Archive for November 2006

Survival strategies for students

November 20, 2006

Economic hardship pushes international students to pinch pennies

                            Casmir Igbokwe

Hard times, they say, bring out the wisdom in man. To most international students of the Cardiff University, this saying is as practical as a scientific test.

      Bo Zhang, a Chinese student, for instance, woke up one day to discover that he was penniless. He was spending without budgeting. He approached a couple of friends to lend him some money. Only one responded. But what he gave him would merely sustain him for about two days.

     “This experience made me wiser. I don’t spend recklessly anymore. I bought a toaster recently. I convinced my housemates to contribute and become part owners of the device. This reduced the cost.” Bo notes.

     This young man is not alone. There are some housemates who contribute to install Internet in one room in their house. They now use wireless drives to access the web from their individual rooms. Pinching pennies to survive, you might say.

     Writing on MSN Money, a financial expert, Adriane Berg, further advises students to learn good budgeting habits. She categorises students’ expenditure into two basic types – fixed and flexible.

     She stresses, “Try to prepay the fixed expenses. Then develop the right spending habits to manage what’s flexible. If expenses are well thought-out, students won’t have to take a loan from the Bank of Mommy & Daddy.”

     She adds that students should record their money habits. As she puts it, “Write down every penny you spend. See how much goes to newspapers you never read, candy you never eat and cigarettes you shouldn’t smoke. How much goes for meals out when you have a pre-paid student meal plan? How much money goes for convenience, such as cab rides, dry cleaners, or take-out food?”

     Visually calculating one’s spending, Berg emphasises, has a profound psychological effect and leads to more savings with less frustration. For instance, if it is your car that takes up half of your money, Berg says you can begin to shift expenses away from other things to meet your auto expenses. Alternatively, she adds, you can limit your car use if you conclude that it’s just not worth it.

     Some students are already applying this principle in their spending habits. A Nigerian student in Cardiff, Miss Akwugo Amucheazi, discovered, from her recent calculations, that feeding and telephone calls took a greater chunk of her income. Now, she doesn’t eat out anymore.

     She enthuses, “I cook different foods once a week. I store them in our freezer. Whenever I want to eat, I take the quantity I need and warm in our microwave. I have also stopped making unnecessary telephone calls. I communicate home more through the e-mail. By doing this, I have saved a lot of money.”

     The international students adviser of the Cardiff University, Ms Catherine Kiernan, sums it up: “UK banking facilities aren’t friendly to international students. Hence, they should seek guidance on financial planning when they come new to the UK. They should read UKCOSA Guidance Note for students online at”