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how to save money while studying

Getting through tertiary education is financially tough, and it's even tougher if you're a student living away from home. Whether you’ve just begun your new life at Uni a few months ago, or you are continuing an existing degree or course at TAFE, here are some money saving tips to get you through the year with enough food in your belly, strategies to still have fun, and hopefully even some savings left for an end of year treat or to build towards some exciting financial goals.

If you can cook, you should! - If you don't know how, learn some simple dishes - Jamie Oliver is a great inspiration with easy to follow, tasty and budget friendly ideas. Search for recipes online and get your friends to test out your creations. You are guaranteed to save money cooking your own meals vs buying prepared meals or going out for dinner. A weekend breakfast date is lovely with friends as is a dinner with someone special, but make these treats rather than regular occurances.

Buy pantry staples in bulk - (oats, rice, olive oil etc) rather than tiny packets. Supermarkets now have to show how much a product is per kilo, so try to purchase items that are better value per kilo.

Try to only buy items on special - if something is marked down because it’s about to pass its used by date consider freezing it. If your favourite brand of cereal or soup is on special buy a few extra to last you a few more weeks.

Try to avoid a daily take away coffee - its a lovely treat, and the act of buying a coffee is psychologically is about reward and (it's been a hard day/I hardly slept/I have to really focus this afternoon/I'm bored), as well as taking a break out of our day. Make yourself a flask of tea or coffee and find a sunny spot to sit and create your own rewarding experience perhaps with a home baked treat.

Pack your lunch most days - keep one day a week to meet up with friends for a lunch date, but if you can bring a packed lunch most days of the week you will save a huge amount of money, and may end up eating more healthily too. Think salads, sandwiches, left overs, stash containers of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, fresh fruit, home made muffins and cup cakes.

Update your wardrobe with vintage items - Shop at markets and car boot sales looking for ‘garage sale’ stalls or visit your local Vinnies or Salvos stores. Look for high quality brands and only buy clothes that are in good condition, that fit you well and only things you know will go with your existing wardrobe. Alternatively for a zero dollar spend get a bunch of buddies together, all bring along your unwanted clothes and swap items with each other.

Need furniture and electrical goods? - Ask family and friends if they have old furniture they are happy to donate to your share-house cause, then there’s eBay and local garage sales. Aim for solid, good quality pieces that will last you a few years at least. Be cautious when buying electrical goods second hand, sometimes you’re better off waiting for the sales and buying new, though you might be lucky to find a good quality brand second hand.

Concession cards provide massive discounts - on public transport as well as providing opportunities for discounts on flights, some take away places and even book stores. Avoid buying a car for as long as you can and travel by bike or bus if you can.

If you can, get a part time job - to help pay the way through your degree or diploma, it will also equip you with new skills and experiences you can take with you when you leave and start searching for a full time job post uni. If possible look for a job in the industry you hope to work in when you graduate, but any part time job will help cover costs. If you can, try to put aside 10% of your earnings into an online savings account, it might not equate to much if you’re only doing a shift or two a week, but it will get you in the habit of saving and get you ahead from the very beginning of your working career.

Completing a degree, diploma or even a certificate course is a challenging yet rewarding achievement which can help to provide broader opportunities for your future, but don't forget to enjoy yourself along the way!  

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.