By Ginger Abbot
You’ll learn many new things during your university years, but several of those lessons will happen outside the classroom. As you grow comfortable living independently, you’ll need to figure out how to maintain your lifestyle while planning for the future. Here are eight ways to manage your money as a first-year university student so you can take control of your financial life.
1. Increase your income
The first step in learning how to manage money at university is to create an income. Getting weekly, bi-weekly or monthly paychecks means you can afford to pay rent and bills. Look into getting a part-time job on campus. University departments prioritise working with student schedules more easily than off-campus businesses, but you can also look for employment in town if needed.
If you’re up for it, you might also try creating an income through personal side hustles. You could open an Etsy shop if you love crafting or art or sell your thrifted items on digital marketplaces. If you like writing, some student websites or university papers pay per article submission. A side hustle might be a less steady way to bring in personal funds, but every effort helps build your finances.
2. Open bank accounts
Bank accounts are essential for anyone who’s living on their own. Find a local bank and open checking and savings accounts. You’ll deposit your income in the checking account and move funds into savings whenever possible.
If a bank offers high-yield savings, it’s likely your best option. You’ll get a better annual percentage yield that includes the effects of compounding, resulting in more money made from your interest rate. Instead of earning a few cents every year, you’ll make dollars on the money you don’t touch.
3. Create an emergency plan
An emergency fund is what you’ll rely on if you lose your job or an emergency occurs. It’s essentially a safety nest of extra money you put away for unexpected expenses — like the month you can’t make rent or need to replace a flat tire. Add to this savings account for the rainiest of rainy days. In addition, you should also consider other methods of emergency planning.
Life insurance is another to plan for the emergencies — it protects your parents, partner, and other family members against any financial burden if the worst were to happen. Many young people don’t even consider life insurance because they don’t think they need it, but it’s an affordable way to plan ahead for emergencies and help you feel secure. Many superannuation funds include lie insurance as well – though there are pros and cons to this feature.
4. Track your expenses
You should also track your expenses while learning to manage your money. Try recording your bills in a monthly planner or download financial planning apps to calculate your most common costs automatically. After you understand where your money goes, it’s much easier to judge if you’re making enough to support yourself.
5. Create a budget
Tracking your expenses helps give you an idea of a general budget, but making it more specific to your lifestyle is a great way to learn how to manage money at university. List your essential costs, like bills, insurance and groceries. Subtract how much you put in savings and then subtract your other spending. Your budget will reflect any existing room for financial improvement.
6. Cut the non-essentials
First-year university students may find more financial freedom by cutting non-essential spending. See if you spend money on things like:
Monthly subscription services
Impulse purchases or vanity shopping
Credit cards with annual membership fees
Every dollar that goes toward non-essential spending is more money you could have put in savings or your grocery fund. If these purchases consume most of your budget, it’s in your best interest to cut your spending to make the most impact.
7. Find student discounts
Many businesses offer student discounts to people who have an active university email address. Local restaurants could sell pizzas at a reduced price if you show your university ID at the cash register. Major brands like Amazon and Spotify have significant discounts for student memberships. Look into what you already buy to see if similar deals could save more of your money.
8. Look for bargains
Coupons and sales will always come in handy. Look for bargains when you need to buy something, like food or school supplies. Never buy the first option available. You’ll likely find a sale or discount at a different store. You can always compare prices online or visit shops and compare the notes you’ll make on your phone or a clipboard.
Money management tips for students
There are many ways to manage your money as a first-year university student, but people of all ages find these tips most helpful. Increase your income, plan for emergencies and become a bargain-hunting pro. These steps will help you fall into a financial routine, build stability and learn how to manage your money in the future.
Ginger Abbot is a freelance education writer specialising in student life, travel, and college and career planning. Read more of her work on Classrooms.com.