By Sinéad Walsh
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has come under fire recently for her insensitive advice to students that they should use their SUSI grant to cover the cost of increasing rents. Students have faced enormous rent hikes year-on-year, which notably have not been paralleled with an increase in financial aid given under the SUSI grant service; leaving students with less income than ever before to pay the day to day living expenses of university life.
September seems to be a month of endless fees, bills and payments with most of us left scrambling to pull enough cash together to cover it. Don’t lose all hope, however, as there are lots of ways to be smart with your money and make it go that bit further.
Mind Your Money
While counting your pennies isn’t exactly fun, college life really does help you to hone your budgeting skills. Possibly the best way to balance your spending and avoid splashing your cash too early is to physically write down a budget for yourself or keep it on your phone for easy access. This means you can allocate your money to pay the things you really need to first and avoid overspending the moment you receive your monthly, or weekly income. There are plenty of budgeting calculators and apps available online such as www.consumerhelp.ie/budgeting-calculators so find the one that works best for you or visit savethestudent.org/money/student-budgeting and download their student budget spreadsheet. If you are having budgeting or other financial difficulties, assistance is also available from the Budgeting / Financial Advice area of the Accommodation and Welfare Office, located on the first floor of Áras Uí Chathail.
There are plenty of ways to remain frugal while making the most of your time in university and even going out doesn’t have to break the bank. Apps such as Unidays are jam-packed with student deals and discount codes, while Uniphi is your one-stop-shop for all the cheapest nights out in Galway, with discounted tickets to Galway’s best nightclubs and even some free entry passes available if you’re quick enough to nab them. Another great way to save money on meals is to share cooking with some of your housemates or friends and split the cost of your ingredients. This can also be an enjoyable way to spend a much-needed study break or chance to catch up with your friends and housemates. Eating out while on campus can be one of the biggest culprits for blowing your budget, so why not limit yourself to eating out only once per week to really treat yourself and make a good old-fashioned packed lunch to keep you going during the day? You can also save money on your coffee with a reusable cup at many coffee outlets on campus, including the SU Shop, who offer a discounted price for keep-cups.
As September rolls on and your reading list continues to grow, you may be beginning to panic, but don’t worry – no one expects you to fork out hundreds for textbooks and reading materials. The majority of the books you’ll need are available in the library, either as physical copies or e-books which you can use from the comfort of your own cosy (if over-priced) bedroom. You can explore the list of titles and where to find them on library.nuigalway.ie. For the few textbooks you may decide you need your own copies of, why not reach out on social media and try to get hold of a copy second-hand? Chances are, a book someone needed in first year has since been tucked away on a dusty shelf and they may be glad to make a few bob passing it on to another student. There are also loads of sites online where e-books are available to download for free or for a reduced price, so it’s wise to shop around before trekking to the bookstore.
NUI Galway’s Support Services
Due to SUSI’s stringent eligibility criteria, not all students are able to avail of this maintenance grant, but if you are going through financial difficulty, there is help available. An alternative financial support service, the Financial Aid Fund, is targeted to tackle disadvantage by providing funding for living expenses and is open for online applications from Monday, 16th September. More information on the Financial Aid Fund is available at nuigalway.ie/studentservices.