The Five Smartest Ways to Spend Your Course-Related Costs
StudyLink provides each tertiary student with up to $1000 per year to be used at your discretion on study expenses. You don’t have to use any of the money if you don’t want, and you don’t have to take it all out at the same time. Students are advised to be cautious when using this money, but it’s no secret that, to some students, it can seem like free money dropping out of the sky, and it might not make it past O-Week.
However, this money must be paid back, so think carefully about what you will use it for. There are plenty of good options for your course related costs, and most students tend to use at least a part of it. It seems like every year, university study gets more expensive with up-front costs going through the roof. Don’t be caught by surprise - check out the five best ways to spend your course related costs.
Having your own laptop is not necessarily a must for university, but it sure makes it easier. Having a laptop allows you to study from home, prevents you from searching the whole campus for a free computer in peak hours and generally smooths out your study experience now that so much coursework is digital.
That’s especially true for any course that requires using specialised software. For students of science, design, architecture, among others, completing study without your own computer might just be too difficult.
What’s more, some universities like VUW are trialling digital exams, which require you to bring a laptop to your assessment. As the digital revolution marches on, this will likely to be rolled out across the nation in the future, so whether you go to UoA, Otago, Massey or AUT, a laptop is a good idea.
The newest MacBook will set you back a lot more than $1000, but good laptops from less trendy brands can be bought for well under that sum. A good place to check is the PB Tech off-lease section, where computers that have been loaned before can be purchased for well below what they’re really worth.
Everyone has to get to university somehow, right? Some of us, especially first years in university halls might be able to walk in. On the other hand, if you have costs associated with your transport, consider setting aside a dedicated amount of your course-related costs to cover transportation fees over the course of the year.
If you’re on public transport, calculate how much you’ll need over the year by knowing your daily fare and your year’s schedule. Having this cost set aside already means you’ll keep more of your weekly income for other things you need. And, if you’re driving, put aside a similar sum for petrol so that filling up doesn’t cut into your food money or bills.
In case you hadn’t already noticed, textbooks cost a lot. You’d think they came with silk fibres and golden thread woven into the pages or something. Many students spend the majority of their course-related costs on these backbreakers - how can you avoid doing the same?
First of all, ask whether you really need to buy it. Many times, you’ll find someone in your course has a digital version to share, and failing that, the university library will usually have it. You can look up and copy the relevant pages when you need them, and depending on your university you might be able to check them out for short loan as well.
Depending on your major, you might really need your own textbook (I’m looking at you, med students). Looking around for second-hand copies could save you hundreds of dollars. There are Facebook pages for each university dedicated to buying and selling second-hand copies, so you should be able to save more of your $1000 for other things.
Stationery, Printing and Equipment
While this won’t take up too much of your costs, setting aside a dedicated amount at the start of the year for stationery and printing saves you from dipping into your weekly funds when you have an assignment and you need to print out a bunch of readings.
Printing is a major one - if you use your course-related costs to load up big (say $50-100) at the start of the year, you’ll never have to worry about it again. That’s practical, but it’s also a mental relief since it’s one less ongoing cost you have to worry about. Much like with the transport, it’s good organisation to dedicate these costs early and have it out of the way.
Your course might well have specialist equipment you need to buy too. Many courses require a scientific or graphic calculator, as well as a lab coat. For more technical courses, like design, music or art, you’ll be well aware that course materials can add up. Course-related costs can help you with this - the only problem is that it often won’t go far enough.
Your course might offer you the opportunity to go study practically in the field. These learning experiences are unlike anything you can do on campus, so attending is a great idea. Not only will you gain a lot of practical experience, you’ll also make friends and get an opportunity to make personal contact with the university faculty - and possibly even people working in your field.
The only problem is, these trips aren’t free. You should know in advance about field trips coming up by reading your course outlines, so if you have a trip in mind, take out some course related costs to help you pay for it. Depending on where you’re going, these trips can cost a lot, so you’re unlikely to be able to cover it all. Nonetheless, putting a few hundred towards your trip might be the difference between being able to go and staying home.
It’s up to you
Ultimately, your usage of course-related costs isn’t often audited, although there is a chance that can happen - keep receipts of everything you buy with the money. It’s basically up to you what you spend this money on, but it adds right on to the loan that you’ll spend years and years paying back, so moderation is the key.
There are countless valid reasons for withdrawing and using the money - being a student is expensive. Many in the various student associations around the country argue that $1000 isn’t enough for the costs we face, so we may see changes to the scheme in the future.
For now, $1000 is what we have, and with a little planning, you should be able to make a contribution to a lot of different areas of your student life, making your lifestyle just a little bit easier and taking stress off your brain.
By Jack Buckley, Wellington.