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While many university students have debt in the form of a student loan, a lot unfortunately also end up accruing massive extra debt (such as credit card debt). They then begin their careers with a big financial burden on their back and may struggle to make ends meet.
It is, however, quite possible to avoid extra debt. If you are at uni and want to avoid extra debt while still living comfortably on your budget, these tips can help you.
Implement cost-saving changes
There are many small changes that you can make to your usual habits at uni to help you save money. The following are particularly worth looking at:
- Biking or walking to uni (if you live off campus) instead of using a car or public transport
- Being a savvy shopper by, for example, checking out special offers at the supermarket and planning your meals around items that are cheap. Savvy shopping can also mean leaving out expensive food items and instead basing your meals around cheaper items such as beans or rice, which come with the added benefits of longer shelf life and the chance to buy in bulk (which is often cheaper)
- Buying your books, furniture and clothes second-hand
- Saving on rent by sharing a house with others
- Saving on fuel bills by switching off all the heating and lighting when you are out
Make a smart budget and stick to it
Making a personal budget can help you be financially accountable and disciplined while at uni. By sticking to your budget, you’ll avoid overspending and swiping your debit card for unnecessary things.
The first step towards creating a budget is to track your expenses, for example, using a spreadsheet. Note down every single thing that you spend money on. After tracking for a month, you will be able to figure out not just your most common expenses, but also the amount you spend and need on a weekly or even monthly basis. You can then embark on creating a custom budget.
First, create a list of the most important expenses, such as food and housing. After this, determine the amount that you have to set aside weekly to pay for them. When it comes to food, for example, you can set a fixed weekly budget for groceries (if you are cooking) and keep track of their prices while shopping, so you know how they might impact the following week’s budget. If you will be eating out, do the same: set a fixed amount for eating out and ensure that you do not overspend.
Besides all the known expense categories in your budget, also set aside an amount of money every month for a rainy day. A reserve fund ensures that you do not have to use credit when an emergency or an unexpected expense arises.
Say no to unnecessary expenses
You can save a lot at uni by learning to say no to unnecessary expenses, such as weekend drinking sessions with friends, random road trips and so on. You’ll also avoid debt by being mindful of needs versus wants, or necessities versus luxuries. For example, a laundry detergent is a need, while a new pair of jeans because your other pairs are dirty is a want that you do not have to spend money on.
Before you spend, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” If a particular activity means endlessly swiping your debit card, just say no.
Get a part-time job
At uni, you may have some free time within your lecture schedule. Instead of spending this time doing nothing, you can look for a part-time job to fill it. With a job, you can earn extra cash to cover some of your expenses. A part-time job does not even have to be in your career field (although, if it is, this is even better as it can actually help you build your skills as well as a CV for after uni).
A job can be a simple gig, such as waiting tables or babysitting; as long as it puts a few extra pounds in your pocket to cover some of your expenses, it is worthwhile.
It might seem hard, but avoiding extra debt at uni (apart from maybe a student loan) is entirely possible. You might have to make some sacrifices and perhaps work harder than your peers, but when you graduate you will start your career without another financial burden on top of your student loan.
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