A Year 12's guide to financial literacy

Year 12 students are currently entrenched in their final exams, with their thoughts firmly focused on studying rather than life after high school. However, the dust will settle on Schoolies week and the long summer break as university and impending adulthood become realities for our latest crop of graduates. The transition from high school to university can be daunting, especially when you throw in the need for students to understand and sort out their finances. For that reason, we’ve compiled some handy tips to help students budget, spend and save throughout university.    

Banking

Dealing with money can be both tedious and overwhelming for students as they begin to grapple with financial independence. If you’re unsure about where to start, do some research into what different banks offer and how they will fit in with your financial needs. Finder has a wealth of comparative information on student banking, making it a good place to start your research. 

Separating your spending and savings accounts is one of the first steps you can take towards controlling your money. For your savings, look for a high interest account that’s designed to help you save over a long period of time. The more money you deposit into this account, the more interest (money) you’ll gain back – that’s why banks often restrict access to these accounts so it encourages you to save. For your spending account, aim for a no-fee everyday access account that you can use to cover living costs, bills and any recurring payments. Ensure that your everyday account doesn’t charge any monthly fees, and keep an eye on the permitted number of transactions allowed within a certain time frame. When choosing your account type, you can decide between cheque, savings or credit. Also known as debit accounts, cheque and savings options only allow you to spend money that you have. Credit accounts allow you to spend up to a certain limit on the proviso you’ll repay it later, but be wary as it can easy to mismanage your spending and end up with a debt you can’t afford to pay back. 

If you need extra financial help, look into payments such as Youth Allowance – you’ll be deposited a certain amount at regular intervals to help cover your living expenses. Just bear in mind that you’ll have to fulfil a number of eligibility requirements to qualify. 

Budget 

Tracking monthly expenses is a great way to gain control over your finances, as you’ll be able to pinpoint your spending patterns and see where you could better invest your money. Record your expenses in an Excel spreadsheet – include your phone bill, streaming service fees, utility bills (if applicable) and living costs such as groceries and social activities. You’ll get a clear idea of how much you’re spending each month, allowing you to see where you need to trim your budget or when you can deposit any leftover money into your savings account. For some budgeting inspiration, try the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)’s TrackMySPEND app – you’ll be able to nominate spending limits and view your expense history to keep your finances in order.  

Change one spending habit 

To save money, consider giving up one spending habit that can be substituted with a cheaper alternative. These frugal habit changes include:

Buying coffee versus making coffee

Brewing your coffee at home instead of buying it at the uni café can save up to $25 a week (which equates to $1200 a year). If you can’t bear the thought of going without a barista-made coffee each day, try to visit cafes that offer rewards such as free coffees to frequent customers. 

Eating out regularly versus meal planning

Eating out is a great way to socialise with your newfound uni friends, but it’s a habit that can become expensive very quickly. Taking the time to map out quick, cheap and easy meal options each week will help you avoid mindless spending that could be better invested in planned meals out when friends and family. 

Impulse shopping versus monthly clothes budget

Combat your shopaholic tendencies by introducing a monthly clothing budget that controls excessive and impulsive material spending. If you go over your budget, either take the amount out of next month’s limit or cut back on living costs such as eating or going out so you stay in check.  

Expensive gym membership versus exercising for free

There’s plenty of ways in which you can exercise for little to no cost. Run and walk around the local park or sports oval, swim at the beach or take advantage of free exercise classes available at your university. If you can’t go without a gym membership, look out for free trials or make use of your student card for discounted rates. 

Work 

Working is not just a good way to gain life skills and experience – it will also provide you with an all-important source of income. If you don’t already have a part-time or casual job, map out when and where you’ll realistically be able to work around your studies. Make sure that your résumé is up to date, and remember to go in with an open mind – try not to be picky with jobs. If you’re on the lookout for work, explore online job engines such as SEEK; register with employment agencies; look for advertisements on-campus and in your local area; contact your student services department for employment information or seek recommendations from family, friends and fellow students. 

Student discounts 

One of the best things about being a university student is the range of discounts and deals you can access with the flash of your student card. From food to movie tickets and flights, presenting a valid university card will get you significant savings on a number of things (make sure to carry it with you!). Websites such as UNiDAYS and Student Edge also provide discounts, so make sure you register your student details with them.  

Transport

Looking at alternative ways to get from A to B can end up being a great money-saver. For students that reside on or close to campus, walking and riding are both cost-effective and fitness-friendly ways of getting around. If you live further away from campus, make use of concession fares to save on train, bus, tram and ferry travel. Public transport is cheap, convenient and accessible, providing  an efficient option for university students. If driving is a non-negotiable for you, consider starting or joining a car pool group with fellow students who live and study near you – ask your student services union or look for Facebook groups if you’re interested.   

Useful Links:

Money talks: Teaching your child about budgeting

Four ways you can save money when you're a uni student

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