Tag Archives: budget

Tips for Surviving & Thriving at College

Here’s the bottom line: it doesn’t matter whether you were head prefect, soccer / netball captain or an honours student in matric. Success in high school does not automatically translate to success at college.


Everyone starts college with a clean academic slate – disappointing for some…an exciting opportunity for others. The decisions you make and the actions you take as a First Year over the coming months will largely  influence the remainder of your college experience.

According to a recent Council on Higher Education (CHE) study, “only about one in four students in contact institutions graduate in regulation time“, and close on half of every first year intake group will never graduate (CHE, 2013).

Now before you decide to close this page and go check out what is happening on your Twitter feed, read a little further to find out how you can survive your first year of college and go on to thrive right to the end.

Some of the following tips and strategies you will find critical to surviving your first few weeks at college, while others are more long-term in nature. Either way, remember to enjoy yourself and all that college has to offer!

1. Attend Orientation

Yes, you would rather spend the last two days of the holidays fixing up your digs or meeting friends for one final get together before the hard slog begins. BUT the sooner you find your way around campus and get to grips with the new rules, regulations and timetable system, the more relaxed and better prepared you will be should any issues arise.

2. Get organized

This is not high school! There are no teachers to hand-hold you through homework or remind you of your due dates. College lecturers often post assignments (sometimes for the entire semester) and expect you to take responsibility for noting what needs to be done and by when. Buy a diary, download an app, do whatever you need to remind yourself of your assignment , submission and assessment dates.


I repeat…this is NOT high school! The temptation to skip your Monday 8 am lecture or stay home on a particularly cold and rainy day will be great. There is no registration class at the beginning of each day to ensure that you are attending lectures. There will be no phone calls home to find out why Thato wasn’t at college today. It is up to you to be disciplined and to attend lectures. Besides learning whilst attending lectures, you will also receive important information from the lecturer like what to cover for an upcoming assessment, how to go about tackling a particularly challenging assignment, changes in due dates etc.

4. Become an expert in course requirements & due dates

Trust me on this one, no lecturer is going to give you the benefit of the doubt when you come to him or her with the “But I didn’t know it was due today” excuse. You will be issued with course outlines and calendars, make sure you read them and make notes of all the due dates.

5. Take advantage of resources on campus

Every lecturer has scheduled office hours for the sole purpose of meeting with their students – introduce yourself and take advantage of this resource if you are struggling with a course or concept. Find out about additional classes, study sessions, mentoring programmes that may be available at your campus. Start a study group with a few like-minded, reliable students.

6. Find a balance

College life is as much about the social side as it is about the academics. What is important is to find a healthy balance. This can be challenging for some people and can lead to burn-out on the one hand or dropping out on the other.

7. Get involved

Homesickness and loneliness can be a problem for some. Consider joining campus organisations, clubs or sports teams. It will help with making new friends, learning new skills and feeling more connected with your campus.

8. Strive to do well

Few students breeze through their college years – the increased work volume and degree of difficulty is often an equalizer on the academic playing fields. You need to work hard in order to earn good marks at college level and this may mean having to set yourself realistic goals and putting in the extra time and effort required to achieve them.

9.  Take responsibility for yourself & your actions

Now that you have entered your college years, you are considered an adult. Being an adult comes with responsibilities and expectations. It means taking ownership of your life…including when things go wrong.

10. Make connections with students in your class

This isn’t always easy for everyone but during the first few weeks of lectures try make at least one new connection or friend in each of your classes. This will not only increase your network of friends but is also a valuable resource should you ever not be able to make it to class (for legitimate reasons, of course).

11. Do not procrastinate

Say it with me people: This is not high school! You may have gotten away with leaving your homework to the last minute and still manage to get good marks, but that kind of lack of discipline is not going to work at college. Note your due dates, calculate your deadlines and stick to them.

12. Keep healthy & eat right

A lot of problems, many first years face, can be traced back to illness, causing them to miss lectures for extended periods of time, and resulting in a knock-on effect of missed assessments, courses having to be deferred etc. Make sure you get enough rest, take your vitamins and eat healthy.

The “Freshman 15“, or more South African appropriate “Fresher 5”, is no myth. Many of you will be living away from home for the first time, having to cook for yourselves…it’s very tempting to live on 2 minute noodles and packets of chips rather than sticking to a healthy and balanced diet.

