Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Money, Honey Part III: Maximising Your Income

Picture thanks to boopsiedaisy

(Be sure to peruse parts I and II first!)

'Student’ and ‘income’, they aren’t two words one would usually put together. Students live on borrowed money, don’t they? And if not, surely it’s come straight from daddy’s wallet, and that doesn’t constitute income…does it?

Rule Numero Uno of a fabulous life on a student budget, dolls, is getting as much money as you can and spending it wisely. How do you do this? Getting what you’re entitled to, getting smart and getting a job.

‘No! Not a job!’ I here you cry. ‘Student jobs are for nerds, I’m getting into debt anyway, why waste my time? Surely it’s better to just enjoy myself and focus on my degree?’

All valid points, however, in a job you enjoy, for the right hours, and for the right pay, you’re definitely onto a winner.

Let’s do a little, light mathematics.

♥ Hypothetical Jenny doesn’t have a job alongside her studies. She loves uni life, in fact, she adores it. She’s out socialising practically every night of the week spending her loan on cheap drinks at the SU bar, how else would she have met so many cool people?

On average, hypothetical Jenny clocks up about 6 hours on a decent night out, 4 times a week. Let’s say she buys 1 drink at £2.00 every hour of these 24 hours a week she spends ‘socialising’. That’s £48 a week on booze alone; I’m not even including entry fees and 2am kebab-fests.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. Jenny sounds like a party animal, she’s probably a blast on a night out and you’re likely to meet a truckload of students like her. But is Jenny clever?

Here’s another example:

♥ Hypothetical Martin has chosen to work a part-time job alongside his studies. He works 2 shifts a week in a local bar. This totals 16 hours a week at £5.25 an hour, therefore hypothetical Martin earns himself £84 extra income each week. He loves uni life, in fact, he adores it, but he also loves his job.

Each night after work hypothetical Martin and the other bar staff grab a free drink and hit the clubs before they close up. He’s made a bigger circle of mates, he still has 5 other nights in the week to go out if he so chooses, but generally he finds that a night working at the bar can be as fun (and exhausting!) as a night out. So hypothetical Martin spends half as much money as hypothetical Jenny on ‘socialising’ plus he has an extra income every week that she doesn’t.

Who’s feeling better about money at the end of every term?

Quite clearly, these are hypothetical examples dreamed up by yours truly and they are not accurate in all cases. Some jobs are terrible, with bad people and bad pay, but that’s not the kind of job you’re going to hang on to – just get a new one! It is possible to have a part time job you can really enjoy, where you’ll meet new people, earn extra dough, and generally feel better about yourself. These jobs don’t fall into your lap though; you have to go after them. Something in the region of 80% of jobs never even get advertised… Think about it! Then get out there, armed with a shiny CV. Read this too if you're keen to ace an upcoming job interview.

Maybe not every student is like hypothetical Jenny, maybe they are more sensible with their money, but still, getting an extra income will only ever benefit them.

What about your degree? I’m not advocating working any hours that you feel will impact on your studies but, seriously, anyone who has at least the organisational skills to get themselves out of a paper bag can surely figure out a way to work a job at a maximum of 16 hours per week and still feel they have the energy to put into their next essay. Wake up earlier, work somewhere that’s just 5 minutes walking distance, get off Facebook for a few hours out of the week. Just be honest with yourself and you’ll probably find that a part time job is achievable.

If you’re clawing at the screen protesting that you study Law at Oxford and have about 2 nanoseconds of spare time every fortnight, then my thoughts are with you and, just because I like the sound of you, here’s a shining alternative… Holiday work!

♥ Get a work placement in an industry that matches what you’re studying; this means you’ll be in the money and learning on the job which future employers will salivate over.

♥ Work and travel; get some life experience, move out of your comfort zone and again, earn some money! There are a thousand and one programs you can participate in over your summer break. Camp America, PGL, Au Pairing, and Sunsail to name only a few.

♥ Go home and work in your local supermarket… maybe it sucks in the short-term but set yourself goals, understand why you’re there (it isn’t forever!) keep plenty of time for fun and socialising and at the start of term when your bank balance is out of the red for once, how great will you feel?

Basically, my darlings, it is all down to you. Straight-talking to yourself and working as much as you viably can without it affecting your degree (or positive mental attitude!) will leave you with happy cash. What’s happy cash? Cash that you’ve earned, cash you don’t have to repay to some smug-faced bureaucrat, cash that burns a hole in your pocket, cash you can put towards two weeks in Ibiza, a massive pub crawl, those new winter boots you’ve had your eye on, or 10 tonnes of Nutella – whatever the heck you want!

Go! Seek that job that makes you smile!

That’s it for the three part Money, Honey series. Hopefully it has given you the basis on which to build your fabulous life on that weeny student budget!

Remember these three golden rules when it comes to student money:

Budget ♥ Be spend savvy, know your income and outgoings down to the last penny.
Get to grips with your debt ♥ Don’t ignore it in the hope that the debt genie will one day pay it off for you. It isn’t that scary; make it work in your favour.
Maximise your income ♥ Get off your booty and earn some extra bucks!

So, was the series as dull as an evening in with your great aunt Prudence? (It can’t be that bad if you read all the way to the end!) Was it curiously helpful? Something I didn’t cover? Comment away!

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