Are you a student trying to budget? Learn from my spending mistakes and find out how you can save more money today!
Living on a student budget can be quite difficult and stressful. I definitely made my share of spending mistakes that ate up a huge chunk of my savings.
I’ve always believed that the first step to solving any problem is to recognise and acknowledge it. Only then can you find the root of the problem and apply solutions to address it.
- Recognise the problem
- Analyse the problem
- Address the problem
If you know that you’re not good at saving money, it’s so important to recognise where you’re making your mistakes. Once you know where your problems lie, then you can find ways to solve it.
The key to developing good spending habits lies in budgeting well. Budgeting is annoying and time-consuming, but it’s a super helpful way to track where your money’s coming and going. Especially when it comes to spending.
By learning to budget well, you’ll be able to :
- gain a better understanding of your spending habits
- adjust any bad spending habits
- save more money
- spend less money on useless items
- keep you out of debt
- ensure that you have enough savings for emergencies or important future expenses
- prevent future spending mistakes
If you’re a student and you learn how to budget well now, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle in the future. AND you’ll be well on your way to a fat savings account in the future.
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What were my biggest spending mistakes?
1. I didn’t actually have a budget
I know, this sounds ridiculous, right? Given the title of this post. I made one of the most simple spending mistakes.
But yes, I actually failed to have a visual budget outlined in front of me. Rather, I relied on trying to remember the amount of money I spent per week and whether or not it was considered to be ‘over my budget’.
This, combined with the fact that I didn’t really go out very often, meant that I was quite liberal with spending my money whenever I had a social event.
Of course, not having a budget led to me thinking that I had more money than I did. Which is why I was very open to spending money when I did go out.
2. I used my debit card whenever I needed to pay for something
It was when I saw that everyone around me was using their debit cards to pay for everything that I thought using a card would make me ‘cool’ or fit in with those my age.
I’m not sure why I had the misguided ideal that using cash was a thing of the past (to some degree, it is) and not something someone my age should still be using. But, there were many more cons to forgoing cash than there were pros.
I used my card for everything
Being in the habit of putting EVERYTHING on my debit card gave me the illusion that I wasn’t actually spending much money. This was because my money wasn’t tangible and I couldn’t actually see myself spending much.
This was a huge mistake on my part because just one look at my bank account and I could see my money going down the drain.
I was living on a student budget. I didn’t have an unlimited flow of income coming into my bank account. So, I decided that something needed to change.
I needed to make myself SEE the money that I was spending.
I had no idea how much I was ACTUALLY spending
The worst thing about using a card was that I rarely gave it much thought before I tapped it on the EFTPOS terminal. I barely even registered the amount that I was told before handing my card over.
So, when I would look at my bank statement a few weeks later, I would find myself befuddled and extremely confused about the names that would appear on the statement.
I decided to do something about it
So, I stopped taking out my card and used cash for all of my everyday expenses.
Of course, certain things I purchased online, my transport fares, and larger expenses were still paid for by card. But, those were necessities.
I made sure that ‘fun’ expenses or things that I didn’t really need were paid for by cash. This way, I could see the cash that was disappearing from my wallet and I had a much clearer idea of where my money was going.
3. I was impatient
Impatience on my part was definitely not a virtue.
I was stressed about university, to say the least. I was afraid that I would fall behind on my courses and that once I did, I wouldn’t be able to catch up again.
So, I forgot to heed my own warnings. I bought the textbooks required for my course much too early. Yes, I bought the ebook version, and yes I used the supposed ‘university discount’. But, had I waited just ONE more week and I wouldn’t have had to purchase anything.
Don’t buy your textbooks prior to actually attending your first class
I can’t stress this enough. Every course has its list of ‘required textbooks’. The professors and lecturers have their lists of ‘required readings’. But, more often than not, these textbooks and readings are never mentioned again once the first week has passed.
Granted, if you enjoy reading and highlighting a textbook, then, by all means, go for it. I’m certain that the benefits do exist.
