The Best Budgeting Hacks for Students
Budgeting Tip #1: Work out your budget
First things first, make a budget. Work out what your income is and write down all of your outgoings - primarily, your essential expenses. From that, establish your weekly budget. Plan ahead for the unexpected. A good budget should always have some money set aside for emergencies. Break things down - it can be helpful to categorize and then itemize your budget. With a car, for example, make sure you're budgeting for its registration, WOF, services, repairs, etc. - not just "gas". Over-estimate for everything so you're never caught short. And always allocate some money aside for savings.
Hint: A great hack for budgeting is to make a separate account on your banking app for each category, and put the allocated amount straight in when you get paid. For example, a 'Daily Expenses' account for food, HOP card, necessities, etc.; a 'Car' account; a 'Memberships/Subscriptions' account; 'Savings', and so forth.
Budgeting Tip #2: Buy in bulk
One of the best budgeting hacks is also pretty simple - buy your basics in bulk. While it may physically hurt your soul to buy one of those bulk bottles of shampoo, it's far more economical than buying four of those 250ml bottles at $4-$5 a pop. Foods like oats, rice, berries, and veggies are far cheaper when bought in bulk. Frozen food really is the supermarket's best-kept secret. A 1kg bag of frozen strawberries is a steal compared to a punnet, and bags of frozen peas, corn and carrots are far cheaper than buying small amounts of produce.
Hint: Scope out local clearance warehouses for your toiletries and other supplies, like Pricewise, Chemist Warehouse, etc. - you'll be surprised at the discounts you can find!
Budgeting Tip #3: Scope out your student perks
Many university campuses offer sneaky benefits for their students (I mean, there's got to be some benefit to crippling debt and a diet of ramen noodles, amirite). For example, AUT's Student Association (AUTSA) offers an open-door pantry stocked with free food and other living essentials for AUT students. The initiative, fondly called 'Foodie Godmother', is available in the AUTSA offices in the North, South and City campuses. The "honesty-based system" allows each student to take up to five items at a time, and functions through both monetary and item donations. Although I wouldn't recommend fudging your budget and relying solely on your Foodie Godmother (don't be that spoiled, bratty godchild), little perks like this can work wonders when you're in a bit of a financial pickle.
Budgeting Tip #4: Use your student power
One of the best student tips for saving money is right there in your wallet already - never underestimate the power of your student ID! That card does a whole lot more than prove that yes, you are going into debt to attend this educational institute. First things first: everyone in tertiary education should have the UniDays app on their phone - if you don't, download it. Now. A lot of shops and services offer discounts to students, making it easier to incorporate activities and a cheeky splurge into your budget. It's always worth checking online beforehand to see if a store offers a student discount.
Hint: If you don't have a pair of Doc Martens (are you really a student if you don't), students get 10% off at Pat Menzies.
Budgeting Tip #5: Treat yourself on the cheap
Every sustainable budget should include some cash to splash because let's face it - budgets are boring. If you never put aside some money to treat yourself, you'll end up resenting those restrictions. Good news is, there are so many ways to buy treats on the cheap. GrabOne and Groupon are fantastic for activities, experiences, and services such as cheap foodie fixes, beauty treatments, makeup, clothes and more. A voucher for something fun can also make a great present for friends or family without breaking the bank. You can also find great savings on things you probably have already budgeted for; for example, discounted car services and WOFs crop up on Groupon a lot.
Using discount codes is another great money saving tip for students. If you're a devoted member of the YouTube community, you'll know that beauty gurus hand out discount codes for online boutiques like they're going out of fashion (probably because they are). Discount codes can help you save some silver if you need an outfit in a pinch. Signing up for email alerts from your favorite stores is always a good idea, as you'll be the first to know about any upcoming sales, clearances or exclusive offers (e.g. Burger Fuel VIBs will get free burgers on their birthday and free chip deals every now and then). Hint: For all the students with a passion for fashion, Recycle Boutique has some great second-hand designer threads - check out the Newmarket store for some high-end thrifty finds at a low-end price.
Budgeting Tip #6: Cut back on those money-draining monsters
Do you really need that takeaway? That bottle of vodka that you know is going to destroy you anyway? That box of ciggies for Saturday night because you're "a social smoker"? Your daily large almond milk triple-shot latte? These are things that really should not figure into your daily expenses - and if they are, you'll be surprised how much more money you have when you stop buying unnecessary stuff. Have some restraint!
Having a budget doesn't mean you can't have fun and reward yourself for your hard work. It just means putting your sensible cap on, making sure all of the essentials are paid for first, and cutting corners where you can to make sure there's always moolah in the bank.
By Lana Andelane, Auckland