In my last post about working I mentioned that I would write a bit more about managing costs and study load. It really is a juggling act…
The other point I took from the study I mentioned last time (http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30006689/Devlin-studyingandworkingjournalarticle.pdf) was that students aren’t merely working to ‘fund a lifestyle’ (i.e. most of us aren’t just after a bit of extra money so that we can party every weekend whilst wearing the latest ‘threads’ and drive a ‘pimped out’ car). Apparently most of us have found that we need to work in order to provide for everyday needs. And what makes up the bulk of our costs? Rent, food and other household bills (anybody out there surprised?). So it looks like the bottom-line is that, like it or not, most students will need to work to some extent during their degree. If you’re one of the lucky (or talented) minority that have overly-generous parents or can budget like nobody’s business then you can stop right here – as the remainder of this post will be for those who bravely take on the dual role of student and worker. We’ll look at costs, and budgeting (*all sigh sadly*).
Know your expected costs beforehand
Most people know that it helps to have regular money coming in. But plenty of students (myself included) don’t have a full idea of where their moolah will be going out. “How dare you exchange yourself for two movies, a dinner outing and a new dress this week money?!” I will often ask. It is not uncommon for me to spend more than I’d intended because I haven’t properly thought out the best use for my hard-earned cash. So, know the basic (i.e. compulsory and boring) costs of being a student. USQ has a pretty handy clip for those considering/about to commence study that outlines most of these costs (and also suggests ways to manage them): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1Fs3apNdb4.
If you can stick to just earning enough to pay the bills (always leaving plenty of time to study), then well done – but you are probably not a real-life person. Of course we want to have the $ for a social life and a ‘savings’ account (do these accounts exist?). But really the question to ask ourselves is ‘what is important to me right now?’ Is it more valuable to: a) leave enough time to study properly, understand the course content and submit assignments you’re happy with (avoiding last-minute stress), or b) work lots of additional hours so you can either spend more or put a lot of money away right now?
Of course there is no correct answer, and most people go for a happy medium. For me though, as a full-time student, I had to realise that I have ‘student’ listed as my main occupation – and that this alone should indicate where the most of my time should be spent. So I had to understand my most crucial costs (which, as someone still living at home, aren’t as high as many students) and work from there. Now when I get paid I don’t think first of the possibilities, but the responsibilities, and the need for ‘uni time’ (gosh I am sounding like a parent/policewoman/fictional character rather than a twenty-one year-old here!). Usually these initial thoughts of proper spending/saving disappear once I’m invited on a road trip or dinner date though… I hope you will have more success than I…
Can anyone say ‘bargain’?! It pays to be a cheapskate…
I won’t go into too much depth here as for me ‘student’ is pretty much synonymous with ‘save every cent you can and do not pay one dollar more than you have to for anything’. If saving sixty dollars by sourcing ‘vintage’ clothing or packing your own lunches means that you can work a few hours less each week, then bring on the op-shopping, trips to the DFO, second-hand textbooks, home cooking, loyalty cards, discount books, clothes-swapping and two-for-one deals! There are so many great money-saving initiatives being dreamt up every day, and they’re there to be taken advantage of
I would highly recommend a read of Nick’s latest instalment (a hilarious and thrifty USQ blogger himself) which can be found at http://usqedu.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/take-a-study-break-for-10/. It lists ways you can enjoy yourself for under $10. I would also add to ‘trivia nights’ to Nick’s list. Many are free, most are very cheap, and lots are accompanied by prizes, food deals, and a few hours of laughter (plus you’re probably learning something…). The poster below is one example ($50 for a team of six with profits going to charity!) but there are plenty more trivia nights out there held regularly.
So my friends, whilst my rambling has probably added to your confusion, just keep in mind that no one expects a student to be rich. And, if passing your course means missing a much-needed work shift, remember that water is free and that you can always buy a kilo of rice for $2.33 at Coles (and that’s not even on special).