Life is getting more difficult for students, and it is even more essential that they look ahead and plan their finances while at university or college. Some costs can’t be anticipated, but many costs in student life are predictable. Students need to plan for this, rather than hiding their head in the sand as many do.
Planning student finances has three components – anticipating costs for the duration of the course, knowing what finance is currently available before the course starts, and estimating what finance will be incoming during the course.
The cost of taking the course needs to be estimated in a detailed and objective way. Some costs will be pre-defined, such as course fees and accommodation costs. You can know these in advance, and they will be quite accurate. Other costs will be less easy to anticipate with accuracy. These include food and clothing, social activities, heating and phone bills, and other costs associated with everyday living. There may be a tendency to underestimate costs. You can do without home comforts for a period, but students need some security and happiness, especially when under pressure on a difficult course. Try to be realistic about the cost implications.
Establishing what finance is available before starting a course should be a simple and accurate task, however you do need to be honest with yourself. There can be a tendency to allocate savings to more than one project and hope it all works out in the end. Check how much money you have in various accounts and other locations, and allocate it carefully to the course plan. If some money is to be spent on course fees, note that and move on to the next source of finance.
Income obtained during the course can help to relieve pressure on finances. Many students work while they study. Unfortunately in times of recession there may be difficulties in finding temporary casual employment. It is not easy for students to find employment when they are often restricted in the hours they can work, and may have periods when they are unavailable for work. Students also need to ensure that their part time work does not encroach on their lives to the extent that their studies suffer. There is no benefit in working hard to finance a course, and then failing the course because of it.
Income can be obtained from other sources. Family members may be willing to finance a student or provide interest free loans for a period of time. In these circumstances the student and the loan providers need to be clear about the repayment terms, and the issues that will arise if the student does not find employment on finishing their course and cannot repay the loan immediately. Such a loan will be based on good will, and both parties need to be aware of the emotional implications in addition to the financial implications.
Student finances are often difficult to arrange, but the overriding principle is that you must deal with them honestly and systematically. If you try to bluff yourself, or stretch your ability to repay to unreasonable limits, you will end up with a situation where you cannot finish a course and you will have wasted a lot of hard earned money.