How to be a “Less Poor” Uni Student

If you’re a first-year uni student who has recently left the nest and is living out of home for the first time, chances are, you’re going to struggle with everyday adult tasks like buying food, paying bills, washing clothes and remembering to brush your teeth (please tell me this last point is pure sarcasm and no one actually forgets to brush their teeth). In my opinion, everyone struggles when they first leave home. It’s almost like a tradition that is meant to be fulfilled. First-time renters living off two-minute noodles and 85 cent bread that tastes worse than your neighbours soggy doormat is a normal way of life. Right?

It’s a fact, a huge proportion of uni students struggle when they first leave home. Paying rent, buying food, transportation to uni and the cost of textbooks can be costly and overwhelming. But with a few tips and tricks that I have developed in my first (extremely expensive and exhausting) semester at uni, you too can cut the cost of living and start savings those pennies.

help-me-i_m-poor

Grocery shopping

A little trick I have developed in my time as a university student is visiting my local Woolworths at night. Why is this you may ask? Reduced prices. At the end of the day supermarkets drop the prices of the products that expire soon. And this doesn’t necessarily mean expiring the next day either. I frequently do my grocery shopping at 8 o’clock at night and pick up tonnes of bargains that don’t expire for 3 or 4 days. 3 litres of milk for $1.20, a kilo of chicken breast for $4, a 6-pack of rolls for $0.75, two t-bone steaks for $3.30. In fact, on my last grocery shop every single product I purchased was reduced. I walked out of Woolworths with 7 bags of shopping that cost me $27, and saved $49 just from buying reduced items. If you ask me, that’s pretty damn good.

Another top tip is buying fruit and vegies from a fresh food market. They seem to have considerably lower prices than supermarkets and a huge range of produce. The prices at my local fresh food market are so ridiculously low that I have stopped buying fruit and vegetables at supermarkets all together. Just last week I picked up a kilo of sweet potato for $0.88, a kilo of apples for $0.99, 3 cobs of corn for $0.99, a kilo bag of carrots for $0.70 and 3 broccolis for $1.65. I literally paid for it with money I found on the floor of my car.

Pro tip: if you come across a fresh food market, it is most definitely worth checking it out. Seriously, do it. I saw some pumpkins for 80 cents a kilo yesterday.

Paying bills

The only advice I have for paying bills is, save. Save, save, save, save, save. Don’t get caught up not paying your electricity bill and having to shower in the dark with no lights on until you dig up enough money to pay it. Create a separate savings account containing money that is purely for rent, electricity, water and internet. Deposit money from your part time job or youth allowance each week or fortnight into this account and LEAVE IT THERE. Even better, setting up a direct debit for things like rent and internet payments make life a whole lot easier. You don’t need to worry about forgetting to pay the bills because the money will automatically come out of your account and you won’t even notice it.

Pro tip: Create a savings account that is not linked to your debit card. That way you won’t be tempted to spend the money you specifically saved for bills. 

Phone plans

Phone plans can be super expensive and not offer a great deal of call and internet credit for the price you pay.  But now-a-days there are so many re-sellers that changing to a cheaper plan isn’t a problem. Re-sellers such as Virgin mobile and Vaya use Optus phone lines, meaning you are using the Optus phone tower to receive service. However, their phones plans tend to be a hell of a lot cheaper. I recently made the best move by changing from Telstra mobile to a Telstra reseller called Telechoice. With Telechoice, for $35 a month I receive unlimited text messages, $650 of calls and 2.5GB of internet per month. With Telstra it was costing me $70 per month for the exact same deal. Telechoice provides the same service coverage as Telstra does, as with other resellers who use Telstra towers. My advice: if you can’t afford your phone bill but still want the same service coverage, opt for a reseller of that particular company. It makes a world of difference.

Pro tip: Do some serious research, read some reviews and always read the fine print of the phone plan before signing up (even thought it’s super annoying and time consuming).

Textbooks

When buying textbooks, purchasing them brand new will most likely put you into debt (true fact). But there are ways to avoid this. Buying second-hand textbooks from previous students saves you a tonne of money. A lot of students tend to sell their textbooks on Buy & Sell Facebook pages or sites such as Jekkle at the end of the semester. It’s definitely worth checking out to see if students are selling the textbooks you are in need of for your next semester. Another way to save money on textbooks is to shop around for an old edition. I saved myself $175 on a textbook this semester by purchasing the older edition, which I must add was almost identical the new edition minus a few pictures and examples here and there. The main point is that the content was EXACTLY THE SAME, and I didn’t have to cut off my hair and sell it just to afford the book.

Pro tip: Whip out your bartering skills and offer sellers lower than the marked price, if they are desperate to sell the textbook, you may be able to save your self even more money.

Transport and Parking

If I could give a uni student any piece of money saving advice it would be DO NOT PARK ON CAMPUS IF YOU ARE NOT A MILLIONAIRE. Parking in a carpark at the university will send you broke in about 5 hours. It is very pricey and can be very easily avoided if you stop being lazy and park a few blocks away and walk to the uni. Simple. Even better, carpooling with friends is an awesome way to save on parking and petrol. Not only can you have an awesome road-trip-like experience whilst pumping the jams on your way to uni, when everyone puts in money for petrol, it turns out a lot cheaper than travelling alone.

Pro tip: Getting to uni a little earlier than usual increases your chances of not having to park 3 suburbs away. If you really do want to avoid the uni car park prices and find a free spot within walking distance, DO NOT hit the snooze button when your alarm goes off.

So there you have it, a few little money-saving tips and tricks that I’ve developed over my first semester at uni that I felt the need to share (mainly because 99% of my friends constantly complain about being ‘a poor uni student’, but don’t we all?). But if you follow these simple tips as well as adding in some of your own money-saving magic, I can assure you that you will be a less poor uni student.

Until next time.

Sophie