Budgeting 101: Tips to help you save
In a new city away from home, there are so many exciting things to see, explore, taste and try. But those adventures often come at a price, and that price might be steep if you don’t have a job to help you afford the experiences. There is a solution! With the right mind set and a solid plan, you can set money aside for activities on the weekends, or maybe even bigger purchases like a smartphone upgrade, new laptop, tickets for your summer vacation or college tuition. We’ve put together these valuable tips with help from Cy Webber, Business Teacher and University Guidance Counselor at EF Academy Oxford:
- Define what you’re saving for
Write it down, cut out pictures, save screenshots in a special album on your phone – basically, you should make it very clear to yourself what you’re saving for or what your goal is.
- Track your spending
Mr. Webber recommends using an Excel sheet to track your cash flow – what goes out and what comes in. It’s best to categorize your expenses so you see how much you spend on necessities compared to clothes or weekend activities. There are several easy-to-use apps out there that will help you with this as well and they offer the added benefit of allowing you to record your expense on your phone immediately after you pay. Things to ask yourself as you begin tracking your spending: “What is the best way for me to spend my money?” and, “What are my wants and what are my needs?”
- Plan your budget
If you track your spending for a few weeks, you will get a good sense of your spending habits and you can start setting a limit for each category, which will allow you to move money into your savings account or piggy bank. Before you do this, however, you will also need to establish how much time you have to save for your “goal purchase,” this will help you determine what your maximum spending amount should be.
- Get help from friends
It will be difficult to skip movie night if all your friends are going to the theater, so let them know what you’re doing so they can encourage you, keep you on track and help you come up with alternatives to your usual Friday night plans.
- Take advantage of discounts
In addition to shopping at discount stores like Dollar Tree or Poundland, Mr. Webber suggests students get an International Student Identity Card, an internationally accepted student card that offers huge benefits including more than 15,000 discounts worldwide. By showing this card or using your uniqe student ID number, you can save on software licenses, magazine subscriptions, travel passes, clothing and restaurants. You can order the card online at isic.org/get-your-card and it will take 3-4 weeks for delivery, or you can pop into your local travel agency and get one immediately. Check the website to find an ISIC office near you.
- Reward yourself
You’re supposed to be having fun while you study abroad, so treat yourself to little rewards from time to time. This will help you stay motivated and you will still be able to do some things with your friends on the weekends or after school.
Mr. Webber says that at university, budgeting is something you will need to know how to do as there will be more expenses than in high school, especially when you no longer live in the student residences. You can always get advice from your house parents, guidance counselor or teachers at EF Academy when you need help with your budget, but at university you will be independent and the resources for guidance will be more difficult to come by. It’s more than a university skill, however, it’s truly a life skill.
Remember: budgeting isn’t fun, but when you reach your goal and buy those tickets to visit your friend halfway across the world in the summer, start using your brand new laptop or pay your college tuition without taking on any loans, it will all be worth it.
EF Academy International Boarding Schools opens a world of opportunities for high school students by providing them with a superior education abroad, thorough preparation for university and a future that knows no borders.