Being a student is hard enough as it is without worrying about money, yet financial strain is a reality for most people attending college or university. With little to no income and a lot of debt, or a benefactor paying your way, you’ll no doubt have looked for ways to stretch your budget beyond its current reach. Here are 11 trusted tricks to help you optimise your spending and get the most out of your university experience.
- Get a student bank account
Most banks offer significant student benefits that add up over time. Students can save thousands of rands per year by researching their banking options and choosing the one that best suits their profile. Click here to start comparing your options.
Alternatively, if you’ve been granted a large sum as part of a bursary or student loan, you could save it in a premium bank account with a high interest rate to grow your funds instead of saving on banking expenses.
- Ditch pricey textbooks with the MasterPass System
One of the biggest pains of studenthood is spending a fortune on textbooks with no resale value that cover only a few modules in the course. Luckily, students can now avoid this inconvenience in favour of the MasterPass System, an online platform that provides summaries of textbook chapters, mind maps, quizzes and flashcards, all written by university lecturers. Recently launched by The Student Hub, this system aims to disrupt the textbook industry and provide college and university students with a cheaper and simpler study solution. The MasterPass System includes motivational coaching and a progress tracker, and the corresponding mobile application, ERA, offers 24-hour tutor support and monthly group tutorials prior to tests and exams.
- Get cash back when a lecturer is absent
A little-known (and fully legitimate) money saving tip is to collect a refund for cancelled lectures at your university or college’s administration department. Not all institutions are equally friendly about such requests, but it makes sense to be reimbursed for a purchase when you don’t receive the goods, especially if you consider the added cost of an unnecessary commute. It’s best, however, to discuss the idea with admin at the beginning of the semester to avoid conflict later on.
- Do intermittent jobs
Want some extra cash, but don’t have time or energy for a regular part-time job? Fortunately, there are intermittent jobs that need hardly any prior commitment. A very popular stream of income for students and others seeking sporadic employment is working as an extra or “background artist” on film and TV commercial sets. No prior experience is required, and people of all appearances and capabilities are cast in such roles. To take up such work, join a local film extras agency such as The 39 Steps or Colt Talent and sign up for a few hours’ work at a couple of days’ notice. If you’re lucky, you can even take your notes with you and study between takes! Another flexible part-time pursuit is promotional work. Again, one simply has to join a local promotions agency such as Spotlight Agency and take jobs if and when one is so inclined.
- Work at a local cafeteria
Speaking of part-time jobs, did you know that food industry staff often get free meals? If there’s a cafeteria near you with flexible hours, it’s probably worth looking into.
- Join a lift club
Lift clubs save a tonne of money, and they’re everywhere! If you commute to campus, but don’t know any students who live in your area, check out ride sharing sites like carpoolmates.co.za, liftclubs.co.za, and ugomyway.com to find a reliable travel partner.
- Cut your grocery bill in half
There are countless ways to cut back grocery expenses, as many a listicle will assert. A failsafe way to start saving cash is to do one big weekly shop instead of popping over to the supermarket or deli as the need arises (or a fortnightly shop if you’re really good). This will help you to avoid impulse purchases and teach you to plan and ration your meals, which is a good way to promote healthy weight management (if you’re into that sort of thing). Another reliable saving strategy is to cook your meals in bulk and pack your lunches instead of frequenting cafeterias, thereby saving time and electricity.
You could also avoid wastage by storing bread, vegetables, and other perishables in the freezer, and emptying out the fridge weekly to check for forgotten tubs and jars. Supplementing meat with high-protein vegetables like beans and lentils will also stretch your budget (especially if you buy the dry bagged produce instead of the canned variety).
- Sign up for a budgeting app like 22Seven
For most of us, taking a critical look at our banking statements can be a frightening task best left ignored. And yet, there’s little more empowering than taking complete ownership of one’s financial decisions and making adjustments where necessary. 22Seven is a free budgeting app which automatically categorises expenses according to purchase type so that users can evaluate their spending habits at a glance.
- Pay in cash
Another great money saving tip is to use cash only, forcing you to make regular withdrawals and physically hand over your money when making purchases. You’ll definitely think twice before forking out your hard-earned notes on a whim.
- Regularly read up on scholarships and bursaries
Your institution’s admin department should be able to provide you with a list of local partner scholarships, but these are invariably limited. Happily, there’s an abundance of overseas scholarships for both undergraduate and postgraduate candidates, with the added benefit of an overseas adventure! Relevant informational websites include studyoverseas.com, studyabroad.sit.edu, gooverseas.com, goabroad.com, studyabroad.com and findaphd.com.
- Get freebies!
There are many freebies out there just waiting to be claimed! Join your local Freecycle group, receive and review all sorts of groceries at Home Tester Club, and lodge any valid product and service complaints atHellopeter to get reimbursed or recompensed when necessary.
Let us know which of these tips was your favourite, and feel free to add more. Happy saving!