Managing Your Finances College is an incredibly expensive time for all of us, and for most students it’s also the first time we have to completely manage all of our own finances and expenditure. Money is a source of stress for all college students (and all adults!), and many factors that cause this stress can be out of our control (price of accommodation, college fees, ect.). However, there are plenty of small things you can do on a week to week basis to help ease the money worries. Finance is a very personal matter and everyone is living with different levels of income and in different areas where the cost of living varies. Some people will have different preferences on what they would rather spend their money on, and that is completely okay! These are just a few ideas on ways to save some money without hugely affecting your day to day life. • Make a budget. This is a hard habit to get into, but a useful one, especially as banks will look for this is the future when you’re applying for loans or mortgages! Your budget doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed and you don’t have to stick to it 100%, but making a plan of what you’re going to spend in a given week, forth night or month (depending on how often you receive your income) will ensure you don’t end up short for money at the end of the period. Try to include your days or nights out as well as the essentials like food and rent, as these are important elements of your expenditure too! • Meal Plan. Again, this doesn’t have to be 100% accurate and things will always come up now and again forcing you to change your plans, but if you have an idea of what and where you’re going to eat for the week it will save you buying food you won’t eat or being stuck for something to eat on a Friday. Again, be realistic – don’t pretend you’re going to make yourself lunch the night before if you know you’re not going to have time. It’s perfectly okay to buy food out sometimes if you can afford it and have a busy timetable – remember that food is your fuel for learning and that it should be the last thing you skimp on. • Be smart about what food you buy. As I mentioned above, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to eat well and often in college – if not, you will not be able to take in the information you need to learn to pass your exams. Cooking for yourself is often cheaper, but bear in mind that supermarkets don’t sell food with the intention that only one person will be eating it – for example, one person generally won’t get through a full carton of good value milk before it goes off, and you don’t want to be spending money on food you’ll end up throwing out. If you have anyone to share ingredients with, take advantage of it! It is far cheaper as you’ll be able to buy in bulk and still get good variety in your diet. Own brand is also almost always as good as branded foods so make save on them! If you’re on your own, things like ready meals or meal prepping can be good options. Your meal plan will also help you avoid food waste! Again, it’s okay to eat in the college cafeteria or restaurant, and at times this can work out just as cheap if you’re only cooking for one, and you’re guaranteed to get a large, balanced meal. • Be smart about your textbooks and notes. At the start of a semester many lecturers will tell you to print out all their notes and buy a number of expensive textbooks. This is not always necessary, so proceed with caution. Printing is expensive, and studies have shown that it’s far better for your learning to take your own notes by hand in lectures, rather than just look at the slides printed out in front of you. You can always look at the slides online later for reference if they are available. As for books, they will often cost above €50, so try and find a second hand copy or a copy in the library. Another good option is to get a few others in the same module as you to chip in and you can share a book, as often these books are only used for a little bit of reference, extra reading or practice questions and you won’t need them every day. • Get a Leap Card. If you’re in an area where Leap Cards are accepted on public transport, get one as soon as possible, as they can save you two thirds the price of an ordinary student ticket on public transport. You can upload your own profile picture on their website, www.leapcard.ie and collect your card for €10 at a variety of points. Your Student’s Union will probably be one of them! • Try to carpool if you are driving. Whether it’s a daily commute or your weekly or monthly journey home, try to share lifts and fill your car as much as possible, if you are comfortable driving with a number of people. Make sure everyone pays a fair contribution to petrol and, if possible, share the driving too! This is not only much more cost effective for everyone involved, it’s also much better for the environment as there are fewer cars on the road heading to the same place. • Look for Student Discounts. Many shops and restaurants will have a student deal or discount, so make sure you always have your student card handy! You should take full advantage of these discounts while you’re still in college, as you’ll regret not using them when you’re finished college. Don’t be afraid to ask in every shop or restaurant if they offer any, especially ones close to your college, as they might not always make it obvious! • Take advantage of freebies. Colleges run plenty of events, whether its through one of the college departments, a club or society, or the Student’s Union. Take full advantage of any freebies being handed out at these events, whether it be free food, free stationary, or any of the many other bits and bobs being given out. Different groups will also be holding fundraisers where you will again get lots of different bits at lower prices! • Try charity shopping. This one saves money, helps the environment and gives back to the community! Charity shops have so many bargains and are the perfect place to find unique and funky items, especially if your college is in a student town. It might take a little longer to hunt down what you’re looking for and you have to go in with a little more of an open mind, but it’s definitely worth it! • Be sensible about going out. Try to plan when you are going to go out, whether it’s a day out, a night on the town, or out for dinner. If you have a few friend groups, it can be easy to get roped in to night out after night out, but try to prioritise when are where you want to go so you are only spending money on the events you really enjoy. Try organising to meet a few different friends at the same event too – you can even introduce them and help them become friends with each other! Remember as well to balance your fun and your study – on one hand, you are in college to get your degree, but you also need to make sure you don’t get bogged down in your study and end up doing nothing you enjoy. Try to include a few social events in the week, even if it’s just meeting friends for coffee or going for a walk with them!It’s important to think about where your money is coming from and making sure you have a sustainable amount to last you the full year. While a lot of us need part time jobs just to survive in college, it’s important to make sure your job isn’t negatively affecting your study or causing you an unnecessary amount of stress. Consider offering grinds or babysitting if a traditional part time job is leaving you too exhausted to concentrate or with no time to get your coursework done. If you are very worried about money, talk to your college’s Student Budgetary Advice service. They may help you manage your money better or you might be in a position to receive money from a bursary or grant that your college offers. The last thing your college wants is for you to drop out or fail your exams due to financial problems, so make sure you talk to them and they will offer you all the help they can!