Sunday 1 April 2012

10 tips to lower your student costs.

Written for students, tightfisted or otherwise...

After 11 tips on getting the most value for your PhD, here's 10 easy ways to reduce select costs in your student budget. If, like me, your grant barely covered your living expenses; your part-time pay always arrives too little, too late; and everyone confuses you with a social worker holding a "will work for nothing" placard, it's time to make like Tony and fight back. So, I'm kick-starting celebrations of "National Tighfisted Students Day" with a list of all the low-cost options cash-strapped students should take full advantage of:

1. Get recharged.
I'm not promoting squatting close to the campus and stealing from its electrical supply, but you should at least ensure that you your laptop, mobile phone and all else electrical and portable gets recharged at your campus, daily. Frankly, if it's good enough for the well-paid domestic worker to do at Mom's, it's good enough for us low/no- income scholars. And with the way local electrical prices are rising, it may make the difference between that hot date happening at the Wimpy... or, heaven forbid, Engen corner bakery {that's at year end, of course!}

2. Cheap, but cheerful food.
Eating off campus is like traveling around the EU and choosing to eat in its most expensive country, Switzerland. Just plain stupid; who wants to feel guilty about pooing R 500 down a loo? Fortunately, you're not going to spend even a twentieth of that as you take a long walk around your sprawling university campus to find out where the best subsidized food and drink is.

3. "Free" lunch, coffee and tea.
The person who says "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (or TANSTAAFL) is a smart economist. YOU can enjoy a few free lunches at no financial expense, if you try hard enough. Whether it's an important donor's talk, an open conference or a university workshop open to the public, you can find events where you'll spend your time, but leave with a full tummy and wallet, too. You can also find places where coffee and tea is free; such as student information office or research area. So, hunt these down to enjoy the "free" benefits of you student fee and VAT contributions.

4. Market your University, for less.
Yes, you can declare your allegiance satorially, and be cheap at the same time; freshers' week is not the best time to buy University clothing for less... please contain yourself until year-end exams; prices tank as stock is cleared and you score.

5. Save on textbooks.
It may be convenient to buy all your textbooks at the local bookshop, but it's expensive. "Time is money" and since you've probably got a lot of the former, you should dispose it by sourcing your textbooks from less expensive sources, including; your campus' second-hand book store, noticeboards and online (simply ordering new textbooks online can save you stacks). You should also see what's available under open educational resources; such as free course materials, and check-out your libraries.

6. Free computer internet access.
If you live in the developing world, a nice perk of University life is internet access at speeds that are faster {at the very least in theory} than many entry-level subscribers get outside the Ivory Tower. Plus, your available download sizes are probably larger, too.

7. Free entertainment.
As all study and no play makes for a dull student life, it's important to take advantage of the free entertainment you can. Fortunately, you are in the right place; plenty of bandwidth, many "academic" servers and loads of time for techies to crack on, means that free entertainment (via peer to peerintranets and other services) is easy to obtain; you just need to know who to ask... Of course, copyright infringement is not endorsed by me, your academic institution or your country's laws. So, understand its consequences. If its scary, you can always take out music and films from your university library...

8. Free condoms.
Speaking of risks, it's not funny to pay a hundred bucks for that Contempo Rough Riders or Durex Natural Feeling Lubricated box, when you can get free condoms @ your local university toilet? Since they are no longer stapled onto flyers, nor come in Chinese sizes, you can be confident that they will work as well as the ones you previously paid for (you know, 98 times out of 100, IF perfectly used).

9. Student card freebies.
If you absolutely have to buy something, be pro-active and find out whether you get a student discount. It never hurts to ask. Just keep flashing your student card for a bit more credibility.

10. Free transport.
Save your travel money; use your university's buses or vans when traveling from campus to campus, or places nearby...

11. Free water.
While it's unlikely to see the sharp price rises like electricity, it's always useful to fill up your water bottle at the start of the day and do a number two at its end.

I hope that this has helped you gain a few new ideas to cut down on your student expenses. Please use the comment box below to suggest any others (especially those relevant to South African students)? Ta muchus.

P.S. And if you need more, there are 50 tips on; mostly geared for those in the US. I could not Google anything for ZA locals, so this is my contribution!

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