I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a shopaholic and the world’s worst saver. Since I was 15, as soon as that paycheck hit my account it was gone within a week, spent on who even knows what. Now, I’ve never really struggled with money but essentially, I had no savings and lived paycheck to paycheck.
And because I’m a university student, my thought process was that every other student is the same boat.
Dr. Carsten Murawski from Melbourne University says young people generally have little to no savings.
“I think the average millennials savings rate is not efficient and they are not sufficiently aware of the future financial commitments that they will be facing down the road.”
But I was wrong to put every uni student in the wrong basket. Dr Murawski said that university students who move out home to study and who pay multiple bills generally spend their money more wisely.
“One bit of feedback we always get is that the students felt that the step of moving out of home and moving into your own place, gave them a real sense of money because they have to budget.”
So at the start of July, I decided that enough was enough. If students who work casual jobs can afford to live out of home, pay rent, pay bills and go on holidays, then surely I could save a few thousand dollars in a semester.
That’s when I picked up the Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape (a.k.a the best decision of my life). Pape explained step-by-step everything I needed to know about your personal finances.
I know what you’re thinking: “a financial book, how boring!” but that’s the best part – the way it’s written makes it easy for everyone to understand. Take it from me who has never done a class in commerce or understood what interests rates were three months ago.
After following some of Pape’s advice, I decided to challenge myself to see how much I could save during a university semester. At the start of the semester I had $345 in my account (yes, that’s all I had) and now I have $2,000 plus in my savings.
Why I Decided to Make a Change
At times I would get stressed and upset about money. This was usually when my friends wanted to go out for dinner or drinks, but I had no money until Thursday (payday) and I had to ask my parents for the fifth time that week to borrow $50.
I’m also aware of people my age having $20,000 in their savings that have been working the same amount of time as me and on a similar wage.
Yes, the goal is to save for a house but for me, it was more about having some financial security in case something came up. For example, if I was to get in a car accident (touch wood) of my fault, my insurance excess is over $2000, which I wouldn’t be able to pay. So not only would having money aside give me peace of mind but it would also improve my mental health.
Dr Murawski said that there are close to links to finances and mental wellbeing and for uni students, a lack of money can have an impact on studies.
“It’s definitely not a good thing if there’s severe financial stress on a university student because they are already under so many other stresses.”
How I Began Saving
Firstly, I identified where I was spending unnecessary money.
Trying to Dress Like The Rich and Famous
Living in the world of social media means your life is on display, so it’s only natural that you want to look your best. I love fashion but my taste is too expensive for my bank account. I would see friends who have been working full-time for years wearing designer clothes every weekend and think it’s the norm to go out and buy a $200 dress and wear it once. However, these people are making $60,000 a year compared to me earning under $30,000 on a casual salary.
Where I made a change: I started actually using my staff discount at my retail job! Instead of buying expensive items I could only wear once, I used my 40% off discount to purchase items that I would only wear out once but wear to work once a week. In addition, we live in the world of renting – so if I really wanted to wear designer clothes for a special occasion, I would either borrow or rent them off somebody for $100 max.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Being a uni student and in my twenties means that’s always something on but sometimes it’s okay to miss out on things and save a little bit of cash. Your friends aren’t going to hate you if you don’t make it to one night out at bar – think of the cash you can save from a night out. Staying home means saving money on an outfit, drinks, Uber and the drunken Maccas run.
Where I made a change: Basically, I stayed in. If I wanted to hang out with friends I suggested a night in, some movies and a bottle of wine, cheap and fun.
It’s the classic rookie mistake I think everyone makes around the New Year. I joined a gym two years ago, hoping to look like a Victoria Secret model in a year – to do so, I signed up to a gym where I was paying $40 a fortnight. I was paying over $1,000 a year and was lucky to go to the gym twice a week – why? Because I was not enjoying it, I was bored and lacked motivation.
