I thankfully qualified for the SUSI grant for my undergraduate degree, but every cent that came from that went on rent, bills and transport. While I was in first year of my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to do a Masters, so I researched how much I would need. The prices for courses were making my head spin – roughly €10,000 for fees, and that was before taking into account rent, bills, transport and food. I had about €170 to my name in December of my first year of college, so I had to knuckle down.
Set your goal
The first thing you need to do is research, and set yourself a goal. Research shows a higher chance of success if you picture yourself achieving a set goal and work towards it. If I was ever tempted to buy myself something I didn’t need or buy myself a takeaway when I had food in the fridge, I thought about having to re-earn those savings for college. In my case, trying to earn that much money in a short few years, every bit counted.
Find a job that works around you
I started applying for part-time jobs in the local area of the college. Pickings were slim, because jobs which were flexible enough for students were snapped up quickly. So, I had to work a commuting cost into my budget to look elsewhere for work. I asked family members to look out for any part-time jobs which may be interested in taking on students that I could easily travel to.
It took a while so I began looking for other work which was easier to come by, but not necessarily steady. Babysitting was one which was easy enough to get, and paid well. Every time I got paid, I went straight to the bank and lodged it into my account to make sure I wouldn’t spend it. Luck struck for me one day and a friend of mine who did dog-walking asked would I be interested in taking on the job. I said yes and it was the best job I ever had. I took the dog between lectures for two hours, three times a week. Not only did it keep my head level with study, help with my mental health and give me a chance to exercise, but it paid me €15 an hour as well.
Finally, I managed to secure a part-time job at the end of second year and worked 30 hours a week while studying. All that money went directly into my bank and stayed there, and the restaurant worked around my college hours so that I could do both. They made me supervisor about a year into the job, and I managed to up my hours to 35 a week, while studying full-time, dog-walking and tutoring as well. Almost every cent that didn’t go on rent and bills went into savings.
Cut down on extra expenses, watch your spending
Going to the cinema can be traded for watching TV, going out for dinner can be traded for cooking at home. Studying and doing assignments is also a great way to fill your time, be successful in college and save.
One thing though – make sure your rent is always paid. My Dad always taught me that a roof over your head is the most important thing, and if you have good friends and family in your life, someone will always be willing to lend a helping hand if you’re struggling with the rest.
Of course, you do need to treat yourself every now and again. What I would do is round myself off to the nearest €100 – if i had €120, I used to limit myself to €20. That way, I could still go see a movie with friends, or treat myself to a SuperMacs with everyone else. Living on a small budget is very very difficult, but doable.
Change from branded food to cheaper alternatives
Aldi and Lidl are your best friends. A good way to make sure you don’t spend too much is through shopping here instead of in Tesco or Supervalu. For your fruits and vegetables, Aldi and Lidl always have the Super Saver deals where you can get specific ones every week for 50c each. They are great for buying cheaper own-brand yogurts, milks and dairy which taste extremely similar to the branded and more expensive options.
Because meat is so expensive, buying meat in bulk and freezing it in different containers is a great way to save. Most butchers do a deal which is €20 and you get five or six different packs of various meats. This meat is normally great quality and it is easy to separate it and freeze it in freezer bags to make sure it doesn’t go off and will last you almost two weeks if you’re clever about it. Just make sure you take it out of the freezer to defrost the night before you want to cook it.
Leap Cards and student discount
Use your student discounts. Even if it is only 10%, it is still 10% more than you had before. Do not be afraid to ask whether a shop offers student discount or not – it’s there for a reason.
If you are living in Dublin, Leap Cards are fantastic for saving money on travel. Student leap cards cap at €20 per week if you only use Dublin Bus, and €27 if you only use DART, LUAS and IrishRail services. If you mix the two, your card caps at €30 per week.
By scrimping and saving and working as hard as I could for over four years, I managed to pay off my fees in full for my Masters in one go and still have a nice little nest egg left for myself after. These are just some of the helpful money-saving tips that helped me in little ways over the years, and while it was very very difficult at times, it was well worth it in the end.
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