Being at varsity is one of the greatest periods in your life. You’re finding your voice, your interests, your self, and developing your independence. 

With that comes the late nights – due to studies (and… other reasons) and a limited budget. Whether you’re working part-time to generate some extra cash, receiving an allowance or you’ve been covered by NSFAS, most students are trying to make every cent count.

Below we’ll look at a few ways to get more out of your money by making smarter purchases.

Student living


As a student, most likely you might not have your own form of transportation. A simple and safer fix for getting to and from campus is a lift club, whereby one of your group that has their own vehicle will transport the lift club members to and from campus. This works especially well in groups of four or five. The passengers pay a weekly/monthly amount to the driver, which covers fuel costs and whatever else. It’s quite safe and ensures that there is a reliable form of transport available – especially for students who aren’t native to the area in which their campus is situated. When studying, I found it trickier to move around using taxis and trains, especially when having late nights at campus – as these forms of transportation tend to stop operating around 7 pm. Once using a lift club, my days were way easier to navigate and I didn’t have to worry about my study equipment (laptop, etc.) being at risk while travelling.

Living arrangements:

If you’re one of many students not living at home or on campus, you’ll be faced with the task of finding and renting accommodation to be near campus. This can be a daunting task, but it can be simplified by opting for a home share arrangement.

This means that you’d live in a house shared by many students, which allows you to feel at home while in a secure environment. This also tends to be a cheaper alternative than having your own apartment and has the added benefit of many landlords offering lodging which is gender-exclusive, as many parents and students find cohabitation a bit scary.

I can attest to it being less daunting to come home at 11 pm to housemates than it is to navigate an empty – and usually dark – house. It also helps to know a cooking schedule can be set up so that meals are prepped or made so not everyone has to come home and cook a meal.

Apps like Splitwise, Splittable and Dutch – apps you can use to track and divide up bills and balances in order to make sure everyone covers what they’re responsible for –  are extremely handy and help to avoid any disagreements regarding who owes what when it comes to monthly expenses. This alone makes it worth the download.

Get thrifty

Staying dressed for success on a student budget can be nearly impossible if you opt for large retail chain stores, and with the rising costs, it can become a case of choosing between essentials or something to wear.

This is no longer the only option available as South Africa has become immersed in thrifting, with many 16 – 35-year-olds regularly using thrift stores to find clothing gems.

Thrift stores offer second-hand or vintage clothing pieces at affordable prices, thus allowing most students the option of purchasing clothing well within their budgets. SA has a bevy of online and physical thrift stores as well as one or two dedicated thrifting apps where students can stock up on quality clothing without breaking the bank. 

Many thrifters have – with a little ingenuity – found staple items that can be worn for years or even high-end designer pieces at a fraction of the cost.

It’s not unheard of to find sneakers – that retail for R2000 at a retail chain – for R250 at a thrift store. Basic items such as t-shirts, jeans, etc; can be purchased for less than R60 and R200 respectively. I’ve purchased many pieces from thrift stores, that in total, equal less than the retail value of one of the items. This has helped me stay within budget but still allowed me to replace clothing when I needed to.

Meals for the mindful

Saving on groceries can help make your money go a little further each month or just allow you to get more for a bit less.

An easy way to save is to split grocery costs with housemates – where each student contributes an amount and groceries are bought in bulk at the end of each month. To add to this, signing up for loyalty cards/reward programs are a surefire way to get more bang for your buck.

Most food retailers offer a rewards card that gives customers an extra saving as well as added benefits, the most important of which is a greater saving on specific items. Finding a reliable store where you have a good quality/price ratio is an extremely helpful way to ensure that your budget runs smoothly. Having spent a lot on takeaway meals on campus, I realized that grocery shopping and packing meals saved easily R500-R800 monthly – which we can agree is no small fee.

Banking better

One of the most crucial decisions you can make is to research which banks offer students better benefits. These can be offered as lower or no bank charges, rewards programs that round up purchases and save the difference (e.g; purchasing an item for R59.95, your bank will round it up to R60, with the 5c going into a rewards/saving account) or specific student accounts where bank charges are minimal below a certain income/deposit amount. My first bank account – with a bank that shall not be named – resulted in banking charges of almost R450, which as a student, meant I ended up with a negative balance as I wasn’t aware of what I was being charged until the end of the month.

Being aware of the amount you spend on banking will help you save in every other sector of your budget. The less you spend on bank charges, the more you have at your disposal.

Tell us: What tips do you have to make money go further?

If you enjoyed this story, read here about one writer’s fashion choices