Managing money and budgeting
Being a student comes with a variety of unique expenses, which if not managed effectively can put you in a difficult financial position.
Financial health can bring a strong sense of security and peace of mind. Combined with leisure time and fun activities, it can have a positive effect on your wellbeing.
The way we view our financial situation can impact our mental health. Even someone who is regularly paying off their debts may have constant feelings of mental and emotional distress around personal finances. Mental ill-health, such as depression, can also arise when financial fears are present. This will not only impact one person in a household but all their loved ones too and can possibly flow over into your university performance and workplace as well.
Signs that financial stress is affecting your mental wellbeing include:
- arguing with the people closest to you about money;
- having trouble sleeping;
- feeling angry or fearful;
- mood swings;
- loss of appetite; and
- withdrawing from others.
Addressing financial problems early on can reduce their impact on mental health. With a little forward planning, you can get the most out of the money you have available to you.
Some strategies for improving your financial health include putting money aside for when bills come, budgeting, creating an emergency fund, opening a separate savings account, and paying essential bills first.
Some other important steps you can take include:
- have a savings goal;
- avoid bad debt such as credit cards, personal loans, and buy now, pay later services;
- reduce debt as your priority;
- have investments;
- have a safety net in place; and
- ask for professional help.
What to do
Start a budget
By developing a budget, you can begin to make more informed decisions about your finances.
To make a simple budget, start with a sheet divided into two sections headed ‘income’ and ‘expenses’. Next, write down all your sources of income such as work, parental support and any government allowances you may receive. For expenses, make sure you include all housing and food costs, in addition to other expenses such as laundry, books, and public transport or car running expenses.
Being aware of how you spend your money can provide insight into ways you could be saving it, such as cutting down on coffees or making your own sandwiches.
Managing your money
Once you have a good handle on your expenses and income with your budget, the next step is managing your money. At the end of every month, you will be able to use your budget to reassess your financial situation and plan for the future.
Regarding banking, find a savings account with low fees, choose a credit card with a low interest rate, and watch out for unnecessary fees, such as ATM withdrawal fees from other banks.
It may be a good idea to put the money needed to cover your rent into a separate account, which you don’t access on a day-to-day basis. This will allow you to know how much money you have left to spend for the rest of the budget period. Divide up any money you have left over so that you know how much you have available each week.
Borrowing money from friends
The cost of housing, living expenses, textbooks and so on can all add up while your capacity to earn money is reduced due to study commitments.
Turning to friends to help with short-term money difficulties can be an option, but it is one that should be treated with a degree of caution.
Friendships and personal relationships are the strongest bonds you can have with people. If you’re introducing a financial relationship as part of your social connection, it can make things more complex. Carefully weigh this up before deciding to borrow money from friends. Friendships aren’t always suited to carry the emotional baggage associated with money.
Also, keep in mind that your friends will likely have similar economic situations to you. This means that the amount asked for will likely be considered a substantial burden by the person being asked.
At Deakin, a range of financial support is available to Deakin students, including appointments with Deakin's Counselling service, tools to help you manage expenses, and financial counselling with DUSA.
More help and advice
The Money Smart website provides free tips, calculator and guidance on all things finances.