Life as a college student has its share of expenditure. PHILIP AUGUSTINE finds out how you can scrimp and save and have fun all the same.
ANOTHER year and a brand new semester. And while many of you are busy getting back into the groove of things, catching up with friends and trading holiday adventure stories, others are preparing to take the plunge into what could possibly be the most daunting experience of their lives – entering college for the first time.
One of the many realities of going to college or university is paying for your college costs. For many freshies, being in charge of their own finances for the first time is enough to give them the chills and thrills.
Together with rising tuition and student service fees, expect another set of expenses – maintaining a set of wheels, eating out, new college wardrobe and other accoutrements of a more active social life – to crop up and drain what may already be an anaemic bank account.
So, to help give you guys a smoother transition into college and a much needed reality check on wise-spending, StarEducation went out and talked to the experts, in other words YOU, on ways to save money on some of the more common expenditure items.
Here, in a nutshell, are some streetwise, down-to-earth tips on what you can do to get the most of your financial resources (limited or otherwise).
Your student ID card is your friend. Never leave home without it. Many shops, services, restaurants and fast food joints offer discounts to students – you need only ask.
Feel like a movie? Student discounts are available in cinema houses like Tanjong Golden Village and Golden Screen Cinemas. If you go on a weekday, you might even get in for less and avoid the weekend full-house.
Otherwise, buy VCDs and watch them at home with friends. This way, you get to watch the movie more than once, if you like, whilst saving money on the popcorn and fizzy drink.
Going clubbing? Look for places where there are no cover charges. Most clubs/pubs in Bangsar, don’t impose cover charge. Try going during “happy hour” – the drinks are cheaper and the dance floor is all yours!
If you can’t party out, bring the party to you! Having a party at home gives you free reign over the type of music played, cheaper drinks, and you get to eliminate unwanted guests by inviting only a select few. You can even have a small door charge to cover extra costs.
Unless you’re looking for Counter Strike, use school computers in the library and computer labs to do research, check e-mail and surf the Net. You’ve paid for the use of them in your fees, so make the most of it.
Join clubs or organisations that reflect your interests, such as the performing arts, debate, school newspaper etc. They not only look good in your résumé, but help build character and self-confidence.
Keep a look out for SALES, the bigger the better. In Malaysia, there are three major Mega Sale Carnivals each year – in March, August and December – where chances of you getting good bargains abound. You wouldn’t want to miss one of those.
Shop for clothes during the festive season and let your parents foot the bill (they’re usually more generous this time of year). Look for shops like Miss Selfridge which offer 10% student discounts, or Giordano for a 20% discount if it’s your birthday.
You could also check out some budget-friendly stores like Factory Outlet Shop (F.O.S), Reject Shop, Chargers Outfitters, and Padini Authentics, located at major shopping centres such as Sungei Wang Plaza, Subang Parade, and Sunway Pyramid. You’ll be surprised what you can find.
Places such as Masjid Jamek, Petaling Street, and the pasar malam are worth visiting for their wide array of goods, and are generally great for a spot of bargain-hunting.
Hand-me-downs or second-hand clothes need not be dull or old fashioned.
Gather some friends, swap clothes, and with a little imagination, mix and match to give them a fresh start.
Invest in a few articles of good clothing and shoes (apart from trendy stuff, throw in some items in classic cuts and colours) as they tend to last longer and will eliminate the need to repeat buy.
Take the bus or walk, though you’re probably better off walking in Malaysia.
Share a cab. Taxi bills can add up quickly.
Car-pooling with friends lets you save on petrol and parking. You may have to leave your house early but at least you've got company when stuck in a jam.
Don’t use the car unnecessarily and don’t speed. Speeding uses a lot more petrol. If possible, look for free or cheap parking but don’t take the foolish risk of parking illegally.
The LRT is a great way to get around town minus the hassle of traffic and parking.
Try to get hold of second hand books from seniors or at a second hand book fair on campus; they usually have this during orientation week. Lecturers can give you names of seniors who’ve got books to sell.
Sell old books from previous semesters – the money you get can help pay for new ones; or, have a book sale of your own, and invite a few friends to pool resources. Scout around before buying a book; you might get the same book for less elsewhere.
Share books and form study groups, if two heads are better than one, imagine five!
No. The library is not just a place to relax, check out girls and enjoy the air condition. It has lots and lots of books worth reading and borrowing. If push comes to shove, photostat only certain chapters of the book that you need. You wouldn’t want to be accused of copyright infringement early in your college life.
If you’ve got a handphone, try to use a pre-paid. It’s an easier way to control how much you spend. If you have a fixed line, call during off-peak hours (usually between 7pm and 7am).
The short message system (SMS) is a favourite for many, especially the bill-conscious. But it still costs money, so don’t get carried away.
Use public phones; they’re not extinct, you know.
Use IDD (international direct dialling) cards when calling overseas or outstation.
You can save heaps by cooking or eating at home. Nothing compares to a good home-cooked meal ? assuming you can cook that is.
If you do plan to eat out, mamak and hawker stalls are the ultimate lifesavers for many students looking for a quick fix or an inexpensive, satisfying meal. They provide a variety of popular local fare and are generally value for money.
Canteens and cafeterias make for a great place to interact and meet fellow students; the food is clean and cheap, but be prepared to compromise on taste and selection.
Make use of food coupons or vouchers found either in the newspaper, grocery or fast food outlets. They come in handy, especially when money is tight.
Always carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. Water is not only good for you, it keeps you away from vending machines and leaves you feeling refreshed. (Tip: Sipping water regularly reduces the chance of having bad breath.)
Eat a good breakfast to avoid snacking between classes, or pack and bring your own lunch or snacks with you.
Organise potluck dinners with friends and ask everyone to prepare at least one dish and voila! a feast is at hand.
Curbing the cravings
Make a list before you head out shopping and stick to that list. Shop on a full stomach, it helps curb those irresistible cravings that crop up as you stroll along the supermarket aisles.
You could also stock up when visiting your parents; just tag along when they shop for groceries and ring up your items on their tab. Or just raid their pantry and cart the stuff back to your campus digs.
Sharing a place with friends and splitting the rent and utilities bills equally is both fun and cost-friendly. Choose accommodation where the rent covers the water and electricity bills; you’ve got enough to worry about as it is.
Fancy a cuppa? Swensons offers complimentary tea on rainy days, so the next time it pours, you know where to go! Similarly, unless there’s a generous soul paying for your over-priced, sugar-saturated, ice-blended whipped drink at the coffee cafes, desist.
But if you can afford to enjoy these places on a regular basis, then make the most of it and get yourself a loyalty or privilege card. These allow you lots of benefits, discounts and you can get a free drink too.
Working part time not only gives you extra pocket money, it also helps you handle your money better. Learn to save a little every month for those rainy days, or open a savings account.
Don’t be a compulsive buyer – buy the things you need, and not the things you want.