Financial Tips From A Formerly Broke Student Who Lived To Tell The Tale

Contributor: Louis Costello

There’s a certain art to surviving a period in your life when you have close to no funds. And no, this isn’t one of those “oh guys I’m so broke, I’m trying to save to go to New York for a lush seven-week holiday” kind of deals, but more an “oh guys I have $2 dollars in my account, I genuinely can’t afford public transport” scenarios. There’s a ‘uge difference.

Feeling Like Garbage GIF by GIPHY Studios Originals

Most of us have been in a sticky financial situation at least once in our lives, and if, like myself, you’ve found yourself back at square one on numerous occasions, rest assured it gets easier to manage and you can bounce back relatively quickly with the right approach.

So, my cash-challenged friends, let’s get your butts across the line to financial security. One can of Homebrand chickpeas at a time.

Shop Late At Night And Short-Term

Now, some people would argue that you save money by doing a big grocery shop at the start of the week. Those people would be wrong. You buy more than you need, you don’t eat half of it before it goes off or mouldy, and usually, you find yourself buying even more items from the supermarket during the week anyway because you have zero chill.

As a former broke student/tourist/adult (often all three at once), I find it pays to hit the supermarkets late at night and with the intention to consume the food within 48 hours. Why? Late-night shopping is usually where all the reduced stickers come out to play.

Before you wrinkle your nose at the thought of reduced chicken breast and 80% markdowns on questionable veggies, remember that if you intend to eat the food quite soon, the use-by-dates aren’t an issue.

Often you can walk away with dinner and leftovers sorted for the next day or two, with the whole transaction totalling under 5 bucks. Thrifty af.

Pro tip: You can spice everything up with Sriracha, so if your food is looking basic as hell just chuck some of that spicy gold in the mix and you’ll be in broke bliss.

Sriracha GIF

Ditch The Car, Grab A Train

Everyone’s familiar with a concession card, it’s basically our Get Out Of Debt Free card. Half-price travel fares and cheaper movie tickets? Ooohh baby, sign me up.

The allure of driving is always tempting – you have your own space, you can sing at the top of your lungs without getting punched in the face and nobody’s going to tell you to stop eating McDonald‘s straight out of the bag like a sweaty neanderthal.

However, once you’re no longer a student, travel becomes ridiculously expensive. Like, sell a kidney expensive. You either pay $10 dollars a day on petrol or over $8 dollars a day on train fare, both scenarios costing you at least eight 7/11 coffees (they’re honestly not bad. Plus, you can’t afford to be a coffee snob – you’re broke remember?)

Moral of the story here is that you may as well use your concession card while you have it. Yes, public transport isn’t ideal and you’re too good for it because you were called ‘prince’ or ‘princess’ as a kid or whatever, but you save a bunch in the long-run.

Adult-world tip: Apply for a Low Income Health Care card just before you graduate. It lasts a year and it works the same as a concession card. The more you know.

Bury Your Ego In A Shallow Grave

Oh, the things you can achieve when you have zero standards and zero inhibitions. The amount of money you’ll save when you finally come to terms with your situation and learn to live below your means is truly astounding.

It’s always wise to test the waters first and start small. Take snacks you bought from the supermarket to the movies instead of caving into the temptation of the snack bar. If you’re a bit of a daredevil, sneak in a couple of $1 hamburgers hidden in the lining of your backpack.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll become much more comfortable with living in the thrift lane. Homebrand will be your new best friend, the outlet section in every online clothing store ever will constantly be set “price: low-high” and you won’t be afraid to argue with the waiter as to why you’re not allowed to order off the kid’s menu.

Take it a step further and dress up as an actual kid to score half-price off everything. Sneak into a school, re-learn biology and establish yourself as the kingpin of the school’s hierarchy. Get revenge on the cool kids. Ace the exams.

I may have stumbled into the storyline from Drew Barrymore‘s underrated gem Never Been Kissed, so perhaps just settle for the kid’s menu.

Budget Like A Boss

This one clearly isn’t revolutionary, but my god does it work.

The problem with budgeting is that people usually start out with a completely unrealistic goal, get frustrated when they can’t reach that goal and then just burn out completely.

First up, figure how much you spend in a week (give or take). If how much you’re spending is pretty much on par with how much you’re earning, figure out what you’re spending it on and what you can cut out.

Quick side note: food delivery apps are the devil if you’re a struggling student. Delete them immediately.

If you’re simply hopeless at budgeting, set up an automatic direct debit system where a portion of your funds gets transferred to a savings account you can’t see as soon as you get paid. It vanishes into thin air and you’ll be saving without really knowing it.

A Coupla Extra Tips For Your Royal Brokeness

Finally, here’s a couple of miscellaneous tips that have helped out immensely in the past.

  • Split your streaming accounts between friends. More content for the same price.
  • Be friends with people who can get you free stuff.
  • If you’re out to dinner, withhold from ordering a drink. Water’s fine.
  • Sell your old crap online. You’d be surprised by how many people want your plush South Park dolls from the ’90s.
  • Make a mental note of your spending on any given day. It can add up insanely fast.
  • Learn to be inconvenienced. It might be a 20-minute walk to the station but you’ll save precious moula on petrol.
  • Once you’ve finished eating you’ll be full, regardless of what you ate. It doesn’t have to necessarily be the best-tasting food all of the time.
  • If you’ve got a gym membership that you never use, cancel it.

If your self-control isn’t as fine-tuned as you thought and you’ve found yourself in a bit of hot water, you can grab a quick cash loan over at Speckle. A product of not-for-profit company Good Shepherd Microfinance, they spot up to $2,000 (usually in a matter of hours) with flexible repayments and it’s a lifesaver if you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed.

The minimum requirements are that you earn at least 30k a year and more than half of that doesn’t come from Government benefits. Too bloomin’ easy.

Image: Jacob Edward /