Going to university is an incredibly exciting time, full of new experiences and opportunities. However, it’s also a time when you’ll need to take on new responsibilities, including managing your finances. As a university student, managing money can feel overwhelming, but it’s an essential part of setting yourself up for financial success in the future.
To help you navigate this new territory, we spoke with Ms. Afia Tiwaa Obeng, a recent graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, to get her advice on managing your finances while in university.
By adopting good financial habits now, you can set yourself up for a bright financial future.
- Create a budget and stick to it
Managing your finances is crucial, and budgeting is the foundation of effective financial management. It’s particularly crucial when you’re a student or have a low income. Without a budget, keeping track of your money and making informed financial decisions is challenging.
The first step in creating a budget is to understand your sources of income, including the amount of money you receive from each source. This will enable you to create an accurate budget that aligns with your income. Once you’ve established your sources of income, you need to itemise your expenses, such as rent, utilities, books, and other bills you must pay. By doing this, you’ll clearly understand how much money you’re spending and where it’s going.
After identifying your income and expenses, you can create a budget that suits your needs. Budgeting will enable you to allocate your money efficiently and manage your finances wisely. To ensure the success of your budget, it’s crucial to adhere to it strictly. Consistently sticking to your budget will help you reach your financial goals, reduce expenses, and build your savings.
When dealing with a tight budget, prioritising your expenses is critical. Prioritising your essential expenses, such as food, utilities and academic resources, is essential before spending money on non-essential items. By doing this, you’ll be able to ensure that your basic needs are met and you’re not overspending on non-essential items.
- Meal Prep
Eating out can put a serious dent in your wallet, especially if you’re on a tight budget as a student. In university, I found that meal prepping was the best way to save money.
I made sure to allocate a portion of my weekly budget towards groceries so that I could prepare food in bulk, usually stews and soups, for the week ahead. This approach saved me a lot of money and made mealtime less stressful since I didn’t have to worry about what to eat every day.
If you’re not confident in your cooking abilities, don’t worry. You can always reach out to someone in your network who knows their way around the kitchen. There’s bound to be at least one person in your circle who cooks well.
Pool your money together, buy groceries, cook in bulk, and split the food. Not only will this help you save money, but it also gives you more control over the ingredients and lets you make healthier choices.
- Start saving early
Saving money is an essential life skill that you can acquire during your time at university. As a student, you may often feel financially constrained and struggling to make ends meet. However, developing good saving habits early on can help you overcome financial challenges and achieve your long-term goals.
It’s never too early to start saving, no matter how small the amount. The earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow, and the easier it becomes to form a habit of saving.
A simple strategy, to begin with, is to set aside a fixed amount of money each week or month, depending on which frequency works for you, even if it is just a small amount. Over time, you can gradually increase the amount as you become more comfortable with saving.
- Find ways to make money
University can be an opportune time to explore different avenues of generating income. The possibilities are endless, whether you opt for a part-time job or start a small business. You have access to thousands of potential customers near you. However, it’s important to figure out what product or service you want to offer and whether it caters to a need or a want.
While on campus, I ventured into baking cakes, which proved to be a delightful experience that earned me a good amount of money to cater to my needs and expenses. Starting a business can be daunting, and many students fear not getting customers. I suggest that you dive in and start.
The initial stages of your business may not go as planned, but that shouldn’t discourage you. Instead, be proactive and spread the word about your business. Share with roommates, classmates, church members, and others within your social circle.
Remember, word-of-mouth marketing can significantly boost your business, especially in the close-knit university community, so be sure to provide excellent service when you engage customers.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Managing finances can be challenging and can take a toll on your mental health when things don’t go as planned. Many students feel overwhelmed and depressed when they are struggling financially. However, it is essential to remember that help is available, and you don’t have to go through it alone.
If you’re struggling with your finances, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Most universities have various programs that cater to students’ welfare, including financial support. For instance, my university had scholarships and support schemes to aid struggling students. Additionally, there were food banks that helped students who lack foodstuffs.
It’s also essential to reach out to professionals who can provide guidance and support. If your university has a counselling unit, you can talk to a counsellor who can offer support and advice on managing your mental health and finances. Alternatively, you can visit your school’s financial aid office.
Remember that you’re not alone, and seeking help is okay. Taking control of your finances is a significant step towards improving your mental and emotional well-being. With the right support, you can overcome financial challenges and achieve your academic goals.
Managing personal finances can be overwhelming for a university student. Still, developing good financial habits is critical to set you on the right path towards a financially stable future. Hopefully, these practical tips help you successfully navigate the world of personal finance. Remember, start small, stay focused, and be disciplined in your approach, and you’ll be able to take control of your finances.