One of a series of blogs from real people sharing real experiences, observations and advice about being good with money.
Zoe Russell is a 22-year-old student at Victoria University of Wellington. She is studying towards a double degree in Law, Public Policy, and International Relations. Zoe also enjoys science writing and activism.
Leaving home for a new city is an incredible experience. When I moved to Wellington from a tiny rural town, I quickly found that starting classes was just one aspect of the new student lifestyle; outside the lecture halls, there was suddenly so much more to see and do.
All of this was fantastic, but it also required me to learn one very important skill (very quickly): how to manage money. Here are the four most common pitfalls new students fall into - and how to avoid them.
1. Shops! So many shops!
Especially when you’re from a smaller town, the lure of Wellington’s shops can be almost irresistible. If your whole urban retail experience prior to university consisted of bi-monthly trips to Hamilton with your mum, suddenly living five minutes’ walk from Lambton Quay and Cuba Street is pretty exciting. You definitely need that new dress, right? Oh, and it’s on sale!
This is particularly difficult in the first few months, when many students have readily-available money from savings or scholarships. When you want to make new friends and live the cool city life, new clothes and Apple products can seem pretty much essential.
The big thing to avoid is impulse purchases. Plenty of shops have 30-50% off sales almost constantly, so try not to buy things just cos there’s a discount on the tag (anyway, all the cool kids get their clothes second-hand. Vintage, yeah?)
2. Latte #3
Cafes, bars, and restaurants are everywhere in the city, and like retail shops, they’re all super tempting when you’re new in town. Buying food and coffee out can be really easy to justify - after all, you do need to eat.
But it is so worth learning to cook. You can make tasty food at home for a fraction of the cost of takeaways. Share recipes with your flatmates, and have a look online. Go to the vege markets. Maybe buy a coffee plunger. Sandwiches are your friend.
As I write this blog post, I’m eating sugar-free sweets. I made the switch after receiving a $900 dentist bill.
Unlike most medical costs, dentistry isn’t covered by tertiary health services. Fillings cost between $180-$300. Root canals and wisdom tooth extraction can add up to thousands. According to Student Finance Advisor Nicky Roesink, both are alarmingly common among students.
While there isn’t much you can do to avoid wisdom teeth, try to look after the rest. Brush, floss, try to curb the sweet tooth - and if anything hurts, see a dentist! The earlier you get a check-up, the lower the bill will be.
4. Assuming you’ll be good with money (tomorrow)
I did this all the time in first year. I’d look over my transaction history, see a bunch of taxi fares and Vicbooks coffees, and think “Oh no! I need to cut back! From now on, I’ll definitely be good. Yeah. For sure.”
If you have money (or credit) and you’re surrounded by temptation, just promising to be better isn’t going to stick. What worked for me is setting up real restrictions. Any substantial savings could go in a term deposit (where they’re much harder to access). Try to work out a reasonable weekly budget, and make sure that only this sum is directly linked to your cheque account.
Managing your money can be tough at first, and everyone splashes out sometimes. But buying fun stuff just feels so much better when you can do it without worrying about next week’s rent.
If you are studying or training and want to know how BNZ can help you manage your money, read more about our tertiary benefits for students and apprentices.
_ Read more: _
Young Money: Dad was right
Young Money: The art of managing money - tales from a teen
Young Money: The stuggle is real - when to save and when to splurge
Young Money: Fortune favours the thrifty
Young Money: Own it, don’t loan it
Young Money: Haunted by the ghost of mismanaged finances past