How to live your best life on a student budget

by Rhianna Dews, money writer at Thursday April 23rd 2020

How to live your best life on a student budget-student-budget-wollongong

The student life can often feel like one big Venn diagram where you're constantly choosing between getting enough sleep, good grades or a thriving social life. Toss a crumby student budget into the mix and your options just got that much more limited.

But, while achieving an adequate uni/work/life balance at times can be more stressful than the actual degree itself, it is possible. And with the help of these top tips, you'll be living your best life on a student budget in no time!

1. Create a budget (and stick to it!)

First and foremost, you'll want to create a solid budget… and actually stick to it. I know what you're thinking, "ew, budgets". But don't look at it as a prison sentence! In fact, a good budget will give you the freedom to indulge without feeling guilty or having to check your bank balance every two seconds.

The secret is to factor in all of your expenses, and I mean everything (even nights out!):

  1. Work out your expenses: Pop your regular expenses and expected income into Mozo's free budget calculator to get a full picture of where your money goes then set a budget around it.
  2. Set a weekly allowance: Once you've done this you'll want to set yourself a weekly allowance (a specific dollar amount) that covers all the important stuff (like bills, rent and food), plus any extra costs (like social events or shopping). Be realistic and give yourself enough to ensure you don't go over budget and wind up dipping into your savings. You should aim to not spend the full amount and put whatever's leftover at the end of the week into a savings account.
  3. Separate & automate: Split your money between multiple accounts, then set up automated payments to transfer your weekly allowance into your everyday bank account each week. This works great if you get paid monthly and having a big lump sum payment sitting in your account might tempt you to overspend. Out of sight, out of mind!

Bonus tip: Download a budget and savings app and start tracking your spending for that extra level of bulletproof budgeting.

2. Ditch bank fees

As a uni student, you could potentially be eligible to apply for a student bank account. The benefit in opting for a student bank account vs a regular bank account is that student accounts generally don't charge any account fees, plus, they sometimes have special offers for students.

Bank fees can be deceiving because while they aren't usually super expensive, over time, they can become a real money drainer - so try to avoid them if you can. Another tip is to skip withdrawing cash from non-bank ATM's. Otherwise, you might cop a fee for it.

3. Two words: Student discounts

Ah, student discounts… one of the less talked about perks of being a student. As an international uni student studying in Australia, you'll have access to tonnes of student discount offers which can you score you savings with loads of different brands. Take advantage of them while you can!

Student Edge and UNiDAYS are just two of the many apps out there that offer a massive range of in-store and online discounts to students on things like clothes, food, travel and more.

Don't be afraid to ask about student discounts at the counter in a store. You'd be surprised by just how many businesses offer discounts to students, all you have to do is ask. Just remember to always carry your student ID/concession card with you in case you're asked to show proof of being a student.

4. Eat on the cheap

Want to save money? Stop. Eating. Out. Why spend $10+ a day on lunch at uni when you could take food from home for a quarter of the price? Leave dining out for special occasions, or at the very least limit it to twice a week, max. And hone in on happy hour and Earlybird specials.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't fall for the avo on toast trap. With a dash of Danish feta and a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt, your homemade rendition will taste just as good and be just as Insta-worthy!

Not to mention, you can save tonnes on groceries by buying in bulk and going for cheap, easy to cook meals (*cough* 2-minute noodles *cough*). Round up your roomies and split the cost of groceries, then make cooking a social event! How do you think Taco Tuesdays came about?

5. Hit up uni bar hotspots

When you start studying in Australia, you'll soon see that partying is a big part of the Aussie uni scene. But after a while, all those nights out can start to add up - If you don't know where to go, that is!

Most Australian universities usually have a bar on-campus or a partnership with one that's nearby. These bars generally have a designated uni party night or offer special deals where uni students can score cheaper drinks and meals.

So, if you're ready to cut shapes on the D-floor, then here's your weekly social calendar sorted:

  • Monday - Wollongong Tennis Club: $12 Chicken Schnitzel Night
  • Tuesday - The Little Prince. $6 House spirits and house wines, house beers for $6 a schooner and $9 a pint. $10 cocktails. Happy hour margarita pizzas for $5.
  • Wednesday - Board Game Wednesday @ Breakout Bar and Escape. Guests can bring their own board game or borrow one from the Escape library, while enjoying $6 house beer, wine and spirits throughout the night. $6 chips or pizza
  • Thursday - Retro Thursdays @ Harp Hotel. FREE ENTRY to Karaoke Night with Drink and cocktail specials until 11pm.
  • Friday - Red Square. Espresso Martini Fridays from 5pm to 7pm. Nine different flavoured martinis, including Nutella, mint slice and honeycomb, all infused with vodkas, for $10 a glass.
  • Saturday - Juniper Bar. 5pm to 7pm. Beers and wine for $6 a glass, and gin cocktails for $10.
  • Sundays - North Gong Hotel. $5 drinks and FREE Music

6. Don't be fooled by fast-fashion

In a world ruled by social media influencers and sponsored posts, we're constantly being bombarded with online shopping ads. And who's their biggest target market? YOU. Uni students.

Seriously, if you want to see a couple hundred laptop screens full of wishlists or Fashion Nova shopping carts, then go and sit in the back row of your next uni lecture. They'll entice you with free delivery and discount codes, but don't let fast-fashion fool you, folks!

The tradeoff for a quick turnaround in manufacturing is often poor quality products. So while the clothes might be cheaper initially, having to replace them regularly will cost you more in the long run.

Also, many fast-fashion brands will hold huge 70% off (or more) sales and display a big flashy timer on their website which "counts down" how much time is left before the sale ends. What often happens when the timer reaches zero, though, is it resets. A sneaky sales tactic if you ask me!

That's not to say that all online clothing brands are dodgy, but it's important to be a conscious spender and become aware of consumer culture tactics. If you are going to shop online though, then be sure to check out the Honey App so you can scrape a few dollars off the total with discount codes.

7. Opt for PTO

Another easy money-saver is to reconsider your mode of transport. A $14 Uber here and there might sound like nothing but it'll cost a fortune if you make it a habit! Besides, public transport is the new black kids! And it's way cheaper. So, skip the Uber's and use Wollongongs public buses, pronto. There is even the free shuttle service to get around the city.

Rhianna Dews

Once a university student herself, Mozo Money Writer Rhianna Dews understands the struggle of living on a student budget and uses her personal finance knowledge to show students how to get by and still have a good time while studying.

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