Are you returning to third-level education or heading off to college for the first time? It’s an enjoyable time with greater freedoms (for better or for worse), with the chance to take more control of your life’s direction.
It can also be a tricky time for your finances, with accommodation, books, foods, transportation and other living expenses all vying for your funds. So, we’ve got a few tips to keep in mind.
Build a budget
Start off as you mean to go on – make a budget and stick to it. Budgets are a great way to ensure you don’t spend the last week of every month living on tasteless noodles, but can also highlight areas for potential savings.
University College Cork (UCC) has got a handy budget planner tailored for students.
If you rely on public transport, invest in a student Leap card, which you can use on Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, Luas and various other regional services around the country. You can load it up with travel credit, can also use the card as a form of student ID to buy discounted tickets and goods from various partner retailers. See studentleapcard.ie for further details.
Don’t waste money on expensive takeaways or microwavable meals – get out your laptop and learn to cook a few simple meals, using cheap but fresh fruit, vegetables and own-brand labels from the likes of Lidl and Aldi. It might be a more expensive initial outlay, but you’ll save money over the course of each week, particularly if you cook as a group with your roommates.
Jobs are more difficult to come by these days, but can provide a welcome boost to your finances. Start with your Student Union for any on-campus jobs, and then search for part-time positions on the usual online job sites such as Jobs.ie, Indeed, Gumtree or Monster.ie, and don’t forget to check the local paper.
Ideally, you should be working 10-12 hours or less per week, otherwise there may be a negative impact on your studies. If you can, work full-time through the summer and any other holidays to build up a base for the following semester.
If you’re struggling to meet certain costs, there are a number of resources that can help. Contact your Student Union Welfare Officer, see if your college has a financial advice or assistance service, or visit studentfinance.ie.