By Shambhavi Saxena:
Being a student in India is often synonymous with living on a tight budget, especially when ‘home’ is far away from your school or college. Our bank accounts are our lifelines, but too many of us know that crushing feeling when an ATM screen flashes those deadly words at us: ‘INSUFFICIENT BALANCE.’
But there are ways around this.
Remember washing down that fancy meal with a tall glass of guilt and mild panic? Or ignoring that bad feeling that accompanies you on your much too regular dhaba visits? The first and most important step is to track your expenses. You’re going to need to spend the first month of your semester collecting all the bills and receipts handed to you. Then you sit down and go over where you’re spending and how much. Consider downloading a free money managing app like Buxfer to get a better idea on where you can cut down.
Eat at home or at your mess (since you’re paying a mess fee anyway), or cook your own meals if you live alone. Take away menus may look convenient, but your wallet is going to disagree. Even if you limit yourself to ordering one ‘cheap’ meal, at ₹200 a day, that’s still roughly ₹6,000 a month! Mess food or cooking will bring that down to between ₹1700-2500 each month. Money saved: ₹3500!
Also, pro-tips: (i) don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach or the urge for unnecessary stuff will overpower you, (ii) and try to buy your food in bulk for a better deal.
Don’t shop cheap! Yes, it may seem like you’re getting more out of less, but multiple small little, ‘guilt-free’ purchases (stuff you get for ₹200) can build up to over ₹5000 in one semester alone! And they’re going to be unwearable pretty soon. Instead, a one-time purchase of great quality jeans, boots and such will last you longer. Variety is nice, but savings are nicer.
If you’re living in a flat, you know the headache of electricity bills and water bills. Regardless of what price range your current government has set, you should make a habit of unplugging devices not in use. Check your fridge settings and change seasonally for optimum use and saving.
How would you like to see your electricity bill of, say ₹1000 drop to ₹500? Shift to LED lighting! They’re brighter than incandescent bulbs, last for 30,000-50,000 hours, and take the strain off the environment. Oh, and don’t leave your laptops on charge when they’re at 100%. Not doing so might cost you a hefty bill and your laptop!
You can cut spending on your textbooks and readings by half when you buy them second-hand or off senior students. Based on my own experience, if you spend ₹900 a semester and up to ₹7500 in four years on just texts, you can bring that down to ₹3750. Not bad, right? Those who can, should invest in scanned textbooks and PDFs. Also, share the love folks, help your peers save money too!
This is crucial since students have to do a lot of intra-city travel, whether it’s to coaching or just urban exploration. But monthly fuel bills of ₹3000, or cab fares of ₹300 on weekends (₹1500 per month!) can drain your account. Taxi apps are useful for late night soirées and airport pick-ups, but when you can cover the length of Delhi in under ₹30, why wouldn’t you!? This is an actual option in cities that have a Metro service. Also, use the bus! Even the fanciest of them (like Delhi’s low-floor buses) charge ₹25 for over 12 km. Even with daily commuting, you’ll be spending less than ₹2000 a month. Also, waking up earlier and walking to places costs nothing!
Segregating your waste is not just about being environmentally conscious, identifying and cutting out useless packaging. You can actually exchange your cardboards and paper waste to a raddiwala for cash at roughly ₹10/kg. That translates to ₹100 a semester. Kabadiwalas will also buy metal and glass waste from you at similar rates. Alternatively, upcycle them into useful items that also look really cool.
Okay calm down, we’re not asking you to go cold turkey, and we’re not telling you you’re the devil for doing these things, but hey, if you can save money by cutting down on cigarettes and the like, you should! An average smoker will spend about ₹1500 on cigarettes, monthly. That’s a whopping ₹54,000 during just your under-graduation! Cutting back on the smokes by even a third can save you ₹17820. You can actually buy a decent netbook with that. In fact, it can even cover your food costs (at ₹3000 per month) for a little over one semester!
It’s always a good idea to keep aside money each month for emergencies or miscellaneous expenses, and you might face some temptation to break into this pool (or ‘mad money,’ as I like to refer to it), but if you follow the above tips, you’re sure to match the amount in no time. And remember, a rupee saved is a rupee earned!