Living on a student budget and preventing debt

Being at university maybe the first time that you need to manage your budget independently.

At times, it may be difficult to balance paying for food, personal care items, washing liquid and other essentials for everyday living with having enough to go out socialising with other students.

It’s important to understand our relationship with money so that we can identify the factors that influence how we spend it, and what prevents us from saving for what we want.

Learning what helps us to maintain self-control to manage the impulse to spend money on the spur of the moment.

“Money is a mental construct in which we all have agreed its value quote the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.” (Yuval Noha Harari)

Money represents the possibility of being able to acquire things that we value. We desire money because it helps us achieve things that we want in life.

When we buy something our brain’s reward system responds with a positive feeling. It releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes us have a good feeling that makes us want more.

Having cash feels more real, and therefore easier to be counted. We can keep track of it to know how much we have available to spend.

Credit cards on the other hand, make money invisible so it is easier to spend it without noticing how quickly our funds can disappear.
It is easy to get into debt if we don’t keep track of our spending.

When using foreign currency can feel like Monopoly money (ie. not real).  If you are an international student, you may find that it takes time to get used to shopping in Pound Stirling, as it may turn out that the items are more expensive when you convert to your home country’s currency.

In addition, it may be difficult to keep the exchange rate in mind to know whether the product you want to buy is more expensive than what you’re used to.

So, how much money is enough?

It depends of what is important to you. Having money allows us to afford the things we need. One reason for wanting more money is so that we can cover our expenses and still have left for non- essential things.

Money also provides us with opportunities such as paying for gifts, travelling, having some comfort. And when becoming ill to have funds to pay for medication and other items to look after our health.

The value of saving

“Money is a guarantee that we may have what we want in the future. Though we need nothing at the moment it insures the possibility of satisfying a new desire when it arises.”  (Aristotle)

Saving money requires self-restraint and the ability to delay gratification. the future is far away and when we want to buy something, we have a need in the present moment.

If you find yourself tempted to buying things either in town or online pause for a moment and ask yourself “is this something that I need now or is it something that I would like to have? can I afford it? does it help me to achieve my goals?”

To save requires self-control to be able to manage the impulse to buy. It is very important to have energy to be able to apply willpower, particularly when feeling frustrated, sad or stressed. Some may have developed the habit of buying things as a way of lifting their mood. However, this is short lived and as a result may buy more things.

If you notice that it is difficult to control the impulse to buy, pause for a moment and identify your feelings. Then, think what would be best to do. For example, if it is feeling low as a result of a relationship problem talk with a trusted friend, or family member so that you can get support and another perspective.

It could be that your mood is affected because your studies are not going well.  It would be good to talk to your Tutor or Study Advisers about ways of managing your assignments and develop your study skills.

Before going ahead and spending money impulsively pause and Identify what you need to do different to make progress. Buying something can provide a short-term relief. It is only dealing with the symptom, and in fact it will create a bigger problem as it escalates into debt.

Dealing with social pressure

We all have a need to belong to the group and we want to get on with other people. As we grow up, we learn to associate different meanings to money: having it or not having enough.

In a consumer society there is a lot of emphasis on being able to afford items that are promoted as being essential to a comfortable and successful life.

As social beings, we have a need to feel included and accepted by the social group. This manifests more strongly when going out socially, either drinking or on expensive activities. It can be difficult to say no when we cannot afford it or doing so means going without essentials or getting into debt.

Peer pressure can be difficult to manage because of wanting to be part of the group and participate in activities together. In order to deal with these situations, keep in mind what is of value to you and decide in advance what you can afford.

Remind yourself of what you are saving for and how it will feel to achieve it.

This way, when you are in a situation where others are expecting everybody to spend more take a moment and ask yourself: “Is this the right thing for me to do?”

Think about the consequences if you go against what is right for you. You can delay your response and say that you will think about it. It is OK to say no and to do what’s best for you.

Tips to save money and prevent debt

1.Make the choice to save money for a particular purpose having a go what you’re saving for will help to protect from spending money in the spur of the moment.

2.Having a student bank account with a no interest overdraft does not mean that this is free money. Using your overdraft counts as debt. Monitor your spending and try to cover your overdraft as soon as possible.

To maintain a good credit score it is important that you can keep within your account and not be in the overdraft.

3.When you go out socialising take an exact amount of cash that you think you can spend so that you don’t go over your budget.

Explain to your friends that you need to save so that you can manage to get your basic needs covered during the term.
Good friends will understand and support your goals.

4.Have an accurate picture of your funds and evaluate how much money you need for the day, the week, and the month.

5.When you have the impulse to buy something pause and take time to ask yourself if you can afford the expense of the item without getting into debt later.

6.Access Blackbullion and start your journey to become money smart!

Blackbullion

Blackbullion is an e-learning platform which aims to equip you with money skills for life to maximise student journey.

The platform is free to join and include modules on; debt, budgeting and a budget calculator, credit cards, information for international students and guides on how to stay healthy at University. www.blackbullion.com 

7.If you are dealing with financial difficulties take action to prevent these from getting any worse. Contact Student Finance services who can provide information and advice.

“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” (James W.Frick)

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” (Albert Einstein)

Reference:

Hammond, C. (2017) Mind over money. The psychology of money and how to use it better. Edinburgh: Canongate.