Is it always a bit worrying towards the end of the month when you get to the checkout? And have you been unable to pluck up the courage to look up your student debt on Mijn DUO for years now? You’re not the only one! Making ends meet every month is not easy and the average student’s financial situation didn’t get any better in 2020 (what did, actually?) Rooms have got more expensive, a lot of part-time jobs have disappeared due to Covid-19, and the only suggestion Education minister Van Engelshoven can offer is, ‘Just borrow a bit more.’ Would you like to get to the end of the month a bit more comfortably in 2021? We’ve got five tips to help you do that!
Tip 1 Look for the leak
The satisfaction with which you look at your bank account on the 24th of the month can turn to slight panic two weeks later. Already spent so much? Where did it go? Kindle your inner scientist and figure it out. There are numerous apps for keeping track of your spending. Try out a couple, see which one works for you and keep a record of what your money goes on for about three months. That’s your baseline. You might be shocked at how much you spend in the pub (remember that time…?) or you might have ordered pizza more often than you realized. Think about whether these things are really necessary, or whether you could cut down a bit. And are your fixed monthly outgoings such as rent and subscriptions on the high side? See tip 2.
Tip 2 Invest time
Time is money, and that is true for you too. Invest a few hours in identifying your fixed costs. Could your phone subscription or health insurance be cheaper, and do you make much use of your gym subscription or are you mainly paying it for the sake of good intentions? This analysis is not exactly fun but it could save you some money.
Is your rent too high? The national student union LSVb has an online tool with which you can calculate how much rent your landlord should be charging. If you are paying too much, you could try to get it down, possibly with the help of the Rents Commission if you don’t think your landlord is going to respond very enthusiastically.
Another money saver: sourcing course books, furniture, clothes or your phone secondhand. It could mean a bit of hunting around on Student Plaza, the Emmaus secondhand store or on Vinted, but you can save a lot. Want to become a real pro? Follow blogs or websites about saving for your daily dose of inspiration.
Tip 3: Do it yourself
Getting your bike repaired, your hair cut, or a new zip put into your jacket all has to be done and all costs money. You can probably do it yourself. Look up some YouTube videos to learn how and give it a go. If you don’t manage, you can still go to the bike repair shop/hairdresser/tailor. A bridge too far? Start smaller with do-it-yourself then. Take your own coffee or lunch into uni instead of buying it there. You can save hundreds of euros a year like that.
Tip 4 Save on everyday things
Now you’ve taken the biggest steps, you can start paying attention to more minor spending too. Do your shopping at a cheaper supermarket, buy rice and pasta in bulk at the ‘toko’, and your veg and cheese at the market. Make a shopping list before you go, to avoid a lot of extra impulse buys. And as a bonus, the year group won’t need to consult each other in the middle of the supermarket, complete with six trolleys. This will make a lot of people happy.
It’s cheaper and more sustainable to eat together, so invite someone over or eat with your housemates more often. Put leftovers in the freezer and use them up on a lazy day. That saves on pizza deliveries.
Keep an eye of the ThuisWageningen website as well. Not only can you get free plants from the plant rescue centre here, or swap clothes in the swap shop, but they also regularly offer free courses –Dutch lessons, for instance.
Tip 5 Be creative with your money
After all these tips, have you got money left over? Think about the best thing to do with it. Maybe you can lower the monthly amount you borrow, or maybe you would rather save up to travel after you graduate. If you want to buy a house one day, do your best to pay off your loan. Not in a hurry? Invest your money! It’s not nearly as complicated as people think, says student investor Emma Mouthaan. You can start small, from 20 euros a month, and see if you like it. Interested? Emma has written a book about it, which you can download for free on her website.