People often think that saving is only for high-income earners and that it is not possible to save at all as a student. This, in fact, is not true. As little as 10 euros a month is enough to start saving, and over the course of a year you can accumulate a perfectly respectable amount. The most important thing about saving is consistency – getting into the habit of putting money aside every month.
Now you might say, “But I can’t afford to save!” In that case, ask yourself if there is a way you can spend 10% more wisely. We know that managing your finances as a student can be quite a challenge, so here are ten tips on how to do that.
1. Keep track of your finances and plan a budget
Yes, we know that keeping a spreadsheet of your income and expenses and drawing up a budget can be a pain. But it’s the only way to avoid having only 2 euros left on your account a week before the end of the month. Write down all your income and expenses, down to the smallest purchases, because small expenses can add up to big ones by the end of the month. For example, buying every day a soft drink that costs 2 euros will add up to more than 700 euros over the year. Have you ever thought about that?
By analysing your monthly budget, you can get a clear picture of how much you spend and on what. You can create your own Excel spreadsheet or use apps such as Monefy or MyFinancier (in Estonian) to regularly track your expenses.
Here’s an additional bonus: If you keep a close eye on your finances, you’ll be better able to cope with the unexpected. You’ll be glad to have a small savings buffer in situations when, for example, the computer you need for studying suddenly breaks down and you have to buy a new one.
2. If possible, live with your parents or in a shared dorm room /apartment
Many young people feel the social pressure to move out of home when they go to university. It is as if a sign of independence. However, financially this might not always be the most sensible option. For example, you will have to take into account the monthly rent and utility bills, which make up a significant part of your monthly expenses. Likewise, for example, when signing a rental contract, you will have to pay a deposit, an advance payment of a month’s rent and, in some cases, also a broker’s commission. It all adds up, doesn’t it?
So if you can live with your parents, you can save several hundred euros a month. But even if you have to move to another city to go to university, renting a dorm room will be likely much cheaper than living in an apartment. However, if you choose to live in an apartment, you can save money by sharing the space with other students.
3. Bring what you need from home
If possible, bring everything you need to start independent living – bed linen, towels and cookware – from your parents’ home. That way you don’t have to buy everything at once. But remember – only take the things you really need and that make you happy. The fewer things you have, the less time you’ll spend cleaning.
However, if you need something, you can find what you need at the re-use centre “Uuskasutuskeskus”, the second-hand store “Sõbralt Sõbrale” or Facebook groups. It’s a great way to give things a second chance and save money in the process.
4. Open a second bank account and turn it into a savings account
Yes, as a student, you may not have enough money left over each month. However, you’ll have a better chance of building up savings if you put a small amount of it away at the beginning of each month as you receive your money. This amount could be kept as backup in case something unexpected does happen. Maybe you can still save that ten euros a month?
5. Do I want it or do I need it?
This is a question you should ask yourself every time before you make a purchase. Is it something you really need or is it just a nice thing to have? Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never indulge as you do need to treat yourself every now and then. But when it becomes a daily routine, high costs quickly add up. If you want to make sure whether you are motivated by an emotional desire or actual necessity, it’s worth asking yourself before buying: “Do I really need this? What will happen if I don’t buy that?”
6. Find ways to earn extra money
Many students work part-time to earn extra money. It’s a perfectly good idea to do this as long as you can dedicate yourself properly to both your work and your studies and one doesn’t come at the expense of the other. It’s definitely worth looking for a specialty job placement, volunteering or seasonal work. This will give you some initial work experience and increase your chances of finding interesting professional work after graduation.
Also think about other options. Let’s say you have a good command of English – you could help out with translation work, for example. If you are good at maths, you could tutor a primary or secondary school student. Do you have excellent social media skills? Offer to help some start-up business, etc., with small workload. In other words, turn a skill or a hobby into an income!
There are also opportunities to find some workbites, or flexible short-term jobs, for example, at Christmas, parcel delivery companies are looking for workers to sort parcels. You can earn money by completing paid surveys and entering data. Also, it is possible to earn extra money by babysitting, and animal lovers can get paid for walking dogs or providing pet sitting services.
Don’t forget another easy way to earn extra money: selling clothes or other unused items! It’s worth looking around your home, perhaps a closet clearout will also lead to a furniture sale and, all in all, you’ll have more space in your home and more time and energy for other things.
7. Use your ISIC card
Already have an ISIC card? You can get discounts at many places with this card, all of which are listed HERE. So it’s worth making a note of where you can get discounts with your ISIC card when you’re visiting different shops or cafés. This is another way to significantly save up.
8. Keep an eye on your food costs
Food is one of the biggest expenses for many people. It’s therefore essential to track your food costs on a monthly basis to see if they are reasonable or there are ways to cut back.
In fact, there are some simple tricks you can do to save on food costs. For example, shop once a week instead of every day and stick to a set shopping list. To make a shopping list, plan a menu for the whole week beforehand. You could, for example, base your menu on the special offers available in a given store. You can also base your menu on the food you already have. If you’ve got potatoes, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables at home, perhaps it would be a good idea to use them in a tasty one-pot meal?
If you only go to the grocery store once a week, you’ll avoid making emotional purchases that you might do on a daily trip to the supermarket (sometimes you just can’t help but want that Snickers bar next to the counter!). Planning is half the battle, too, as you don’t accumulate unnecessary food in your cupboard to throw away later. Planning may seem like a hassle at first, but in the long run, it saves a lot of time on shopping and a lot of money by not eating out.
P.S. Make sure you don’t go to the store with an empty stomach! A particularly good idea is to order online. 😊 For more tips on how to keep food costs under control, click HERE (in Estonian).
9. Bring water and coffee from home
Many students have a habit of regularly buying a 2–3 euro cup of coffee to go. However, this can become so costly that at the end of the month it’s hard to believe how much money you’ve wasted. It makes more sense to invest in a reusable travel mug that you can fill up at home. And if you’re short in money but you need to buy more, you can sometimes get a discount at a café if you bring your own mug. By the way, the same applies to reusable water bottles!
10. Take out as much student loan as you need and as little as possible
Student loans can also help to cover your living costs. When you take out a loan, remember that it is a long-term financial commitment and that even if you get to pay back the principal only after completing your studies, you still have to pay interest every year.
Remember that you can also take out the loan in several installments so there’s no risk of spending your rent money on travelling during the very first semester.
There are certainly several other excellent tips on how to manage your finances as a student – feel free to share them in the comments! 👇👇