13. Learn to cope with homesickness

For those of you who are leaving home to attend college in a different city or province, it’s only natural that you will miss home and your family. Find healthy ways of coping with these feelings: set a regular time for phoning home; look into getting Skype or FaceTime; e-mail your loved ones or even try writing a letter and sending it snail mail! With all of the technology available today, there are many ways of keeping in touch with loved ones and fighting the Sunday night, homesick blues.

14. Get help when you need it

Whether you’re feeling sick, depressed, isolated or don’t understand what is happening in a course, please ask for help! Speak to a lecturer, your Academic Manager or the Branch Manager – they will be able to point you in the right direction.

15. Learn to budget

If you’ve never had to budget, now is the time for you to learn. Find ways to make your money stretch further. If at all possible do not make use of a credit card, the interest alone will ensure that you are always in debt.

16. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed

You are entering a new phase in your life. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed, the trick is to remember that a) it will pass and b) you’re not the only one going through this.


Hansen, R.S. (n.d.). Your First Year of College: 25 Strategies and Tips to Help you Survive and Thrive your Freshman Year and Beyond. Retrieved from:  http://www.quintcareers.com/first-year-success/ [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].


Cooking Meals on a Student Budget

Living on a student budget does not have to mean surviving on 2 Minute Noodles and peanut butter sandwiches day in and day out. There are ways to make your budget stretch and allow for the inclusion of healthy meals.



  1. Dinner Roster – If you are sharing a house with other students consider setting up a dinner roster. Get together and decide who will cook dinner which day of the week; breakfast, lunch & weekends can be allocated as “fend for yourself” time. You could set a budget for meals e.g. each person spends R100.00 on the ingredients for their meal but there must be enough food to feed everyone who is on the roster. Alternatively you could all put money into a “dinner kitty” and each person is then issued with pre-set amount for their cooking day, receipts must be handed in and change returned to the kitty. The roster will require some discipline, you can’t make plans to eat out on the night you are scheduled to cook, don’t sign up for a day you know you are at college late.
  2. Food Specials – If you are sharing a house or have friends who are also living away from home consider splitting the cost on food specials, for example when Fruit & Veg City / Food Lover’s Market / Woolworths have a special on say a pocket of potatoes, a pocket of onions and a pocket of butternut for R50.00, this is great value but far too much produce for a single person so split the cost and the produce.
  3. Compare Prices – Shop around and compare prices. This doesn’t mean having to schlep from one shop to the next, you can easily do it online by visiting the various retailers websites or even making use of online comparison sites such as PriceCheck.co.za
  4. Cook & Freeze – If you have access to a freezer consider cooking meals in bulk over the weekend and then freezing them. That way you need only take out a pre-made meal in the morning for defrosting and warming it up to eat when you get home. Bulk cooking also means you save because there is less wastage, especially if you live on your own.
  5. Convenience Costs – Although it may be easier to just buy a ready made meal or a packet of chips and some bread rolls, conveniences like these come at a price i.e. monetary, nutritional and health. The average college student’s day is very demanding and most times does not end when you walk off campus. It’s important that you consider what food your body and your brain needs to keep fuelled and healthy.



Google is your friend when it comes to finding easy, cheap & cheerful recipes to make on a student budget. All you need do is search keywords such as: healthy cheap meals / college student recipes / easy cheap recipes / easy ramen noodle recipes (ramen noodle = 2 Minute Noodles) – the combinations are endless as are the results that will come up.

Some examples of sites you may want to visit:






Alternatively, if you have a spare R20.00 a month you could consider buying the Pick n Pay: Fresh Living magazine which includes monthly segments such as:

  • {5 Ways with…} – each month a particularly South African ingredient is featured in 5 easy, cheap recipes e.g. 5 Ways with Boerewors, 5 Ways with Pilchards, 5 Ways with Amasi…you get the idea.
  • …On a Shoestring – provide you with a weeks worth of budget friendly, nutritious recipes together with a cost breakdown per portion and in total.

You can also access recipes via the Pick n Pay: Fresh Living webpage – http://www.picknpay.co.za/freshliving

 Don’t know how to cook?:


Not a problem! That is what the Internet and YouTube were invented for! There are hundreds of sites and videos available online that will teach you the basics, step-by-step for everything from boiling an egg to roasting a chicken. If you don’t have Internet access, start watching cooking programmes on tv, your house mates / mom, or be brave and start experimenting out of your own.

