Yes, indeed, the familiar issues of budgeting, loans and money that often becomes a source of concern and confusion for most students (particularly when studying abroad). A topic I rarely choose choose to write about too, but I feel like I should touch the subject at least once during my time doing a degree abroad. Now, if you are a lovely reader clicking on this post in hope of some great tips, I can’t promise anything, but maybe some randomly gained knowledge from my past year may slip through. Let’s cross our fingers.
Let’s start off with the fact that I have always been a bit clueless when it comes to money, since I was a kid. I’m sure my parents could already tell between me and my brother at an early age who was going to be the more economically stable person in life. Where on one side my brother was (still is) a super saver and could always buy really nice, quality, expensive stuff, I was that kid who just wasted her money on sweets, tat and more garbage. I wasn’t the one with massive savings, rather living off my next “pay check” of 50 kr (5 pounds) per week for my chores as soon as I received it. Not a good start then. Since then I have improved slightly. When I was 17 I got my first job, and earned some cash (where a tiny proportion of it went into my savings account. One thing my parent’s did teach me though were a couple of handy things.
1. Modesty and money go hand in hand. Never brag or discuss money directly (give figures and numbers) with others (apart from perhaps the banker), but rather be a bit reserved. I for example have no idea how much my parent’s earn. Every time I used to ask, my Dad would reply: “enough to not need to worry”. And indeed. We have always had a home, never worried about paying bills etc., gone on an occasional holiday and had the opportunity to have a couple of hobbies. Dad’s modest approach to money is something I hope to have with me in my own life. Less focus on money, rather focus on being happy and working hard at a job I like with enough money to not need to worry about finances all the time. There are more important things in the world than money.
2. “Cash on the barrel”. Basically, keep the loans to a minimal and only have the necessary ones such as the house, student and car loan. Otherwise, if you can’t pay it upfront, don’t buy it.
So.. where to start?
I am a student abroad, and I am clueless about money. What are the dangers, what do I have to think about and what have I learned?
1. New currency – Haha, I was terrible when I first went to England and started dealing with the pounds and pee’s. Notes were fine, obviously, as their worth was printed on them in big letters. The smaller coins on the other hand? Not so much. 5p, 20p, 10p , 1p, 50p, waahh! Which one is which? When having to think quickly by the check out with a queue building up behind you it is so much easier to just hand them the less precise amount in notes and get a lot of change back. Note to self: Don’t wait until the till to work out if you have enough coins, but prepare and get it out before you get into the queue so you can just hand it to them. Same goes for the buses! They are particularly not fond of slow customers.
2. Cheaper prices! – There is no question England is a lot cheaper than Norway which is one of the most expensive countries in Europe. Foreigners like me then often think: “Oh. my. god. it’s so cheap here!”, and end up buying more (and thus using as much as I usually would back in Norway). I have learned I need to think a bit more like an Englishman and complain about prices and be a bit more frugal.
3. Student Loan – To study at UEA is expensive. I pay 9000 pounds per year for my degree (last year I was classified as an international student and had to pay 14 500 pounds, but after clearing up on some details they have re-classified me as a home student to pay home fees), pay accommodation, and general living. Most of this money is provided by Lånekassen (Norwegian student finance). Their payment is done in the form of a part loan and part scholarship. Also if I complete my degree, part of the loan converts to more scholarship. After a three year bachelor program I will owe the Lånekassen 438 336 kr, or if I do the year in Australia I will owe then approximately 584 448 kr. Something I will have to deal with after my degree and a financial burden that hopefully is worth it in terms of education and future job prospects.
4. Needing that little extra – I tried to get a summer job this summer which wasn’t a success, and now I realize I need to put in some effort to making some cash when I’m in England. I hope to find perhaps a Saturday job that will contribute a tiny bit to my living. I need to start having money going inn to my account, not just flowing out. Particularly as I have potentially two major field trips to Ireland and Africa this year. Getting a job makes me more independent and helps me take responsibility for learning about money and the financial side of life.
5. Budgeting – Making a budget and sticking to it is a real challenge, but a necessary accomplishment. I need to have control and structure! I am such a messy person!
6. Thinking smart – Take advantages of student discounts and save money where I can! This is something I need to really get into as it could save me serious money in the long run. Also, reusing stuff, being creative and thinking like a student. Ask for money for Birthdays and Christmas instead of presents! Take advantage of bonus points when flying. Why go and use money on the cinema when hanging out in the park could be equally fun? There are a ton of free attractions in Norwich I hope to go and see during my next year there!
Any other tips to give me?