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9 Ways to Save Money as a Student – Tips to Manage Money in School

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I understand how it feels to be in school, giving it your best to get good grades but never feeling like you have enough money to do anything. It can seem like an impossible task to save money as a student but it does not have to be so hard. Plus, “saving” in this context doesn’t necessarily mean stashing cash up. It may mean being frugal enough to make your money last longer.

No student should have to feel broke all the time so I’ve put together this guide to help you save and manage your money better as a student. Before you dive into that, read these candid stories from 4 students on how they currently manage their finances. Their tales are really interesting and relatable. 😂

Grace, 400 Level

I’ve always been a miser. I’ve always loved to save and watch my money grow but there always seemed to be situations that rip me of all my savings.

I made sure not to spend too much when I got into University. I would usually withdraw only ₦1,000 at the ATM with the aim of using it as my allowance for the whole week, but that didn’t always work out. I’ll walk to school and back every day and only take a cab if I was very late for a class.

I made sure to buy most of my things in bulk because it was usually cheaper that way. I also did my best to avoid eating outside, I even fetched my drinking water in used plastic bottles that I had previously used in order not to buy pure water. 🙈

Despite all these, I still got broke at times and my allowance didn’t come in every month like most people. It only came in if I asked, which was mostly when there was no more money available. I basically save money as a student to be able to survive the times my money will finish. Do you get? 😫

I tried making use of a savings app but my money didn’t always stay long in the app. I will always withdraw it once it reached its withdrawal date, same with my money market investments. There always seemed to be a lot to get done with the money.

Recently though, I’m getting more intentional with investing especially in dollar-denominated assets, like foreign stocks, Eurobonds, and other affordable dollar assets that I can lay my hands on. I’m even in search of affordable Euro or Pounds denominated assets as well, I would really love to invest in those currencies as well.

I am also looking to create more sources of income for myself so that I can comfortably diversify my investment portfolio and still have something left for both necessary and miscellaneous expenses.

Although there still isn’t really much to show from my miserliness, I believe that it’s a lot safer for me to live below my means.

Peculiar, 200 Level

I get ₦10,000 as my income after the end of every month, which I can boldly say isn’t enough.

I spend 10% (₦1,000) on data subscription, 45% – (₦4,500) on transportation since I stay off-campus and I am usually amazed at how I still get to save 20% – (₦2,000) of what I get.

The remaining 25% (₦2,500) serves as expenses for church offering, cravings, side attractions e.t.c. However, I still remove cravings when I need to because I wouldn’t want to starve. If a craving is all of my feeding fee which is out of the 25%, I would be casted finally!

Fortunately for me, I work online part-time and the brand I work with covers for my data subscriptions. In short, I am paid in data – that’s my salary. But most times I go ahead and request for it as cash and then purchase data on my own which is usually ₦1,000.

I look forward to getting more allowance though, I don’t think I’m satisfied. 😁

Anonymous, 400 Level

I am a student at College of Medicine, University of Lagos.

The way I’ve learned to handle money has been a journey and I still have a long way to go.

My allowance has always fluctuated between ₦20,000 – ₦35,000 monthly which is on the high side for the average student. I guess I’m lucky to get that much but it used to seem like it was never enough.

Thankfully, now I’m able to save about 6k – 12k of my allowance so I somewhat have Emergency Funds.

Most of my allowance is actually spent on feeding myself. School gets really busy sometimes so I barely have time to prepare my meals. I patronize all the High Cost-Low Nutrition restaurants on campus. 🌚

There was actually one time I tried to cook my meals myself for a week. Asides from it being extremely stressful, in my case, the cost also didn’t reduce because eating (or cooking) good food is also expensive.

If I want to take myself out to eat, to see a movie or to the beach, I have to save for like a month or two and I try to avoid taking out of my Emergency Funds for it.

Similarly, if I want to buy a gadget, I’d have to save for like a year. The exception to this is when my investments do really well.

I learned that cryptocurrencies are good investments, so any spare money I get from family or doing jobs I put into cryptocurrencies I’ve read about and have faith in.

One I had invested in increased by over 200% last year so I had enough money to buy myself some nice things (Chrome book, Xbox controllers, Yoga mat, jump rope and a small fridge for school). 

I don’t participate in the stock market yet but maybe I will someday. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around it yet.

This is where I’m currently at with my money…

Pablo, 400 Level

I’m Paul but everyone calls me Pablo because it’s Paul in Spanish and I’m also a huge Kanye fan. I like to think of myself as financially literate. I’ve always been that kid who would plot what I could do to make money and how much I would save by doing this or not doing that.

However, I’ve never really had much money of my own to play around with. My family is alright financially but that’s just about it, no splurging or anything. You can eat as much as you like but you’re not getting a high-end phone, you get?

So that’s how I grew up.

Living on my own as a student was a different ball game altogether. You have to think about every little expense as opposed to a family unit where everyone had their own responsibilities. So starting school was a rude awakening. 😩

There have been some lessons learned and really funny experiences along the way sha. I remember this one time I came back from classes so hungry and I soaked garri with salt for the first time (it was nasty 😂). There was another time (December 2017 if I remember correctly) where I spent like 5k on data in 3 weeks. I then thought about how I couldn’t afford to continue spending money on data when I wasn’t earning anything. Lol.

A very important milestone for me was registering on Cowrywise. I like to think of myself as a disciplined person when it comes to money so having money deducted automatically from your account helps. So I save weekly for the semester and then spend it on something I really need – like a power bank or something.

