Top five money hacks for students

How to take control of your finances and make smart decisions that could set you up for life.

With complex financial systems, thousands of products available and changing technology it has never been more difficult to make financial decisions.

RACQ Bank’s Eszter Cathcart shared her top tips to help you take control of your finances and make smart decisions earlier in life.  

Have financial competence, not just financial literacy

Learning about your finances is crucial at any age but the most important thing is knowing how to put what you’ve learnt into practice. 

For example, just because you know how to drive a car in theory, it’s not until you get behind the wheel that you fully experience what it’s like to get the car moving. 

Your money is the same. Knowing you need a budget is well and good but having practical knowledge on how to use that budget is the key to success. 

Create and actually use a budget

Using a budget is the best way to start building on your financial competence. 

Get a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and, on the left side, write down the income you’re earning from your job, money from your parents, things you may sell online and anywhere else you get money from. 

On the other side of the page write down your regular expenses, like your phone, petrol and maintenance on your car, eating out and public transport.  

Once you know how much money you have coming in and the costs of your regular expenses you are on your way to a budget.  

The next step is to look up your online banking and compare what you thought you spent versus what you actually spent. 

This will show you where you can cut back on unnecessary things. This could be as easy as making a coffee at home instead of buying one at uni or setting a spending limit when you’re shopping with friends.

Using your budget needs to be an ongoing daily, weekly, monthly task but once you know the ins and outs of your spending habits, you’ll have control of your money.

Think positively about your money

Often when we think about money, we associate negative emotions like fear, shame and disappointment. You may feel like you’re not saving enough, not earning enough or you regret buying something. 

From today, forget all these emotions and start to think of money as a positive addition to your life that helps you to do the things you love.

When you’re considering making a purchase, think about how it makes you feel. The goal is to only buy things that have a positive impact on your life, that way you’ll think twice before making unnecessary purchases.

Cash vs. plastic

Try thinking about your “invisible money” sitting in your bank account as if it were cash. 

If you find that you overspend because it’s easy to tap your card or put it on a pay later account, start using cash instead. 

When you pay with cash, the value associated with the transaction is different to when you tap your card. You can physically see the cash disappearing from your wallet but not so much from your bank account.

So, before you go on your next shopping spree or go out with friends, withdraw the amount of cash you want to spend and leave your plastic at home. This way you will control what you spend and make smart decisions on how you spend your money.

It’s what you don’t spend that counts

Spending money comes with choices and trade-offs. 

It’s amazing how quickly you can save money when you set a goal for something that will bring you a sense of achievement.  

With a goal in mind, you can make decisions on your spending by considering which purchase is more important to you: the item in your hand or that goal you are striving to achieve. 

Remember, being wealthy is a nicer feeling than looking wealthy so if fashion is a priority, try looking in second-hand stores or wait until an item goes on sale and never buy anything unless you have the cash to pay for it.

It’s up to you

At the end of the day, you’re the only one who is truly accountable for your choices and how you manage your finances. 

Knowing that decisions you make today will impact your future means you can challenge yourself to make positive changes to ensure your future financial success. 

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.