Saving money can be a tricky aspect of studying abroad and it can often get in the way of your studying and cause you stress… if you let it. I studied at Griffith University for six months and in that time I had a specific amount I could spend, which included spending money on rent, food, studying and leisure. Studying in a foreign place can be full of enticing ways to spend your dollars, whether that’s on the local cuisine or something more extreme like a road trip to Airlie Beach. Here are six of my tips on how to save money…
1. You need to decide what your desires are
Do you want to take money back with you? Do you want to save money so you can experience more of the local environment? My first tip is entirely dependent on what your spending priorities are. Some students simply want to enjoy the experience of their education, and as such tend to prioritise paying rent and simple costs of living; some students want to experience the local environment as well as their studies, and as such will try and keep spare money to spend on leisurely experiences.
2. Know what money you have
It’s very easy to lose track of what money you have. My advice is to keep receipts and to tick them off once you’ve calculated how much you have spent; you could keep a pocket notebook with you and write down the amounts you spend or use an app. Depending on your situation you can adjust the way you spend based on your knowledge of how much is available to spend.
3. Don’t budget food
This sounds very strange, but my advice is not to set an amount of dollars you can spend on your food shopping. This can go two ways; either you unnecessarily spend on food you don’t need, or you stress yourself out by underestimating how much you need. Instead, pay-as-you-go. I made the mistake of budgeting my food and I ended up with a fridge regularly containing unused food that I said to myself I was going to eat. I eventually learned to buy regularly in small batches as I only bought food that I needed and I wasn’t putting things in my basket for the sake of it. Read Elizabeth’s beginners guide to Australian grocery shopping for some tips on how to save money when you’re stocking up on food.
4. Don’t overcomplicate your budget
If you use a budget then don’t overcomplicate it by trying to account for all possible things. Keep things simple. Instead of having a budget for categories such as; alcohol, clothes and cinema, have a budget which is just spare money for your week, month or however you lay out your budget. Sticking to budgets is difficult, and simplifying them makes them easier to stick to.
5. Prioritise your spending
Do you really want or need what’s in your hands? If your about to buy two pairs of expensive shoes, think to yourself if those dollars could be spent on something unique to Australia or something more important. If you’re about to put that extra dessert in your basket, think to yourself whether you’d be better off using that to buy someone a drink and potentially meet new and exciting people. What do you really want to do with your money? What will you sacrifice to fund it?
6. Spending is a mentality issue
When I go to spend money I always buy things with cash… unless I’m trying to build my credit score in which case I’ll deliberately use a credit card and pay it off instantly. However when I spend cash I know exactly how I want to spend those dollars as I can feel them physically in my hands. People naturally have a sentimentality where they hate giving up their belongings, unless there is sufficient reason to do so. When you spend via a debit card, you don’t get the sensation of losing dollars. You do get that sensation when you hand over something that you can physically see and touch; it also doesn’t help that Australian banknotes are so colourful and I never really wanted to give up something that looked so cool. Withdrawing small amounts of cash at a time is a good way to ensure you don’t spend money on silly things. Ask yourself if you’re more likely to buy that $100 coat if you have cash or a card; if you’d spend that on a card then maybe you should consider if you’d give up that bright green $100 note resting in your wallet.
Saving your dollars can be difficult, so if you’re unsure about budgeting try out my tips and see if they work for you. If you’ve got some budgeting tips please share in the comments!