Best ways to stretch your student budget

Best ways to stretch your student budget

Best ways to stretch your student budget

lessons in frugality Don’t spend money one day in a week. Don’t use your credit card one week in a month and don’t eat out one week in a month.You’ll notice the difference. GETTY IMAGES

Bangalore is an expensive city. Vegetable prices fluctuate erratically. Petrol is more expensive here than in neighbouring Chennai. Real estate prices are among some of the highest in the country. In fact, Bangalore ranks among the most expensive Indian cities according to a report of 144 of the world’s most expensive cities published by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. But the financial crunch is possibly the greatest for students staying away from home. These young people are forced to juggle housing, food and living expenses, often for the first time, without mom and dad’s ready-to-access wallets.

Accommodation eats away a sizeable chunk of the monthly budget leaving little for nutritious meals. Even with food and board taken care of, there’s the limitless spending when out with friends for movies, shopping, parties. Where does money management figure in all this chaos?

Teenagers and twenty-somethings would argue that their monetary sense would kick in around the time of their first paycheck. They don’t realise that could be sooner than they think and unfortunately financial prudence cannot be turned on like a light switch. It involves specific lifestyle changes and definite choices to put aside some money. Here are some simple guidelines to saving a little extra.

-When dining out, eat only half your order and ask to get the rest packed. You can use the leftovers for another meal, dividing the cost of one across two.

-Shop for groceries once a week. Make a list and stick to it. Reward yourself with a treat you can afford once a month.

-Pay bills early to avoid late fees. 

-Eat at home as often as possible. Pack lunch to take to college.

-Don’t spend any money one day in a week. Don’t use a credit card one week in a month. Don’t eat out one week in a month.

-For low-cost ideas to spend time with friends, pack a picnic to a local park, rent DVDs to watch at someone’s home and plan a potluck with games.

-Keep a written record of what you spend. It will be easier to avoid impulse buying and unnecessary purchases when you can see how quickly those funds run low.

-Always compare prices. A simple rule: If you find something you really like and can’t afford, there is always a more economical alternative if you just know where to look.

-As a student, you have the luxury of sharing costs with many people. Opt to stay with room mates with whom you can divide rent, grocery and utility costs.

-Make a budget and stick to it. There will always be that gorgeous pair of jeans you have your sights on or that fifth outing this week with friends. Learn to say no to enjoy the money when you really need or want it.

Despite following the rules, things can sometimes go wrong. If you find yourself in the middle of financial disaster, ask for help. Your parents are the best people to turn to at times like this. Avoid borrowing money from friends.

The average college student in Bangalore living away from home spends Rs 4,000 upward, including accommodation. Financial planning can never begin too early. Learning to manage your money young helps deal with the bigger numbers.  Discussing money with parents regularly and communicating clearly about the division of expenses is also wise.

Finally, college, unlike school — that tends to be more homogeneous — attracts an eclectic crowd, where financial disparities between students are common. Students shouldn’t feel compelled to stay in step with richer friends. Alternatively, they should be aware of peers that may not have as much financial freedom as them. Dealing with money is never easy. But an early start allows more time to perfect the practice.

Top tip

Anu Elizabeth Antony, is a student of Jyothi Nivas College, studying for a Master’s degree in English literature. She lives in the campus hostel and spends most of her money on books and food. The amount varies between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 every month. Sometimes she sells old books at second hand bookstores in exchange for books that aren’t available at a library. But spending on food is different. “Without thinking, we end up spending a lot of money on food because we don’t like hostel food,” Anu says. “Many hostels don’t allow computers so I spend a lot of money on printouts.”

She recommends scouting for accommodation that has provision for a laptop and includes meals with the rent.

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