One of the most important components of adjusting to life in a new country is learning how to budget appropriately in that country. As an international student, you’re away from your usual support network, so it’s your responsibility to independently assess your expenses, track your spending, and manage your own budget. Though it may sound daunting, it doesn’t need to be as long as you remain informed of your options. Here are a few tips on how to effectively manage your finances while pursuing your studies in Australia.
Create a budget – and stick to it
In order to create a budget, you’ll need to carefully examine all the components of your financial standing, namely your income and your expenses, such as rent, electricity, and phone bills. After accounting for your expenses, you’ll want to assess how much you’ll have left over to put towards savings and recreational expenses.
A great way to set up and stick to your budget is to create a visual aid, such as an Excel spreadsheet that breaks down your income, expenses, and recreational spending. Depending on how frequently you get paid and/or pay your bills, you can set up your budget planner to track your financial standing on a weekly or monthly basis.
Open a savings account
A savings account is an excellent tool for maximising your money since you can earn interest on the funds in that account. That said, it’s important to cross reference various types of savings accounts across multiple banks to compare interest rates and determine which one suits your needs. Most major banks in Australia, including Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, and Westpac, offer various account options for students.
An added bonus is that you don’t need to wait until you get to Australia to open an account with an Australian bank; most banks will allow you to open your account online before you arrive.
Choose and use credit cards wisely
It may seem slightly counterintuitive to get a credit card in order to save money and manage your finances; after all, credit cards just lead you to spend more money, right? While this is partially true, it’s not entirely representative of how credit cards can help you financially. A credit card is an excellent way to build credit in Australia and it can help you cover everyday expenses.
A few things to consider when cross-referencing credit cards you may want to apply for are the credit limits, interest rates, balance transfers, and annual account fees. There are many credit cards offered by various banks targeted at students that offer low interest rates and account fees.
It’s extremely important to be able to pay off your credit card balance, particularly since there is interest on every purchase made, so if you’re not in a financially stable state, it may be best to hold off on applying for one. If you are sure you want to apply for one, start with a low credit limit to prevent yourself from going overboard on your spending.
Consider a personal loan
Taking out a loan in a foreign country may seem like a tricky and daunting process. However, familiarising yourself with your loan options as an international student is the best first step in eliminating some of this uncertainty.
As an international student, you are eligible for certain types of loans with Australian lenders, including personal loans, which can be used to help wipe any student loans or other high-interest debt you may have. Personal loans are short-term loans that are typically paid off between five and seven years. The sums of these loans as well as the interest rates attached to them can vary significantly depending on your provider and your income, credit history, and liabilities.
Taking out a loan isn’t something to take lightly as it can greatly impact your financial wellbeing. If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re ready to take out a personal loan, do your research into different options from different lenders to determine which ones you’re eligible for, how high of an interest rate you’re comfortable with, and what kind of repayment schedule would work for you.
Embrace budgeting apps
With so many finance tracking apps available right at our fingertips, saving and tracking your money has never been easier. There are several apps that can help you categorise your spending, assess where your money is going, and set financial goals for yourself.
For instance, Track My Spend, Wally, Pocketbook, and You Need a Budget (YNAB) are some of the most straightforward and user-friendly budgeting platforms that can sync with your bank account to help you stay on top of your spending. There is also Riaz which gives you the option of investing your spare change into a diversified share portfolio. You simply link your bank account to the app and, for every purchase you make, the app will round up the amount to the nearest dollar and invest the difference for you automatically.