It can be hard to imagine how it would be possible to start or return to study on a reduced income, with bills to pay and perhaps a family to consider. But with a little bit of planning and a realistic assessment of your budget, you may find that your new world is closer than you thought.
There are some simple things you can do to reduce stress and the burden of paying for uni. Some people have a rough idea of their expenses, whereas others have a very clear budget and know exactly where each dollar goes. Getting your budget in order not only reduces stress, it empowers you to make the right decisions about how to manage study expenses and what you can realistically afford.
Review your current income and expenses
Know exactly where you stand by visually seeing how you spend your money. A great online budgeting tool is the MoneySmart Budget Planner. You can export your budget into an excel file and email it to yourself as a basis for revising your budget to include study expenses.
Keep track of what you spend
Be realistic about where your money goes
Are you able to reduce your spending on entertainment, cable TV, food and take away, coffees, clothes, transport expenses? Making small changes in a few areas can be all you need to find money for textbooks or equipment.
Explore financial support and scholarships
You may be eligible for different types of government assistance or scholarships as a student. For financial assistance and government scholarships check out the StudyAssist website. There are also a range of scholarships that offer support to help a variety of students, and not just those with excellence academic skills. Don’t shortchange yourself by assuming you won’t qualify; take time to see what scholarships are available and those you’re eligible to apply for.
Assess the study load you can take each semester
Apart from the time needed to study, financially, you may only be able to afford to study part-time rather than full-time, so you can fit enough paid work in. Knowing this means you can get on with reaching your goals being confident that your budget is on track. A great idea is to spread your study load to include Summer Semester. This can help spread the expense of textbooks and tuition fees if you pay up front.
Make your job work for you
Working and studying can offer financial benefits if you find out what study support your employer offers. They may provide a certain number of hours per week for study leave, offer a reimbursement scheme or provide professional development funds. Instead of taking annual leave or unpaid leave for study, there may be other ways that will help you achieve your study goal and reduce expenses at the same time.
Include education expenses in your tax return
Whether your employer offers financial support or not, there are expenses you can claim at the end of the financial year. Make sure to keep receipts to include in your tax return as another way to reduce the overall expense of study.