Home 5 Steps to Set Your Child Up for Varsity 2: What’s the Budget?

2: What’s the Budget?

by Staff Reporter
2: What’s the Budget?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Budgeting for your child’s university education means considering a whole range of expenses. It starts with the application and registration fees, then progresses to tuition fees and costs for study materials, as well the basic costs of living. You also need to consider any additional costs – for example membership fees for a society, or transportation costs. The total expenses will of course be much lower if your child can live at home.

Here is a list of the things to keep in mind when drawing up a budget plan for your child’s tertiary education:

Cost of Living for a Varsity Student

Study Material (student deals, laptop specials, etc.)

Again, the amount to budget for study material depends strongly on the courses your child signs up for. Disciplines like Medicine, Law, or Literature will evidently demand more expenses on books than Media studies, for example.

It’s very difficult to give an estimate of what this will cost, as each course has its own pre-set list of textbooks. For example, one course within English Literature might prescribe 5 different Shakespeare plays (books), while another course will require nothing and students receive free handouts for poetry. Maybe this article will give you perspective about the costs of textbooks at university.

Either way, try to minimise the costs for study materials, by getting textbooks second-hand from enterprises such as classifieds student websites. Note, for other possible requirements, such as computers and laptops, camera, art supplies, etc., there are various student deals and discounts to look out for. Get your kids to take advantage of these! Classifieds sites such as Gumtree also tend to have good second-hand deals for such affairs!

EduConnect 2cents

If your child is a literature student it’s worthwhile looking up free Pdf versions online. Many classics are available for free download – printing and binding a Pdf version is much cheaper than buying the book. (Not all Pdf versions are legal, but we’ll leave it up to your kid to discern which ones are or not….).


The amount of tuition fees depends on the institution, as well as the type of degree and programme. For example, your budget will need to be higher if your child has to extend his or her Bachelor’s degrees over more than 3 years.

You can find out the tuition costs for each degree in the university’s handbook – this is generally available online on the respective website.

EduConnect 2cents

You are generally not required to pay the full year’s tuition fees in one go, but it does depend on each institution. Generally you pay a deposit for one portion of the fee, and the rest during the first semester. Find out from the university by when the full amount needs to be paid and whether they have payment plans available to you. Have a look at the institutions in SA.


If your child continues to live at home, not much should change in this department. However, if your child moves out, then a monthly budget for food needs to be set aside, unless he or she stays in a catering residence. However, even in residence it depends on the housing option you choose – some options only include one or two meals a day, which means you will still have to budget for food.

So, what does the average student in South Africa spend on basic groceries?  Per month, we’d say your child should budget between R 1500 and R 2500 for basic groceries (this excludes eating out, take-away etc.).

Prices for a Basic Grocery Shop

Here’s a list of some basic grocery items with their average price. We’re sure you’re aware of the prices but it’s always nice to have an idea of what to expect in a graph.

  • 1 big tub yogurt (R25)
  • 1 loaf of bread (R11 for toast bread, R30 for artisan loaf)
  • 1 box crackers (R20)
  • 1 block of cheese (R40)
  • 1 pack of apples (R18)
  • 1 packet spaghetti (R12)
  • steak (R70)
  • 1 pack of chicken breasts (R60)
  • 1 packet of eggs (R17)
  • 1L bottled water (R9)
  • soft drink (R8)
  • beer/cider (R20)
  • 1 bottle of wine (R50)
  • chocolate (R8 for a bar, R13 for a small slab)

EduConnect 2cents

There are tricks to manage the costs for food expenses. It’s really all about making smart choices: Take-away or home cooking? Woolies or Checkers? Eat the whole pack or save some for tomorrow?  Of course we’re sure you’re aware of this. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Remember it takes some getting used to, but learning how to manage your nutritional needs in relation to your budget is an important skill for anyone to have, and it starts with making smart choices.

Help your kids out, give them some guidance and make them aware of what they’ll need to look out for. Think back to when you were a young adult (perhaps starting your own university career)… What advice would you give your dapper self?


