Tips to Cut Costs and Save Like a Uni Student
As a full time university student I don't have much time to work. I aim to excel at my studies, but still have a balanced and healthy life. Going through my finances and reflecting on ways to save money, I have compiled a list of things I have found useful. Uni students are well known for having no money, no saving skills, and no eye on the future—I’m proof that the stereotype, of course, doesn’t apply to everyone, and really, students who have little money somehow manage to still pay for the essentials and find money to spend partying. If only they saved that excess they scrounged up.
Stop Dining Out
I don't mean stop entirely, but make it a special time if you do—something you will remember, something worthwhile to spend your hard-earned money on. Don’t get takeaway for dinner every night, or lunch at a cafe near your work because you can’t be bothered to pack a lunch. Pack that lunch, it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Have friends around for dinner, or better yet go to their house. It will save you money and you still get to spend some special time with your friends on a regular basis.
Make Coffees at Home
Working as a barista, I saw one person came in come in every day and order two large takeaway coffees. That's $10 a day, $70 a week, $140 a fortnight—and a whopping $3,650 a year. That’s not including any others they may order. I know I could put that much money to a lot of use, but when it’s a small habitual transaction like that you just don’t notice.
Make your own. For that much money you can invest in a good coffee machine, and be able to have one every morning without leaving your house. If you like put it in a keep-cup (or a thermos) and take it with you. There is also something satisfying about making your own coffee, and you can have it exactly how you like it, without having to wait in line.
Cook in Bulk and Freeze it
Plan your meals in advance. I have found this to be extremely useful when I am getting busy. It takes a lot of stress out, and having a list and knowing what you are buying at the shops cuts back on unnecessary purchases that might be good in a meal you want to cook at some point, but ultimately goes off before you use it.
Even if I have prepared an amazing meal plan, if I come home needing to buy things or if the meals have a lot of prep work I am likely to fall back on take out. Having prepared or frozen meals can help curb this unnecessary spending. If you aren’t a fan of pre-cooked meals or frozen leftover, have something easy to make as a fallback, like noodles or baked beans on toast—though try not to make it a habit.
Small changes like meal plans and bulk cooking can really save a lot of time and money over the year.
Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
No one really needs Netflix, Youtube Red, Spotify and that magazine subscription that you never actually read but are still paying for, though I can understand that it might feel that way. I know I am wasting a lot of money by having Photoshop on my laptop; however on the occasions I want or need it having access is incredibly handy. When you go through all your subscriptions think about if you actually need them. Most will be a no—if there are ones you have to keep, try an ultimatum of ‘for every subscription I keep, I will cancel one I don’t need’. Work this way when you are wanting to sign up to a new paid subscription, the one-in one-out method. Don’t forget to look for cheaper or free alternatives too.
Make Your Own Cleaners
There are a huge amount of homemade cleaning recipes on the internet. They will cut your costs, but it will be trial and error to find something you like. Like with everything on the internet, research first, and often. Some of the recipes out there to make your own laundry powder can do long term damage to your washer. For me specifically I love making my own surface spays and floor cleaner, though I don’t make my own laundry powder. Some people, like my mother, can't fathom making their own cleaners, and there is nothing wrong with that. I have found most of the cheaper store-bought cleaners work just as well as name brand ones, so that could be a way for people who don't want to make their own cut some costs.
Do You Really Need a 30th Pair of Shoes?
Now this isn't limited to just shoes, obviously. Lots of people have their indulgences, and having one or two is fine. If you find you have more, perhaps cut back a bit. What's the point in having more items then you can use? I understand needing something for every occasion, but people won't notice if you are wearing the black strappy 12-inch heels, or the black strappy 11-inch heels with a small gold accent. If it makes you feel good then that’s great, but go through your shoes to find and sell/donate/get rid of ones that don’t make you feel happy, don’t use, or don’t want. This will make you a bit of extra cash, free up some wardrobe space, and when you want to, get better focus on what other use that money has. You don't need that many shoes, the ones you have now will suffice
Take Advantage of Local Events
In Canberra there is always something to do, and usually for free. There are poetry readings and open mic nights, drawing groups, so many galleries, free group ukelele lessons, music, and a range of festivals. For date nights or a good time with friends spend a bit of time looking online for local free events - there is always something. Not only will it save you money, it will be an opportunity to experience something you might otherwise not have, and if all else fails and the weather is good a picnic in a park or a walk in a nature reserve is a lovely way to spend the day.
If you own your own house and have a room you could free up (do you really use that Study, or could you turn it into a spare bedroom?) you can Air BnB it for some extra cash to put into your savings. Or, take it a step further and rent it out for consistent income.
On the other side of it, living in a shared house can really cut your costs.
Pay Into Your Savings First
Above all else, after paying the fundamental needs such as rent and bills, pay into your savings - preferably into a separate account you don't touch. I have found automatic transfers are amazing: I get rent, savings and bill payments all taken out the day after I get paid. I don't notice the savings that have been taken out, but it’s building up nicely in the background. As long as you have something going into your savings each pay cycle, and you’re not accumulating debts, you will be going in the right direction, albeit slower if you only have very little going out.
Much Can Be Done
If you are serious about saving and cutting costs you will find solutions that work for you most of the time, it's just practicing discipline which is another whole article in itself. We spend money in lots of places and on lots of things that are, in the grand scheme, unnecessary—and while they might please us in the moment with instant gratification, exercising a little self control, thinking about the future, and visualising goals can all help to focus it on more important things.