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As parents, and as graduates ourselves in many cases, we are well aware of just how difficult it can be to get through the academic year with what little money you have available. By the time you have paid for your accommodation for the year along with tuition fees and study materials that are deemed to be “essential” but you barely ever open, you’re struggling to keep yourself in the black and you have little option but to visit the Bank of Mum and Dad for a loan (by loan, we of course, mean donation!)
This made me think about how things could be improved. There isn’t enough money available to just give them, but giving them the advice to make what they do have last could be key.
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Managing money doesn’t come naturally and it is a skill that is best learned early on, to avoid the inevitable and costly mistakes that can take a long time to put right. Simple tasks such as knowing your incomings from your outgoings can pay dividends in a very short time and isn’t necessarily as obvious as you might think. I often wish I had started young, learning to prepare for the unseen costs in life, rather than spending everything by the end of the week and hoping for the best!
An accountant will probably begin by suggesting a simple spreadsheet to track how much money is left and where it needs to be spent. We all know that it is easier to manage money if you can see it, and being organised is key. However, when I was a student, I used to have two columns; ‘Got’ and ‘Gone’, which worked for me. As long as ‘Got’ was higher than ‘Gone’, all was well with the world!
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It is also invaluable to learn how to make a small amount of money stretch and to be realistic about how much they have. If they can get to grips now with shopping with a limit, like £10 or £20 for example, it will put them in a good position when they go out on their own. Own-brand products and special offers will become their first choices and “luxuries” will have to be just that rather than being taken for granted and added to the trolley each time they go with you.
Finally, we all know how important a social life is to a student. Going out for a few drinks is common practice and quite often a spur of the moment decision, but teaching them that blowing all of their money in the Student Union will have a knock-on effect for their bank account. While the drinks might be much cheaper on campus than in a typical town or city centre bar, it’s still money they won’t be able to spend on the genuinely important things - like a train ticket home to see Mum and Dad!
What advice would you give to students on a limited budget?
* A collaborative post