Living costs at university can seem like a daunting affair, your budget will only be as effective as your planning and diligence. Use this article as a guideline.
Life after school is definitely different for both your child and you. Your child has been accepted into university and now you need to sort out how their living costs at university will be. Don’t stress! We have some guidelines to help make this an easy and more affordable transition for you.
Budget! The word can send shivers down the spine of the disorganized, or it can bring out the financial-guru in you.
Once a budget is set for the living costs at university, and it has been tweaked according to the your student’s circumstances, keep track for a period of time. Many students’ budgets fail after a few months because they underestimate their spending, or brush over the details. It is best for everyone that there is a sense of responsibility and ownership on a budget.
Take note: For students travelling to university everyday, the living costs shouldn’t vary too much. Of course there’s the tuition fees but excluding that, food should remain more or less the same and if they use a lift club you’ll also be saving tremendously.
You already have a good idea of what you spend for your family, and although the task of budgeting needs to have input from both yourself and the student (-to-be), you will be able to better guide your student knowing your accustomed standard of living and cost of goods.
For the sake of this article, lets begin by assuming that university and rental fees are taken care of, so lets leave these costs out of the picture. I have also made assumptions that any vehicle-related costs (monthly car loans and insurance, except petrol) are taken care of, or privately budgeted for. So what are the remaining living costs at university?
Begin the budget by recording what their income will be.
This can be quite varied but essentially comes down to a combination of loans, bursaries, parental income and income from a job (part-time or otherwise).
Next step is to work out approximate living costs while at university.
- Include food if your child is in digs or only taking partial meals at Residence.
- Personal hygiene costs – this will include toiletries, haircuts, etc.
- Laundry – the first thing to consider here is if laundry facilities are available at the digs or res where the student is staying. If so, is it coin-operated or free use? Does the student need to take clothes to a laundromat? The answers to these questions will determine whether or not more than laundry detergent is required, and therefore impact the costs quite greatly.
- Course related costs – this could include photocopying, data connection, equipment, even field trips. My son’s girlfriend, who is in fourth year, had to get herself to and from a location out of the city to do her practical work, for a month.
- Insurance – if the student’s electronic equipment is not registered under the parents’ household policy, it would be wise to insure them individually. Laptops, vehicles, phones and tablets are expensive items and the student could be in unsafe environments at times.
- Transport – if the student is using public transport, how often will he be travelling and how far. If using his own transport, what is the distance on average, daily. Add a bit extra for entertainment purposes.
- Sporting costs – this could include gym or club membership or any sport teams the student is on.
- Cell phone costs – its advisable to put a definite budget to this, as this can very quickly get out of hand in terms of phoning home and communicating with friends.
- Social/Entertaining costs – this has the greatest room for variation and will definitely be determined by the income of the student or the decision by you as a parent.
Tip: Put a weekly cap on certain expenses like food, entertainment and petrol costs.
Top Tip from a parent:
Record spending on a weekly/monthly basis to bring about an awareness of budgeting and spending wisely. By beginning with teaching them to budget their living costs at university, you’re laying the foundations for when they enter the real world and have a job that supports them.
Top Tip from a student:
Only put your budgeted amount into your wallet for a night out, so you are not tempted to overspend. Overall, remember you are a student and therefore live like a student! Take advantage of specials and student cards and discounts. Most shuttle services will offer discounts to students, as do banks with student bank acccounts, and club memberships.
Budgeting can be quite a tricky thing. No two people are the same in their needs and lifestyles. Give your child everything they need to be comfortable, but don’t spoil them. If they aren’t satisfied with the budget you set, encourage them to get a part-time job if they can handle it with their course.