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Managing Your Money on a Student Budget: A Guide by Colm McGroarty

Assistant Opinion Editor Colm McGroarty offers his tips and tricks for surviving this next semester on even the most meagre of student budgets.

There is no doubt that college or university can be the most expensive period of a person’s life, especially in this new modern era that is somewhat obsessed with academic degrees. I believe that the experience of university, whether it is your first time living away from home or you are a daily commuter, is a vital part of becoming an independent and responsible young adult, but of course, this new experience comes with significant cost and expense. Even after the soaring prices of accommodation in Dublin City and student tuition fees, there is still food shopping to be done, leap cards to be topped up and a social life to be enjoyed. I also wish to discuss the obvious social and economic differences that can occur amongst students, for example, within a group of six students in one Trinity Hall apartment. Everyone is going to have their own personal budget influenced by whether they have a part-time job or the economic conditions of their parents.

As we are now at the beginning of Hilary Term, the second semester; most of us may have much stricter budgets and will be more aware of how to keep costs to a minimum. We are all more familiar with the best supermarkets to frequent, all the cheap student deals available around the inner-city centre, and whether the Luas or Dublin Bus is cheaper.

Here is a list of some practical tips and advice on how to help those daily and weekly budgets;

1. An obvious one: Start walking or cycling into the college rather than taking the Luas or Bus.

2. Never go food shopping hungry and do one big shop at the start of the week.

3. JCR themed nights out are great value rather than alternative nights out.

4. Get your hands on as many college society cards as you can; most of them have great food and nightlife deals.

5. Keep on top of your library account and avoid those overdue fees that can pile up quite quickly.

6. Try and get yourself a part-time job in the evenings or at the weekend without letting it affect your actual college work.

7. A good dinner for €5.75 in the Buttery can be worthwhile and nutritious.

8. After a night out, always try and find some other Halls people to share a taxi back.

9. If you’re a coffee lover, get up five minutes earlier in the morning to make your own instead of dropping by Starbucks or The Perch. Those euros add up!

10. Try and team up with your housemates in cooking some meals and buying groceries.

Variances in student budgeting is a clear result of the notable social and economic inequalities of society, even in a small country like Ireland. Of course, Trinity Hall is a multi-cultural institution, catering mainly to first year students from all different parts of the world. One particular student may have to work every chance they get in their spare time, while another can enjoy an extravagant social and nightlife, able to attend any society event they wish. Particularly in campus accommodation like Halls where students are all living together amongst each other, contrast between the money management of different individuals is evident.

From my own personal experience of living in Halls, I find this issue rather obvious in everyday college life. For example, some may have to walk in and out of the city every day to avoid the increasing cost of public transport, while for others, using the Luas everyday is not a bother. Some students may be lucky or fortunate enough to receive a weekly allowance, whether big or small, from their parents, while others are left to pay his or her own way. Even amongst a small group of friends planning to go for food or a night out, everyone is going to have an individual preference of what they want mainly influenced by much money they have. Although there is a general communal atmosphere of budgeting in college and the vast majority of students are not going to have money to squander, it may be hard for those who struggle more financially to keep up with the regular costs of having a healthy social life at college.

Undoubtedly, the whole college experience is an immensely costly one, perhaps even more so for those who live away from home. It is always important to remember, however, that your undergraduate experience at college can be one of the most exciting and life-changing periods in your life and there are always financial supports available. As I have mentioned, there are many practical yet effective ways to limit your weekly expenditures, ensuring your involvement in the thrilling and vibrant student community that Trinity Hall and university have to offer.

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