Well done, you’ve made it. All the hard study for exams and many hours of homework has paid off—you’re on your way to uni and done with school forever! But with this freedom comes more responsibility. Now you’ll probably have to learn to fend more for yourself and live on a tighter budget.
Starting early—and strong—with your finances, will give you the freedom to focus on study, while still being able to have some fun along the way.
Here are some strategies to do just that:
1. Manage your tuition fees
Need help paying for your course? Find out if you’re eligible for the HECS-HELP scheme, which offer both student loans and discounts. You may also be able to get other financial assistance from the government through a scholarship or award, as well as from your university.
2. Get a part-time job
Working part time is essential to making ends meet. Print out copies of your CV, visit local supermarkets, bars and shops to see if they’re hiring and check out job sites such as Gumtree. Don’t forget to look into on-campus jobs (in the library, for example), which can offer flexible hours and extra time off around exams. If you end up having multiple part-time jobs, take control of your super by making a choice, so all your super is going into the one fund.
3. Sort out your tax
If you worked during your last school year, you’ll pay income tax if you earn over a certain amount. Don’t lose money by not completing a tax return—you could be hit with a penalty fee and interest charges, and lose ground on your credit record. Try this handy calculator from the Australian Taxation Office to help work out what you might owe.
4. Buy second-hand books
Textbooks can be expensive, so where possible, use books from the library. Keep an eye on notice boards for second-hand book sales.
5. Be savvy
You’re at uni because you’re smart, so use your head! Read the details of your bank account and any credit cards, then shop around for the best deals. Take advantage of student discounts and consolidate your money in a high-interest savings account (but avoid those with high fees).
6. Make a budget
To survive on the money you already have (savings, part-time earnings), create a budget. Figure out your likely expenses for the year ahead, and make sure you know how much you can safely spend per month. MoneySmart’s TrackMySPEND app can help you.
7. Strike a balance
Don’t make your budget so tight you feel constrained, because you’re more likely to get frustrated and go on a spending spree. Nights out and fun are an essential part of student life, but just be sensible. When you go out, put only the amount of cash in your wallet you can afford to spend and leave your credit card at home.
The main thing is, don't be daunted. Whether you're living at home with your folks or not, with a bit of careful planning it’s possible to stretch a small budget and still have some left over to spend on other things, whether it’s sports, travel or something bigger like buying a new car.
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