Learn how to manage your finances when at varsity

Freedom at last! No more uniforms and no more pesky teachers. That's awesome, but with freedom comes responsibilities.
"For those of you who are going to study at varsity or college, a whole new world awaits you, such as campus life, the canteen, fellow students from all walks of life, new friends, lectures and lecturers," says Leonora Swart, financial manager at Boston City Campus & Business College.

"While all this sounds exciting, one of the biggest challenges will be planning your finances, and if done carefully it will make your transition from school to varsity painless."

Your parents may be able to give you a monthly allowance, or you may get a job, but with this, comes discipline. From the start, develop a strong sense of good money management. Ask to be part of the decision-making process when discussing your budget with them.

Ask your parents to show you how to open and make transactions on your own banking/savings account. Make sure you know how to balance your account and better still, learn basic accounting skills. Try to pay cash for everything and avoid using a credit card.

Here are some of the expenses you're likely to incur:

Transport to and from varsity.
If you have a car, there's insurance, petrol and parking to be considered. Car pools work best to save money when using your own car, but wait until you have settled down and know your timetable. Alternatively, you may have to rely on public transport, in which case make allowances for these costs. Always try to limit traveling. If you have a long gap between lectures, stay at the campus and put in some study time!

Canteen costs
You'll want to chill with your mates between lectures, so put a limit on how much you spend on food and drinks each day. Alternatively, try packing your own lunch from home to prevent you from buying too much when you are starving!

Text books
Text books are expensive. Investigate buying second-hand books. There are a number of websites available that offer students' on-line book exchanges. Try www.educatedbooks.co.za and others.

Part-time work
As varsity terms are shorter than school, you may be able to find a job and earn extra money to help out with expenses such as cosmetics, clothes and entertainment. But wait until you get your varsity timetable so there's no clash with your part-time work. Remember that part-time work also looks good on your CV, both in terms of experience as well as conscientiousness.

Wants and needs
Learn the difference between a want and a need. Basic needs are clothing, food, shelter, transport and, of course, a cell phone - anything, in fact you need to survive. 'Wants' are designer clothes, fast foods and the latest technology and gadgets.

Cell phones
Consider new purchases very carefully. The expensive cell phone you are eyeing, because it has one extra feature, may not be a good idea. If you do come home with something you regret, you are quite entitled to take it back!

A word of warning: Be wary of cell phone contracts. Do not get misled by the fancy handsets that are given away with promises of funky upgrades. If you decide on a contract, shop around for the best value and one that allows you to limit how much you spend - there is nothing worse than getting a huge account at the end of the month. Rather use "pay as you go" that allows you to buy airtime upfront and use sms bundles as much as possible.

Don't forget about the students' computer labs on campus. They are great for research and personal e-mails and will save you from running up your home internet account. These are normally free to students and can be a great saving when compared to an Internet Café.


"Finally, if you have a student loan, money should be put aside every month to service this commitment. If you find yourself in a tight spot with fees, don't just disappear from the campus. Go in straight away and discuss it with the fees office, and make a plan so that you can continue with your studies," says Swart.

10 Nov 2010 12:27

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