Making the decision to go back into education as an adult is never a simple one. It’s a decision you have to take seriously, carefully weighing up the pros and the cons, and ensuring that you are going to be able to carry on your life even with the extra weight of studying.
However, when you do make that decision, it can be revolutionary. It can signify the beginning of an entirely new chapter in your life, giving you the scope to take a little stress today in exchange for a more promising tomorrow. It’s tough, but it’s a sacrifice worth making.
It’s also a sacrifice that will, eventually, allow you to recoup your investment. The better your qualifications, the better your job prospects will be, and you will be able to command a better salary. During the time you are studying, however, you may find that your finances are stretched particularly thin.
There are a few reasons this can happen:
- You are having to pay the cost of the course you are studying, which will make a dent in your budget.
- In usual circumstances, if you find yourself short on cash then you can always take on more hours at work or even a side hustle to keep your bank balance ticking over. If you’re trying to study and hold down your job, then you will likely find your time is already over-committed, so there are literally not enough hours in the day for you to use to take on more work. As a result, you can’t top up your income as and when you need to.
- There is also the fact that student life itself can be expensive. You have to pay for equipment, for example.
- How you choose to study is also a factor. While it’s relatively inexpensive to study with the likes of Southern Cross University Online through home learning, if you’re studying on a campus, then you will be dealing with additional transport costs that can stretch your budget.
So now it’s clear why you may find yourself struggling with financial issues as you pursue adult education, now you need to know what you can do about it.
1) Budget before you begin your course
Unless you start your course on the spur of the moment (which is not recommended for a variety of different reasons), you will have a few weeks or months notice that you’re about to go through a huge change in the dynamics of your life. This is the time you have to use wisely; time that you have to use to save money.
Try and set aside as large a contingency fund as possible. This money is to be left well alone, and only dipped into in cases of emergency. If you can get through your entire course without having to use this fund, then this is one area where you can be guaranteed you’ll get an A+– but you’ll feel better for knowing you have the backup cash there, just in case.
2) Use free Wifi and electricity where you can
There are numerous places that offer free Wifi, which is something you will want to take advantage of if you have a capped data plan. You don’t even necessarily go to the store or coffee shop to use it; most Wifi networks will expand outside the actual physical location, so if you’re nearby, you might be close enough. You can use this to download course materials if you’re completing an online course, or use the Google Drive suite to complete the majority of your work online for free.
3) Print as little as possible
Printing is extremely expensive, so wherever possible, use online versions of documents so you don’t have to worry about constantly finding the funds to feed your ink-greedy printer. This is particularly simple if you’re completing an online course, but a little more difficult if you’re on campus. If the latter is the case for you, then you might want to check with the library on the grounds; some still offer free printing to students, so there’s no harm in asking.
If you’re still at work during your course, then you can try and print materials in the office. It’s always best to check you’re not breaking a company policy for doing this first, otherwise, you might risk your job security just to save a few cents on ink.
4) Pay your fees in full
Many adult education courses will allow you to pay your fees by installments, which seems like an attractive option if you often find that your budget is stretched thin. However, you have to be very careful if you choose this option– some institutions will charge you interest for choosing a monthly figure. This interest can mean that you pay as much more than 25% more than you would if you paid the course in full.
If you don’t have the cash available to pay for a course in full, then your best option is to look for a credit card with as low an interest rate as you can possibly obtain. If you find yourself a 0% credit card, then you could save yourself a fortune by using this to pay rather than relying on a monthly payment schedule.
5) Check for student discounts
Many adult students think that they are not eligible for student discounts, but you may find this not to be the case. It’s always worth asking at retailers and restaurants that you know offer a student discount if they offer any reductions, or scoping out sites online that offer the same service. There’s no guarantee that you will be accepted, but you will likely have more successes than failures if you are determined.
You may find that paying for a specialist university ID is the best way of securing student discounts. You should be able to make this money back with the potential savings, and it’s the quickest and easiest way for you to prove your student status and thus gain a discount.
6) Save costs on textbooks
Textbooks are a constant drain on the finances of any student, but thankfully, there are ways and means of getting around this issue. Join student forums and Facebook groups; many now-graduated students will be selling their old textbooks for a fraction of the cost of buying them new.
Alternatively, you may want to invest in a cheap e-reader and buy ebook versions of textbooks. These aren’t quite so easy to use for studying purposes, but they’re definitely easier on your wallet. You should be able to save the cost of the e-reader in the reduction you will get on buying physical books, but it’s always worth checking the potential savings before you invest in an e-reader. If you already have one, then this is an option that you’re definitely going to want to investigate.
Returning to education as an adult is undoubtedly a stressful time, and it can have a negative impact on your household finances. While this can be hard to deal with, it’s important to remember that the short-term sacrifice should be beneficial in the long term. You can get through relatively unscathed by being cautious about every single expenditure, and by raising funds for a contingency prior to beginning your course. By applying these, and the other measures mentioned above, to your experience, then you should be able to improve your life for the future– even if that does mean you have to scrape by today.