This one is big. If your child needs to relocate to another city in order to attend a specific institution, you need to budget for accommodation. This can mean residence, or a room in a shared flat or house, or perhaps a room in a private student accommodation. Your child needs a roof over his or her head, a bed to sleep on, and a safe place to stay. We get you! If your child is staying at home, you won’t need to worry too much about this section. If they are leaving home your child will need a home away from home. Depending on what your child’s preferences are, we’ve listed the average costs you can expect when it comes down to accommodation. We’ go into a more in-depth discussion on accommodation concerns in Step 3. 

Is your child moving away from home? Read this article to get an idea of what your child might go through.

University Residences

If your child has been accepted to a residence you need to be aware that prices differ from university to university. 

FYI: Check if you need to pay a residence acceptance fee and other deposits for your child.    

Most residences have dining halls, which means your child won’t have to cook (score!). To add, furniture and necessary kitchen, bathroom and lounge facilities are also generally included. Be sure to check with the university first.

Where the Moola Going (on average per year):

Residence fees (meals included): R35 0000 – R66 0000

Residence fees (without meals):  R330000 – R50 0000

Acceptance fees: +/- R1000

FYI: Prices are dependent on the type of room your child is looking for.

Share a Flat (in SA lingo: Diggs)

If you’re child is thinking of living in a diggs, they’ll be sure to experience life as an independent Saffa (terminology for a South African). Depending on what the budget is, your child can find furnished or unfurnished apartments/houses. Prices depend on the area they want to live in.

Obviously, if they decide to live in the center of town, they’ll probably pay a higher price (it’s all about proximity these days…). If unfurnished, they also need to consider budgeting for household necessities.

Where the Moola Going (on average):

Bachelor/1 Bedroom apartment in city centre: R5000 – R8000

Shared apartment in city centre (2 – 3 bedrooms): R10000 – R15000

Bachelor/ 1 Bedroom apartment outside the city: R2500 – R4500

Shared apartment outside the city (2 – 3 bedrooms): R5000 – R8500

Utilities (monthly):

Pre-paid electricity: +/- R250 per month (some apartments have pre-paid meters where you can top up electricity when you run out)

Wi-Fi/ Internet access: Some flats have Wi-Fi included and others don’t. Have a look at average prices and options in our communication post. Check it out.

Airtime & Internet

Utilities galore. Airtime (or a phone contract) and Internet access are necessary. Times have changed, and a lot of essay research is done on the Internet as opposed to during exclusive library ventures. Technology and instant communication is imperative.

As a student your child has access to computer and Internet facilities at the university, but you might have to budget for additional Internet costs (sometimes Wifi access is included in the rental price).

Looking for more information about cellphone providers in SA, check it out here.


Modes of transport may differ depending on which province in SA your child is staying in.

Bear in mind, rates do differ for different companies and modes, and it is a good idea to check what the exact charges will be for the type of transport you will use most. It is good to know what your various options are and how you would budget for them. Here is a list of the rates on average to give you an estimate of what to budget for transport. Bear in mind rates differ and it is a good idea to check what exact charges would be per trip. 

Here is a list of the average rates to give you an estimate of what to budget for your day-to-day mobility:


  • R 7.60 – R 44.80 per bus trip, depending on how far your travel within the city


There is one train line company across SA (Metrorail).

  • R9.00 – R23.00 for a single ticket
  • R18.00 – R33.00 for a return ticket
  • R43.00 – R183.00 for a weekly ticket
  • R211.00 – R567.00 for a monthly ticket


  • R8.80 – R10.00 per km


Petrol prices are never fixed, and a budget for petrol depends on a lot of factors – how often and how far your child drives, which kind of vehicle, etc.  For someone who uses a car on a daily basis, the monthly petrol expenses can be anywhere between R500 – R1000 per month, sometimes more, sometimes less.

FYI: Some universities have their own shuttle services or carpool organisations. For example the Jammie Shuttle service at UCT runs for free to different campuses and student residential areas. Check out what your university may offer, as this can reduce your transport expenses drastically.

