Five financial things I learned while getting a degree I never used
You’ll often hear people say that you shouldn’t go to university unless you know what you want to study and how you’ll use it in a job later on. I disagree; I think all university study is useful in one way or another. It’s not just a degree – it’s a formative experience – and I personally don’t think it’s ever a waste of money, time or effort.
But I’m speaking from the point of view of having got my BA(Hons) in French, German and linguistics. I can swear at you in German, pass commentary on your boules while drinking a cafe au lait, or tell you everything you want to know about second language acquisition. Of course, I’ve never been paid to do any of those things in my professional life, but let me impart upon you my wisdom: five money things I learned while getting a degree I’ve never used. Because university is about learning more than just academics.
- When you go flatting, put the bills in your name, but be vigilant.
Having your name on utility bills will be fantastic for your credit score, particularly as you’re young and still building your credit history. However, even one late payment or bill default will hit you hard in the credit score, so if you do this, make sure the bill is paid in full and on time, every time. If you have to, pay it up front yourself, then chase your flatmates around with a chainsaw until they pay their share. (Chainsaw not included.)
- A car is not an investment, and it’s probably not an asset for you, either.
Avoid getting a car if you can – take public transport, walk, or get a cheap pushbike. Cars not only suck a lot of money (not just in petrol but in maintenance), they depreciate over time. If you don’t absolutely have to have one, don’t get one. Your bank account – and your BMI – will thank you.
- Don’t get a line of credit and then go shopping.
Shamefully, I know this from painful first-hand experience. By my fourth year, I’d been living on the smell of an oily rag, and I wanted clothes without holes in them. Off I went to buy new clothes (I could’ve kept rolling with the old getup, but I was feeling materialistic). I had an interest-free overdraft courtesy of my bank’s student package, but when I finished my degree, I got hit with interest. Oh the humanity. It wasn’t worth it.
- It’s possible to live on an absolute shoestring.
You just need to get creative. For many months in dire times I lived on a $20 per week food budget, three meals a day. I’m not going to say they were flash meals, or even nutritionally sound, but it was cheap. You can get a 5kg sack of brown rice for around $13, and that goes a long way towards padding things out.
- Don’t put up with substandard treatment just because you’re a student.
Push back and negotiate to get a bargain. I let myself get pushed around by a creepy landlord, including being intimidated into signing a contract that was distinctly not in my favour. You do have options, and if Google doesn’t help you, remember the Citizens Advice Bureau does fantastic work to advocate for humans (that means you!).
Above all, start managing your finances early. Get into Kiwisaver ASAP. And never be the one to light the match if the couch has been doused in petrol.
Hazel is Credit Simple's Head of Communications & Content. When she's at work, she likes to write, edit and film stuff. In her spare time she enjoys skiing, mountaineering, multi-day tramping, diving and playing tiddlywinks. She has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to spiders in the shower.All stories by: Hazel Phillips