Student finances: top budget tips for uni

Student finances. A bit of an oxymoron, right?

Not really. When it comes to paying for uni, there are plenty of ways you can get ahead. Between scholarships, grants, a solid budget (and a touch of thriftiness), getting your student finances in shape can be quite easy.

We sat down with Rachel Ayton, Student Welfare and Finance Adviser at Charles Sturt University, to chat all things student finance.

“We know that some students might experience a small degree of financial stress during their time at university – but we also know that being prepared can help reduce that stress. It’s important to find out upfront and right at the beginning of study what the costs will be, so you can prepare accordingly.”

Ready to save a pretty penny before you start your degree? Here are our top seven budget tips to help you get a handle on your finances while studying at uni.

1. Make a (realistic) budget

The most important, but also most overlooked, tip. Sit down and create a budget. It might seem like an overly simple, basic task – but we promise it will have a huge impact on your finances. If you note every single expense you have, you’ll have a good idea of where you stand.

Your budget will include things like rent, groceries and phone bill – but don’t forget the little things that also add up! For example, Netflix, eating out and birthday presents are all things you wouldn’t think to include in your budget, but can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

2. Apply for scholarships and grants

At Charles Sturt, we offer more than $3million in scholarships and grants every year. That’s a lot – we know! And they’re just waiting to be awarded to to students like you. Our most important tip? You’ve got to be in it to win it! So, as Rachel says, explore the scholarships, grants and support we have on offer.

“Extra cash in your pocket means you won’t have to stress about things like course fees, textbooks and attending work placements. There’s a range of scholarships on offer, so you’re most likely eligible for one (or more!).”

3. Use your student card

Rachel also knows that being a student could mean discount heaven.

“As part of your orientation to Charles Sturt, you’ll be provided with a student card. This card is your golden ticket to a range of discounts. For example, most technology companies offer student discounts on their products (think Apple, Microsoft and Samsung), as well as many local restaurants, cafés and pubs. So make sure you keep an eye out. And it never hurts to ask!”

4. Earn as you learn

Keen to earn some extra cash while you’re studying? You can, with Charles Sturt. Earn As You Learn is our student employment program, where we connect you with local employers looking to fill part-time positions.

Aside from the Earn As You Learn program, you can also apply for jobs yourself. From working at the local pub or café to tutoring high school students, there are plenty of ways for you to earn some extra cash while studying.

Rachel’s advice?

“If you need a hand getting your résumé in shape, just reach out to our careers team!”

5. Download budgeting apps and podcasts

One for the tech-savvy student. There are lots of resources out there that can boost your financial literacy – all from your phone. One that Rachel recommends is MoneyMinded. It’s a series of interactive activities designed to help you improve your money management skills. Topics include setting goals, budgeting, and managing your credit card. You can also share ideas and tips in the discussion forum.

6. Get thrifty

If you’re serious about saving money, it’s time to get thrifty. This means not buying the first thing you see, but really thinking about your purchases. And Rachel’s got some tips for you.

“Need a new outfit for a night out? Try looking at second-hand shops or the sale section online. Know that you’re going to be on campus at classes all day? Avoid buying your lunch and pack something to eat ahead of time.”

7. Explore government support options

Depending on your situation, you might be eligible for government support while you study. There are a few different options available. From deferring your course fees through a HELP loan or applying for government support like Youth Allowance or Austudy – there are a number of ways the government can help ease the financial burden studying can sometimes bring. And as Rachel points out, we can help you navigate them.

“If you’re struggling to navigate the government support system, the financial services team can help. We can work with you to find the support you’re eligible for and what you’ll need to apply.”

Planning on getting your student finances in order before you start uni?

Smart move. It pays to be organised.

At Charles Sturt, support is in our DNA. So if you need a hand once you start your course, get in touch with the student finances team. They can provide you with the knowledge, tools and advice to set yourself up for the best chance of success while studying.

And if you need some more info beforehand, just reach out.