If you’ve found yourself hustling for money or food at the end of a long month – somewhat unsure where your next meal will come from – then you’re probably not the only one. Here are our top tips to surviving till month end when times get tough.
Student life at the end of the month can be a challenging time. You’ve probably been in this situation: all you budgeted has been spent on food (and, of course, the occasional party) and now you’re left barely surviving the last few days before you have access to more. It’s challenging, but with smart and creative thinking, you can still have tons of fun and never be left without food.
Here are my top 5 tips on saving your butt when you’ve spent all your money.
1. Don’t splurge too early
When you’ve got a relatively healthy bank account balance, remember this: there will most likely be a time in the not so distant future that your account will run dry. If you remember this then you’ll be aware of eating modestly during the month, so that your money lasts till the very end. Treating yourself to sushi at the beginning of the month will lead to money shortages later on. I must admit that I fell for this during my earliest days of university, but soon realised that the ‘good life’ wasn’t worth the struggle at the end. And the more ‘good life’ you temporarily experience, the life you’ll really experience will be tougher.
2. Keep a secret stash of food
There will be the rare event where you have left over money at the end of the month. When this is the case, my suggestion to you is this: use this money wisely and for your benefit. Sure, buying an expensive shot of whiskey or a gourmet meal at a restaurant sounds great in the moment, but resist the temptation. Rather put the leftover money to good use by stocking up your cupboards with food that can save you during the not-so-good month ends. Foods that can be stored for long periods of times like:
- Tinned tuna
- Frozen meals
- Jungle oats (in terms of food gained to money spent ratio, this options wins every time, hands down).
These can be a lifesaver at the end of the month when your money has run dry. Stack these in the back of your cupboard and forget about them until that one day you’ll really need them!
3. Team up with friends
One thing I quickly learnt during my university days is that you and your friends are mostly in the same boat. You’re a team in almost everything you do (well, besides passing your exams and getting your degree!). If someone’s money has run dry, then be a teammate and help them out. Chances are they’ll help you out when you’re on the opposite side of the coin. If you’re both out, which is generally the case early on in the year when partying is a common occurrence, then you should stick together and figure something out as a team.
4. Keep your pocket change
I remember running out of money entirely once and worrying about not eating for a couple days -until the new month arrived. Before confronting my friends and negotiating some sort of payback agreement, I remembered my stash of seemingly insignificant coins that I had collected over the year. Well, turns out that my stash was not so insignificant when I added it all up. In fact, the R80 that I had built up over the months in R1 and R2 coins was enough to last me a few extra days and into the following month. If you make a conscious effort to save your pocket change then you’ll be surprised at how much it adds up to.
Tip: buy a piggy bank. (It makes for great décor too!)
I literally went and bought myself a piggy bank and used that to keep my money safe. I bought one that was sealed shut so that I couldn’t steal little amounts for a chocolate here and then. It was such an effort to get the coins out that it wasn’t worth the chocolate!
5. Buy in bulk
This was always a tough one for us: do we buy food in bulk or buy on-the-go? Reflecting back now, I can safely say that bulk buying is the better option. Buy bulky size portions that are often on sale and take turns cooking with your flatmates. When you buy in bulk, you’re also left with food for the next day. So on the one hand you’re saving money on the bulkier options, and on the other you’re saving money on one less meal. Score!
My friends and I used to love the challenge of surviving until the end of the month. As a household full of irrational students we often needed to be creative to stretch the last of our food or money, to get us over that final hurdle. After 5-years of facing the struggle (it was real), the above five tips are my gift to you.
Budgeting is part of the lessons we learn when at university, but every so often we all fall into the trap of miscalculating and overspending our money. When this happens, be creative in stretching out the last of your funds on food and you’ll find that you’re having loads of fun along the way while doing so.