advantage of all those half-price, buy-one-get-one-free, some-percentage-off offers that your society cards drown in – those little savings can really add up, and someday might mean the difference between eating out and eating at all.

2. Keep an eye on the little purchases

You spent €2.50 on frozen yoghurt and €1 on a bag of crisps and €3 on an appletini – and now your wallet is empty and you're wondering where your electricity money is gone. Sound familiar?

With most city campuses in prime shopping locations, we're sitting ducks for every convenience store in town.

The trick with avoiding this money drain is to keep in mind one important thing: if you're not going to die, starve, or use it more than once, don't buy it. Easy, right?

While you might feel like you'll implode if you don't get your caffeine fix, there are cheaper ways than your local coffee shop's finest cream-coated treat. Try making them at home – it's simpler than you'd think! Or bring coffee to college. Most places will give you hot water for free.

3. Don't match your friends' spending habits

That thing every parent has sometime snapped at their bored offspring – “don't follow the crowd” – is unfortunately very true.

Whether it's down to that mythical well-paid job or unfairly generous parents, some of your friends are going to have more money than you do, and if you try and keep up you're going to end up broke.

I've been-there-done-that when it comes to being the one eating her meagre tinfoil sandwiches under the restaurant table, as everyone else digs into a four-storey burger and dashings of chips.

Sure, you feel left out and a bit resentful of your sub-par meal. But if you don't have the cash to splash on daily lunch, why try and magic it out of nowhere?

A few bruised bananas might injure your pride, but at least your wallet will be intact.

4. Do you really want fries with that?

While your fast-food server isn't going to challenge your desperate plea for nuggets and coke, you should probably ask yourself the questions they won't.

Making savings is all about differentiating between stuff you need and stuff you just want: stuff you need is anything you'd be stuck without.

Stuff you want is that 12” pizza, or those shoes, or the myriad other things that you're bombarded with in a day and struggle to turn down.

While it sounds ridiculously boring, making yourself a budget and portioning out your income will let you succumb to those wants without also succumbing to massive student debt.

All it takes is a basic knowledge of budgeting.

Then, just figure out how much you have coming in – money from parents, from a job – and what you need to spend each month to survive and get from place to place.

Throw a bit into savings, and the rest can be spent on anything and everything that takes your fancy. Painless, right?

With thanks to www.campus.ie

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