Where I made a change: I found a form of exercise that I actually enjoyed (which ended up being a boot camp) and that was cost effective. Instead of paying $40 a fortnight, I now pay $50 a month for unlimited sessions and I’m not locked in a contract. So in the long run, I’ll save $400 a year!
Secondly, I did some research about banks. Pape outlines in his book that you shouldn’t necessarily bank with the four big banks (I was with NAB).
I then opened three new bank accounts with ING. Why three accounts?
The book recommended sorting your bank accounts into how you want to spend your money. So I opened one transaction account for daily expenses (e.g. bills and shopping), one for short-term savings (e.g. holidays and car-related expenses – registration or car services) and another for long-term savings (e.g. a house deposit).
I also kept my previous savings account with NAB with at least $1,000 in it for emergencies (e.g. if I crashed my car and had to pay an expensive excess).
Why ING? This online bank has the highest interest in Australia, meaning the more savings I have in my accounts the higher the interest I receive. And they have no ATM fees – meaning I can I withdraw cash from any ATM in Australia and I don’t have to pay the $2 fee.
On the advice of the Pape, I divided my pay consistently between my accounts each week – no matter what I was paid. Each fortnight I would leave 60% of my pay in my everyday transaction account for bills and shopping, put 20% into short-term savings and 20% into long-term savings.
For my emergency savings with NAB, I connected my eBay account so every time I sold something on eBay the money I made would go straight into my emergency savings – so I virtually never saw or received the money, but it was still growing.
Lastly, instead of looking at ways to save my money I looked at how I could increase my income. This is a practice that the book heavily focused on.
Dr Murawski said that it isn’t unusual for students to have no savings because their income is solely used to pay bills.
“A lot of students that struggle with saving, often don’t have high incomes and even if they don’t spend that much money on clothes or nights out, there often isn’t a lot of room for saving.”
Therefore, he suggested that students should look at other strategies on sourcing additional income.
I recently got a new part-time job that is 15 hours a week, that eventually I will move into full-time at the completion of my degree. Instead of quitting my retail job, I continued to work 2-3 shifts a week for extra money. That way, I can put one paycheck straight into my savings and use the other for expenses.
I also sell old clothes and shoes on eBay – if you’re not already doing this you should. You would be amazed at what people look to buy on eBay – I once sold my old broken Nintendo Gameboy (people seek electronics for parts) for $60…
Why It Worked
Firstly, having the savings in my NAB account means I have added security and savings that I visibly cannot see. If an emergency were to come up, I wouldn’t have to delve into my other savings and lose any interest that I had gained. Furthermore, so I wouldn’t tempt myself I deleted NAB’s online banking app from my phone so I couldn’t transfer money while I was out or shopping into my other accounts if I ran out.
Secondly, with ING to maintain a 3% interest rate (per annum), I have to put $1000 into my savings account each month – the less that goes in, the lower the rate goes. It’s pretty much like saying to a kid the floor is lava; it’s a challenge and an incentive to ensure the rate doesn’t lower.
Thirdly, the design of the ING banking app has a quick view option where you can only view one account at a time. Instead of an overview of all the money, you have in each account when you log in you only see your daily expenses which makes you virtually forget about the other two accounts.
Lastly, I named my savings accounts so I knew what each account was for. I named my short-term savings account ‘holiday’ so I would get excited by the prospect of my next holiday every time I put money into it. The name long-term savings account was obvious because the long-term goal is buy a house because the quicker I save – the quicker I can move out of home!
How Much I Actually Saved
At the start of my saving crusade, I created out sacrificing my day-to-day life I was able to save $2,631.
From the above table, it’s clear that if I had stayed clear of my savings I would have saved over $5,000 but like I said I tried not sacrificing my everyday life. There were definitely weeks that were harder than others and they were often the weeks where bills were due and my salary was low.
Overall, this challenge has completely changed how I view money. Never have I felt better! Not once have I felt the pressure of having no money. For any student who is in the same boat, I highly recommend to set a goal and stick to it, you won’t regret it.