As far as making money is concerned, I used to write and edit as a freelancer for friends. I don’t do that as much anymore. Last year, I picked up a lot of odd jobs during the lockdown because I was basically bored. I tutored someone for WAEC, took pictures for a hotel opening, worked as a laundryman, started writing a poetry anthology, started learning python programming language, started trading cryptocurrencies, and even went painting houses one time. What an adventure! 😅

Fast forward to 2021 and I’ll say my decisions are paying off because I’m getting closer to financial independence. I only need help with major expenses like rent now. The ban on cryptocurrencies was a minor setback though. I haven’t still finished the anthology but I hope to start sales before the year ends. I’m also being considered for a scholarship so I hope that works out.

P.S: My bad habit is not spending mint notes. I keep a collection and any mint note I come across goes straight there, no debate. Once in a while, I bring all the notes out, smell them, and admire them. There’s just something about mint notes lol. If you’re ever at my place and you see any envelopes, take it and run! 🤣

Now, let’s get into the practical ways to help you manage and save money as a student. 

1. Know your income streams 

Granted, as a student, you may not have regular income in the sense that you receive it on a specific day every month – like a salary. But over the months or years, you will find that most of your income comes from certain places (per-time jobs) or people (e.g parents). Start here. Document your current income streams and how much you usually get from them. For example:

Per-time job A pays N5,000 per gig, Per-time job B pays N10,000 per gig and your parents try to send you N15,000 per month or as necessary. 

Let’s say you take on these gigs per month, they have therefore become consistent income streams and can be used to create a budget.

2. Create a budget and document your expenses daily 

A budget is your estimated revenue (from your income streams) and expenses over a period of time for the future – say for a one week, one month or one year period. To ensure that you stick to your spending limits your budget should be reviewed regularly.

Include all of the things you remember that you spend money on in your budget.
Here are some ideas: 

  • Food
  • Groceries
  • Textbooks 
  • Clothes
  • Data Subscriptions
  • Airtime 
  • Entertainment / Fun / Leisure 

Once you’ve created a clear budget, you also need to measure. Document your expenses daily and then evaluate after one week and one month. After evaluating, you can begin to tweak or change things up to become even more effective. 

3. Cook if you can or buy in bulk

Saving money goes beyond stacking it up. Sometimes, it just means that you incorporate strategies that help you “have” more. Eating out is generally more expensive than making meals yourself. If you’re a fast-food lover, you can try this for say a week to measure which one costs you more. If you absolutely hate to cook, there are options of buying bulk meals from food vendors or chefs and they can be considerably cheaper than buying breakfast, lunch and dinner separately. (Also buy your groceries in bulk). 

If these still do not work, then find cheaper alternatives for fast-foods. This doesn’t mean you should buy from places where you can get food poisoning. Just don’t buy expensive meals at “popular” outlets due to peer pressure.

4. Do not go into debt 

Speaking about peer pressure, do not live above your means if you want to save money as a student! I get that the pressure can be a lot and everyone around might be purchasing things they can’t afford to please people they don’t even like (or that don’t like them!). A major money mistake you can make is getting into unnecessary debt to only fund liabilities and not assets.

Liabilities continue to cost you while assets make you money back in some way. 

Also, do not be tempted to borrow money to fund “assets” that are basically just ponzi schemes. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Lookout for discounts to save money as a student

To get more patronage from students, some businesses offer discounts that are not available to people who already work or are out of school. Look out for such opportunities and make use of them to save those coins! Having your school ID card handy will help you here. Also, search for software that are free-to-use for students in cases where you need to get work done. Many applications like Microsoft Office 365 offer their services free for students so you should definitely enjoy it while it lasts.

6. Get a per-time job or internship

These days, if you have a skill, you can easily get a per-time job or internship. One of our users is still a student but has saved more than half a million because he takes on opportunities that bring in extra cash. Earning more will eventually help you save more as a student. 😉

Here are some skills you can hone that can easily ensure you earn more:

  • Social Media Management
  • Content Creation 
  • Hairdressing 
  • Make-up Artistry 
  • Virtual Assistance 
  • Software Development
  • Design
  • Thrifting 

7. Use cash and leave your card at home when shopping 

Have you ever planned to spend only a certain amount of money to shop somewhere, but spent way above your budget? Having your card with you while shopping can be a bad idea, especially if you are an impulsive shopper. To limit spending way more than planned, calculate how much money you need, then withdraw cash to spend instead of taking your card along with you. Also, you can delay purchases by waiting it out for a week or two to see if you really need it.

8. Stay home if you can 

This might not be an option for people who school out of state or far from home, however, it is an option to consider if you stay close to home. I get that this is probably your first “major” way of escaping from home, but you can still push this forward – especially if you are Gs with your parents. There’s usually free food at home and your parents or guardians probably cover major expenses already, this can help you save money as a student.

9. Borrow textbooks or buy used ones

Why buy new textbooks when you can borrow or get them for free? There are new textbooks to buy every semester but to save money as a student, you can find someone one or two years ahead of you who is willing to lend you their past textbooks. If they’ll rather sell, you can also bargain to get the textbooks at a much cheaper price than if you were buying new. The most important thing is to be able to read the words in the books right? Then buying new ones all the time is not necessary. 

Student life should not be so bad

When many people think of student life, they usually think of financial struggles but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Learning how to save money as a student is a skill that will help you now and even in the future.

Money can be tight in school but you can begin to imbibe healthy money management skills now. It’s not too early.

Use these tips to save money as a student. You’ll definitly begin to see how your money can work better and do more for you in school.

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