Almost all of the time, all the information in a textbook can be found through a little bit of internet sleuthing. However, this does take up more time and you’ll have to verify the sources of each site to determine their reliability. But, between some extra study time and a $50+ textbook, you make the judgement call.
What if the textbook is mandatory?
In some courses, lecturers and professors refer to certain textbooks every week. Or maybe your weekly homework is sets of questions that can be found only in the textbook. Then, of course, you’ll need to get your hands on a copy.
Where can you find or purchase a textbook?
- Friends or other classmates
- Facebook groups and chats
- Online marketplaces
- Secondhand bookstores
- Online bookstores
- Traditional bookstores
Note: If you need a specific edition for your course, e.g. for business or politics, that requires the lastest and most up to date information, then your options may be limited.
Friends or classmates
The first place to look is friends or other classmates to see if they have copies that they can share with you. This is probably the easiest and most hassle-free of the options. Ask people who have completed the course before you if they have a copy that you can borrow or purchase off them for a lower price.
Aside from being a great social platform to connect with friends and acquaintances, Facebook groups and chats are also a great place to search and acquire textbooks.
There are generally many groups catered towards students of particular universities. Try to search for sale groups that have your university’s name attached to it, e.g. ‘_____ Textbook Sale Group’. You can even search for groups of specific faculties or schools, e.g. ‘_____ Textbook Sales (Business)’.
From there, there should be posts by past students or those who have just finished the course looking to sell their textbooks. The prices of these can vary depending on the condition of the textbook, but if you only need it for a few months, a more battered copy for a cheaper price can be a good option.
You can also resell your textbooks in these groups once you’ve completed the course.
Facebook chats are usually more specific to your course and will only have classmates who are doing the same course at the same time as you. So, they might have other methods of obtaining the textbook.
With online marketplaces, I’m referring to places like Facebook marketplace, eBay or Gumtree. These are all places where people resell items that they no longer need, so you may be able to find secondhand textbooks. However, you’ll be very limited in your options, provided you even manage to find any listings.
Again, you may not be able to find any in your regular secondhand bookstore. However, some universities have their own versions of secondhand bookstores where they would definitely stock textbooks.
Another option would be to scour bookstores in the immediate area where students might drop off their old textbooks when they graduate. You would have a much higher chance in those than if you were to go to a bookstore nowhere near a university.
If you’ve tried all the other options and you definitely need to buy your textbooks online, you can choose to buy either secondhand or new.
For secondhand textbooks, Abebooks has a great selection of secondhand textbooks at reasonable prices.
If you need to buy a textbook new, e.g. the newest edition or you’ve exhausted all your other options, then Book Depository would be your best bet. They are my go-to online bookstore since the prices are very reasonable compared to traditional brick and mortar stores and they have a huge range available.
And of course, our last place to purchase textbooks. A good old brick and mortar bookstore. You will most likely find what you’re looking for here at a much higher price than any other site or location.
The most obvious pro of choosing to purchase your textbooks at a local bookstore is the convenience. Especially if you choose to buy them at your university’s own bookstore. There, you would be almost 100% guaranteed by stock levels and purchasing the right edition.
4. I got lazy about packing my own lunch
A lot of my money during the year was spent on buying lunch for myself on the days that I was at university.
As the price of food on campus was quite high, I was determined to pack my lunch whenever I could. At first, I was quite diligent in doing so. I would pack leftovers from the night before and bring them the next day. However, as time passed, I got a bit lazy and stopped packing my own lunch.
Not having a prepared lunch meant that I had to purchase food on campus or from one of the restaurants surrounding the campus. On average, this was about $15 per meal. Multiply that by the number of times I went to uni per week and the numbers added up quite significantly.
I can definitely say that the large majority of my spending was on food alone.
Those were the biggest spending mistakes I made as a student.
Now that I actually know what my problems are, I can take steps to fix it. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and develop good spending habits early on.
Do you have some of your own spending mistakes? Share them down below!