Whether you’re a current student, or thinking of starting a course, you may have your work cut out for you on the financial front, as far as saving and budgeting goes.
Depending on your timetable and whether you’re intending to study on a full-time or part-time basis, chances are you may need to stop full-time work. Managing your daily living and tertiary expenses may seem a challenge.
However, the good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to get into good financial habits and create a savings plan for your tertiary studies.
Setting yourself a savings strategy, learning how to save money and getting into good financial habits will enable you to remain in control of your finances and set you up for a positive financial future, free from monetary stress.
1. Set a clear and realistic budget
Completing an online course comes with a variety of fees you need to manage so as a student, it’s critical that you identify a budget and savings plan before you begin your studies so that you’re prepared for the full range of costs related to studying.
Firstly, you need to list your income, current and future living expenses, and any other ongoing financial commitments you have, such as servicing a credit card, personal loan, or student payment plan. Allow a contingency of 5-10% of your total savings and keep these funds separate to your other accounts to prepare for a ‘rainy day’ or for any unplanned costs that may arise.
Once you’ve listed all your income and expenses in an itemised spreadsheet, you’ll have an idea of how much you can save each month. You can then forecast a savings target that you’d like to achieve over a specified timeframe, such as 12 months or 24 months.
Having a number in mind will make you more motivated when it comes to sticking to your budget and realising your savings goal. There’s a wealth of online information which can help you coordinate your budget, such as detailed online calculators and budget planners which generate a tailored budget.
Otherwise, speak to an accountant or a financial counsellor to help you understand how much you can realistically save (particularly if you’re juggling family expenses too).
2. Define tactics to achieve your savings goal
Once you’ve decided on your savings goal and timeline, come up with tactics or actions to achieve this goal. For example, you may decide to set up an automatic transfer to a high-interest savings account each month so that you are regularly topping up your transaction account and earning interest on your funds.
Regular deposits into the account may also be a requirement to earn the bonus interest rate so check the fine print of your account.
Alternatively, you may find ways to cut back on your existing expenses. For instance, if you think you’re paying too much for your mobile or utilities, you may want to switch to a cheaper provider.
3. Get into good financial habits (and benefit from compounding)
Getting into good financial habits may involve making regular deposits into a high-interest savings account (which means you’ll benefit from compound interest over time), continually meeting the minimum repayment requirements on any loans that you have, or even making overpayments on accounts when you have any spare cash.
4. Know what student discounts you’re eligible for
Whether it’s for accommodation, flights or online retailers, do your research to find out what discounts you may be entitled to. Learn to make the most of the special discounts and offers for both daily and tertiary expenses.
Bear in mind that if you’re planning on studying for your current job, your course fees could be tax deductible. This includes depreciation for your laptop, costs for your course, and internet usage. Check with an Open Colleges representative to see if this applies to you.
5. Make the most of payment plans
Many online educational institutions offer a range of flexible payment options to help you cope with the fees attached to your course. At Open Colleges you can either pay-as-you-go or pay-in-full, with a discount, and you can manage your payment plan through ZipMoney which allows you to choose from a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly payment plan to suit your budget.
Using ZipMoney means you can benefit from a 24-48 month interest-free period while you don’t have to worry about any deposit or upfront payment fees. This provides you with greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness when managing your course payment. You may want to set up an automatic transfer from a nominated account so that you stay on top of your periodic payments.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re struggling to meet your repayments or you’re experiencing financial hardship for whatever reason, contact your college and explain the situation. There is plenty of support available so don’t be afraid to put up your hand and ask for help as most likely they’ll be willing to accommodate and they may offer you an extension on your payment.
Looking to the future...
Devising a savings and budget strategy is an important skill for you to practice when planning and completing your studies. Being aware of how you can minimise expenses and knowing how to cope with the ongoing costs of a payment plan will provide you with skills that will come in useful later in life, so doing some research now will be well worth it in the long run.
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