How to put savings away on a Centrelink budget

July 04, 2017
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Centrelink is a glorious thing. Each fortnight, the government deposits a sum of money into your account that acts as both a reward for studying and an incentive to continue. It’s basically the government’s way of saying “we know university kicks the financial shit out of you, and we’re here to help”.

This money is incredibly useful, but after expenses like rent, bills, transport, and textbooks, the prospect of putting some money into savings each fortnight can seem terrifying. But with a little guidance and a lot of willpower, saving on a Centrelink income doesn’t have to be impossible.

Get to know your spending habits

The first rule of saving is to know exactly where your money is going. Write a budget of all your weekly expenses, work out how much you have left over, then track how you spend that extra bit of cash.

Knowing where your money disappears to is an easy way manage your day-to-day spending to ensure you have money left for the important stuff, and it’s also a great way to recognise the bad spending habits you can start to work on.

Set a savings goal

Whether it’s a short-term goal like buying a new toaster or something bigger like a car or a holiday, having a savings goal in mind (and renaming your account with that goal) is a powerful motivator for putting money away each fortnight. It will help you practice self-restraint when you see that lustrous account balance grow.

Start small

Saving is only productive when the amount you’re putting aside is realistic in terms of your income. Depending on the weekly or fortnightly budget you have, start with $10 or $20 every time you have money come in. If you find that easy enough, increase the amount, and if it’s putting too much of a strain on your weekly expenses, decrease it accordingly.

The important thing is to always have something going into savings and, if you’re determined and have the inner strength to not touch the money you’re putting away, switching to a high interest savings account will help you increase whatever money you’re able to deposit.

Plan your meals in advance

Work out what you need from the supermarket before you go, and under no circumstances go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

This will help you stick to a food budget that will actually get you through a week of meals, give you the time to think about cheaper places to buy the same ingredients, and prevent those $20 trips to the convenience store on your way home from uni three days a week.

Rethink your travel expenses

Petrol costs a stupid amount of money and, to make it worse, the price of parking at most universities and in most cities is criminal.

If you’re in the position to switch your private, comfortable, four-wheel daily commute to public transport a few days a week – especially on concession fares – you’ll find it easier to keep costs down and your bank balance will reap the savings rewards.

Budget for social occasions

If you know you have three catch-up-over-drinks nights planned in the next fortnight or a uni event coming up, try to budget your weekly expenses appropriately so your social calendar doesn’t break the bank.

Skipping that $4 coffee, bringing your own lunch to uni, or substituting a night out for a BYO booze night in with friends will help keep your savings on track without turning you into a total hermit. Saving money is one thing, but having fun is a big part of surviving uni, kids.

Penny Robinson

Penny is a Philosophy and Media and Communications student at the University of Melbourne. She enjoys traveling, snacking, and not going to the gym.

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