How to make it through first-year on a tight budget

by: Abigail Javier - 22 January 2016

Crowds of university first years in front of Wits

First year of university is many years behind me, but I still remember how it felt to be a broke student on campus. I learned a lot about saving in those years. Here are a few tips that I hope will help make your first year a bit more manageable financially.

Apply for bursaries, loans and scholarships

Thanks to the #FeesMustFall movement, many more institutions and individuals have decided to lend a helping hand to young people who cannot afford tertiary education. Visit your university’s student centre to find out what financial aid they offer. Going through your social media can also help as links are being shared under hashtags like #iWantToStudy2016

Here are a couple of links to get you started:
Bursaries South Africa
SA Study

Avoid take-away, buy groceries

Buying a whole chicken at your local store will last you longer than a burger and chips meal from a fast-food restaurant. Stock up on instant noodles, pasta packets and cans of baked beans as they are cheap and don’t expire easily.

Be creative about that part-time job

There are a lot of foreign students at universities who are still learning how to speak English. Befriend one and offer to tutor them – not only will you be earning some cash, you will also be learning about other cultures. If teaching is not your thing, you could always do some part-time waitressing at local restaurants.

You don’t need new textbooks

Rather get second-hand books from senior students. Some books have notes already written into them, so you’ll know what to expect during exams. You can also take out a print of the textbook in the library and photocopy the pages you need. This is not school – you won’t be having to study every page in the book (trust us).

Make use of your student status

Being a student means you have access to the university’s Wi-Fi and electricity. So, if you’re planning on studying in the library, bring your laptop, phone and other devices to charge them up. Also, some places provide discounts for students, especially businesses near your campus, so use them.

You don’t need to join a gym to stay fit

Let’s be real, the majority of us who have a gym membership hardly ever go. Cut your losses and find other ways to stay fit. Start jogging or find fitness routines online. It’s free and you don’t have to worry about being self-conscious around the peering eyes of other gym members.

Avoid fines at all costs

Don’t be reckless. Library, driving or other penalty fines can sometimes cost you your one month’s rent. University is a time for fun and exploration – but it doesn’t hurt to do it responsibly.

Holding image by Goabaona Mathibe

Graphics by Zoë Sprang