When you think about seeking financial advice, we tend to turn to older people in our lives. Parents and grandparents always know better, right? Even though students seem like a last resort when seeking financial advice, some students might surprise you. Your Future Now chatted to a few savvy students to find out how they survive in the current South African economic climate. Even though some advice ranged from “doing your grocery shopping at your parent’s house” to “crying really loudly over the phone when you’re broke”, some tips might just prove to be valuable in helping you stretch your monthly budget.
Never trust an expiry date
According to Dewald Hart, first year medical student at the University of Pretoria, people rely too religiously on expiry dates. Dewald reckons that certain foods can be used well after doomsday. “I buy sliced bread in bulk and freeze it and take out slices as needed. This way I don’t waste money on bread that goes stale before I can make that tuna sandwich.” Dewald also embraces the taste of long life milk. He argues that even though it seems more expensive than the real deal, “you save money because it doesn’t go sour that easily and you don’t have to make trips to the grocery store every second day.”
Students are masters at finding these deals and being very casual about it. From all the students we interviewed, buying into specials was the most common advice we received. Zondré Visagie, fourth year graphic design student at the North West University (NWU), says when you can’t afford to go out, make sure you choose a place that has a special promotion. “Your friends don’t necessarily have to know you’re choosing a specific place just because they’re running a special on that specific night.” From buy one get one free to marked down prices, becoming an informed consumer can save you money. Subscribe to receive your favourite retailer’s weekly promotions on email. Some of these e-newsletters might even contain a discount coupon from time to time. Alternatively, you can visit the Dealfinder website to stay on top of weekly specials in your area.
A little something on the side
Even though some students have more time on their hands than the typical working class citizen, doing extra work on the side might be a solution if you have ‘too much month left at the end of your money.’ Cyril Blackburn, honours journalism student at NWU does freelancing work on the side to keep his social life alive. We all have talents and we’re all good at something – find that something and use it to avoid breaking your budget.
The great indoors
The simplest way to stretch your budget is by avoiding unnecessary spending at all costs of course. This is the strategy that Landi Malan, honours communication student at NWU, follows to get through the month. Instead of going out, she prefers staying in and hanging out with friends at someone’s house or apartment. “Ask everyone attending the get together to bring something with them and voilà, you have a party.” This is great advice for non-students as well – having fun doesn’t have to cost a cent.
It comes as no surprise that the following advice was not given by a first year student. Mizan van der Merwe, honours journalism student at the University of Stellenbosch, buys all her books second hand or looks for an electronic copy of her handbooks online. These tend to be a lot cheaper than a brand new book that you’re only going to use for one semester anyway. Apart from buying second hand, she also sells unwanted books and clothes to second-hand shops. “It’s great if you are into the whole vintage thing.” A few other students say being thrifty is the ultimate budget saver. Walking to campus can save a lot of petrol. To better understand these tips, read our Hipster Finance 101 article.
Yes, reader, I am as surprised as you are. From prioritising and buying necessity items first to being an informed shopper and avoiding expensive brands, students definitely should not be underestimated when it comes to budgeting. Christell Boucher is a communication student at NWU and she believes in buying in bulk. “Food like tuna and two minute noodles are cheap and they also last much longer. Whenever I visit home, I help my mom to prepare meals for me and then I freeze them. It’s a major time saver as well as a money saver.” Buying bulk, when done properly, can see you saving quite a lot. But be sure to look at the rand per kilogram, rand per litre or rand per unit price when buying in bulk. Buying bulk is not always cheaper.