10 things international students living in a budget should do to restrict the costs of living

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BY JUMANA ABUWALA

Cutting costs and living on a budget is a topic that baffles almost all prospective international students. Everyone has advice to offer and as an international student living on a budget every week, here’s my top 10 list of things to do to cut my daily costs of living

Divide your money

The first and most important thing to prop up is a formal budget. Some like having a weekly one, while others prefer sticking to a monthly one. Do what you’re comfortable with but as beginners, start with a weekly budget as a month can become quiet a long period of time to keep track of.

Set aside recreational funds and think ahead

Even within the weekly or monthly budget, classify your spending and set aside money for recreation. For example, if you want to attend a concert or go on a trip, plan ahead. Set aside money well in advance to ensure that you don’t exhaust your finances for the sake of leisure. Early bird tickets to concerts and flights bookings made well in advance are always much cheaper than a last minute impulsive indulgence.

But NEVER make the mistake of convincing yourself that you won’t need recreation. Things simply don’t work out that way. Because trust me, you will, and this I am speaking from my own experience. The best thing to do is to think ahead so you can have your costs under control while still enjoying yourself.

Set aside emergency funds and do not touch them under any circumstances

Set aside about 10% of your monthly allowance. When bad luck strikes and you end up somehow injuring yourself in a way that your insurance does not cover, this is the money that will help you. When you lose your textbook a week before the exam and you have exhausted all lending options, this money will come to the rescue. Even if the immigration department suddenly announces a bump in visa fees, you will have something to fall back to. This 10% will save your life, so respect that and do not touch it unless it is a real emergency.

Understand this: little things add up

‘Oh! I am so tired today, let me just take a cab back home. It’s just 5 bucks anyway.’ – Once you start thinking this way, your finances are doomed.

Understand that little things add up and so always go for the cheapest possible option if you can. This is especially relevant when it comes to transport, as this is the golden rule of living on a budget. Taking the bus or the train to the not-so-near place that you want to go to will save you so much money, and trust me, these buses and trains have ACs and are very clean, so you won’t even have a bad time.

Cabs basically exist to loot you. Agreed, it takes way longer to reach the destination when travelling by public transport, but why are we kidding? We have all the time in this world, especially when it comes to saving money!

Learn to cook

Cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out in most cities. Invest in some cooking skills and learn to cook the things you love eating. That way, cooking in itself can become an indulgence. Try to buy groceries in bulk, on a weekly or monthly basis and cook at home as often as you can. Believe me, the savings will be significant. You will also be able to see eating out as a luxury and thus be happy with less.

BUT don’t over-shop groceries

Figuring out how much food you need is a skill one can only learn from trial and error. As a beginner, get a little less than you think you would need. If you need more, you can come back for it but if you over-shop, you can’t return groceries and fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk and bread can go bad before you can finish them.

Be firm in your decisions

Stick to your budget. If you’ve already spent your luxury budget for the week and your friend calls you to invite you out on Sunday night, have the willpower to say no. Be firm in your decisions, after all being bored is better than being broke.

Avoid borrowing at all costs

This is a terrible habit to form. Avoid borrowing money from friends at all costs. Understand this: if you borrow from a friend and pay them back once you get your money, you’ve basically spent money that you don’t have. This money is not going to fall from the sky; you’re going to have to take it from next month’s budget in order to clear your dues. It’s better to suffer at the end of the month than to over-extend your resources and endure another bad month because of it. If you stick by this rule, you will also train your brain to understand the consequences of overspending so you won’t make the same mistake again.

Sleep on shopping decisions

‘That sweater at H&M is absolutely adorable isn’t it? And those shoes look so damn good on you!’ – Think of these thoughts as the devil whispering into your ears. Don’t make impulsive shopping decisions. It’s okay to buy things once in a while but it’s also easy to get carried away.

A good rule of thumb to follow is this: if you like something, don’t buy it the same day. Sleep on it and think about it the next day. If you still think it’s a good idea to buy it after 24 hours, only then should you go ahead. This usually works like a charm when it comes to avoiding impulsive buys.

Indulge in Maggi week

None of us are perfect, and at some point, all of us are going to overspend and end up in a tight spot. We all have that one week in a month where we go places and party and eat like crazy. Then in the next week we realize that we should better start controlling ourselves. And so we promise to eat at home but cooking is just way too much effort.

The best thing to do in this situation is to eat Maggi noodles (or something that’s easy to cook and cheap). Spice things up by adding eggs or cheese or your favorite sauce. For me, Sriracha and Maggi is a match made in heaven. Experiment and find your poison and Maggi week won’t feel as tough. Have the discipline to control yourself after a spree of indulgence so that you don’t eat into the budget for the next week.

Jumana Abuwala is an Intern, Content Writing at GradInsights, the career intelligence service of GradConnect. She is also a sophomore at Monash University, Malaysia campus. More articles from the team can be found at www.grad-insights.com.  

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