Additional Expenses

When you budget for the total amount of expenses your child will have during his or her time at university, don’t forget to think of the costs you are already carrying. For example, you might already be including your child’s medical or car insurance in your monthly budget. Additional costs could also include things like furniture, if he or she moves into an unfurnished room.

If your child enrolls in a degree that prevents them from taking on a student job or generating any sort of income, then monthly pocket money might be an additional point to note.

Teach them the Budget Basics

There are various ways in which you can get your child involved in the financial aspect of his or her education. Though it’s nearly impossible for a high school leaver to completely finance him or herself during university, it is definitely possible to take on a student job and thereby contribute to the overall expenses.

Here are some suggestions of how to teach your child the budgeting basics:

Student jobs (young adults now, they can work a bit!)

Your child is a young adult now. Most degree programmes allow for enough time to take on a student or part-time job like tutoring, waitressing, or coaching a sport. With a small side income, your child could take over certain expenses, for example the monthly food costs.

Having your child contribute to the overall expenses is a great way for him or her to transition into financial independence, a time which most parents can’t wait for! Not only does it teach your child to start managing their income, but it introduces a new sense of responsibility and autonomy.

Read our student jobs article for some ideas.

Budgeting Skills (learn how to manage allowance, be sparing)

Teach your child how to budget. It’s such an invaluable skill to have, and the earlier he or she starts, the easier it will be for them to one day manage themselves financially without your help. This budgeting strategy can help your child to get on the ball of his or her own finances. You can also have a look at our Finance Your Studies page for suggestions on student jobs and the likes.

Work Hard at Varsity

If your child works really hard at varsity and achieves excellent marks, he or she might be rewarded with more than just a sense of pride. Good marks can often land a student a scholarship. It also makes it more likely for financial aid applications to be successful. So, hard work can end up paying off quite literally!

How to set up a Budget Plan?

For all the parents out there that are starting to plan and budget your child’s finances for the next three years, we’re here to help you out a tiny bit more.

There are various budgeting techniques you can use, but we’re sure you are already aware of many. It may be a good idea to teach your kids the a,b,c of setting up a budget plan.

Have a look at some budgeting ideas here.

Advice & Tips from a Parent

Student Discounts

Advise your kids to spend as little money as possible and take advantage of student discounts – including flight tickets home.

Flights Home

There are many great flight deals for students on various websites (like student flights, sta travel or flight centre) including some offers from medical aids (eg. with the Discovery medical card) or with FNB e-bucks. It is difficult to book early as everyone finishes exams at different times, and some universities do supplementaries a week or so after final semester exams (e.g. UP) and some do it once a year for both semesters (e.g. UCT). However, there are always dates for each university’s mid-term breaks, and those are set in stone and can be used as a guide to book flights.


If you can have your child in residence during first year, it’s a safe environment and generally it’s a lot cheaper than going into digs or private accommodation. Also, there are no ‘surprises,’ as the costs are fixed early in the year. If your child did not get into res, keep checking with the res department as the students are moving in, as many students decide last minute to take up other options, and first years are given preferential treatment.

Medical Aid

If your child does not have medical, ensure they use the university on-site clinic, which is very cheap and accessible. Many times students need to make an appointment for the doctor or nurse, so they need to check with the clinic early on in the year about the procedure.


Many students who receive a loan/bursary or NSFAS assistance are expected to fund their families back home. Do NOT do this. It is in the family’s long-term interest to get the student well-fed, with no outside distractions, so the student can concentrate on his or her studies, and in the long term, the family as a whole will benefit financially from having a graduate in the family.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_btn title=”Back to Step 1″ style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#141a46″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ae4768″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Feduconnect.co.za%2F5-steps-to-set-your-child-up-for-varsity%2F1-your-childs-been-accepted-now-what%2F||target:%20_blank|”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_btn title=”Head on over to Step 3″ style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#141a46″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ae4768″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Feduconnect.co.za%2F5-steps-to-set-your-child-up-for-varsity%2F3-living-logistics%2F||target:%20_blank|”][/vc_column][/vc_row]