14 Jan 2015

Financial Planning for Your Higher Education

Student life is often synonymous with budget meals, discounts and an overall tightening of your finances. When the costs of higher education can range from the tens of thousands at local universities to over a couple of hundred thousand overseas, it’s not hard to see why a whole lot of careful planning must go into the management of your finances and budget as a student.

Whether it’s developing an overzealous eye for discounts or making instant noodles their regular meal, students sure are a cash-strapped lot. Here are some tips that will help minimise budgeting problems and ensure you don’t spend half the time at university worrying about your finances.

Exploring Your Income Options
You should make sure that you’ve explored all the possible funding options for your education. Check what tuition fee grants and bursaries are available to you from the government or from your university.

This involves a lot of research, but can go a long way towards lightening your financial burden. You should also look into scholarships offered by your university – these are often bond-free and are a great way to obtain funding.

Alternatively, if you intend to take out a student loan, choose the one that offers the best flexibility in the long-term. Always plan ahead and estimate the total amount that you will have to repay after graduating. A good guideline is to refrain from taking a loan that will saddle you with more debt than your expected starting salary in your first year.

This may seem obvious, but the importance of setting a budget for yourself cannot be overstated. Do your research on the costs of accommodation, food, utility, course materials and other essentials. It’s also helpful to speak to people who have studied in the same city – if you are going overseas – to gain budgeting tips and first-hand information on the costs of living.

Next, estimate how much you’ll have at your disposal from your various sources of income or funding. Tailor your budget to fit your means and make an effort to stay within it. It can even be immensely useful to plan budgets around shorter time frames and draw up weekly budgets instead of monthly ones.

Smart Spending
Finally, the biggest no-brainer of all – spend wisely. This is actually harder than it sounds. You will need to refrain from jumping at the first purchase opportunity you see and instead look around for a better deal. Where possible, purchase your books and course materials second-hand – these are often still in fairly good condition and will save you quite a bit of money.

Student discounts are also aplenty, and it’s up to you to look out for them. Your university may also have special discounts with certain retail partners or eateries, and you should make an effort to find out which these are. Everything counts – whether it is walking or cycling where possible instead of taking the bus or making bulk purchases to share costs with your housemates – and the simplest things can go a long way towards ensuring that your expenses remain within your budget.

The key to having tidy and comfortable finances in university is good planning. If you plan ahead and take care to find out how you can spend within your means, you ensure that you’ll be able to begin university feeling more comfortable and confident financially.