Some examples of cooking skills websites:




Follow BMH Student Wellness on Pinterest for more ideas & tips on Cooking Student Meals on a Budget:  https://www.pinterest.com/bostonmediahous/

 *Disclaimer: Neither the author of the Boston Media House Student Wellness Blog, nor Boston Media House, nor any of its staff were compensated in any form in exchange for the products / websites / information provided in this blog post. 


Being a student is expensive and with pressure from your parents, sponsors, or yourself to do well and pass each year, it isn’t always feasible taking on part-time or weekend work in order to supplement your income.

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Whether you’re a trust-fund baby or personally paying off a student loan creating and sticking to a budget is not only the responsible thing to do but the smart way of coming to grips with the costs of being an adult.

What is a Budget?:

A budget is a form of financial planning which involves tracking the movement of your money into and out of your banking account / wallet. The purpose of having a budget is to help you identify your expenses, plan for shortfalls and detect poor or wasteful spending habits that you may not be aware of.

Budgeting isn’t particularly fun but once you get started and with a little practice it does become easier.

How to Set Up a Budget:

Step 1: Find a budget planner/spreadsheet/app

You can download free budget planners, spreadsheets and apps. Basically a budget planner or spreadsheet provides you with a visual breakdown of all your incomes vs. your expenses and what you are (or aren’t) left with at the end.


Step 2: Track your expenses

Tracking each and every expense may sound a little OTT, but it’s easy to do if you save all your receipts or carry a notebook with you and note down each purchase you make. The purpose of doing this is so that you can track every cash, EFT, credit or debit card purchase you make and thus identify what you are spending your money on.

  • Get a notebook or use your cell phone – have it with you whenever you go out or do Internet banking
  • Note it down – every time you spend money, make a note of it: what (exam pad) / when (22.05.15) / amount (R19.99), also remember to start asking for receipts with every purchase you make.
  • Add it all up – add up your expenses for the month and capture them on your budget planner under the correct category (see Step 3 for categories)

Step 3: Start budgeting

Collect all your receipts and statements (student loan, credit card, store cards, bank) and start filling in your budget spreadsheet – only include items which you are personally paying for out of your bank account. Categories you should consider include:

  • Income – this refers to money you have either saved or earned e.g. income for vacation or weekend work, part-time jobs, parental contributions, scholarships / bursaries – any money that you do not have to pay back.
  • Student Loans – if you have a student loan that you are personally paying back, then enter it here.
  • School Expenses – this includes tuition fees, textbooks, study supplies
  • Living Expenses – rent, groceries, toiletries, Internet connectivity, laundry, cell phone etc.
  • Transportation – car loan, car insurance, petrol, taxi fare.
  • Health – prescriptions, vitamins, hospital plan, medical aid, gym membership.
  • Personal – gifts, special occasions, eating out, entertainment, clothing.

Once you have filled all your income and expenses in you will be able to see a) whether or not you are making ends meet based on what you have available to spend and b) where you may need to start cutting back.

Budgeting Tips & Things to Remember:

  • Consider setting up two bank accounts:

– one for essentials such as rent, taxi fare and groceries and the other for non-essentials such as entertainment and clothing.


– you could transfer a set weekly or monthly amount into your second account, this will help keep you from overspending or running out of money.

  • Remember that your spending patterns will differ significantly between term-time and holidays – you will need to budget accordingly for both.
  • Join loyalty programmes and find out about student discounts.
  • Shop around for bargains – compare prices to save save money on groceries and toiletries.
  • Don’t waste money on pre-packed lunches and take away coffees – making your own lunch at home will save you loads of money during the year.
  • Get cooking – cooking your own meals in big batches and freezing them is a great way of saving money and ensuring that you have a meal waiting for you when you get home after a long day of lectures.
  • Earn extra money in your spare time – instead of lazing your June and December holidays away in front of the tv or computer, apply for holiday work.  Most major retailers need casual, student staff especially during the December period.
  • Credit cards are not the solution – they attract major interest charges and can result your credit rating being tarnished even before you start your first job.


Budgeting: Your Annual Budget. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/university-tuition-fees/managing-your-money/budgeting/ [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

10 Ways for Students to Save, Make and Manage Money at University. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  http://www.barclays.co.uk/P1242678545223  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

Taylor, K.K. (2010). Back to School Tips: Student Budget Planner. Retrieved from:  http://www.squawkfox.com/2010/08/18/student-budget-planner/  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

Taylor, K.K. (2010). Financial Planning Series: How to Make a Budget. Retrieved from:  http://www.squawkfox.com/2010/03/03/how-to-make-a-budget/  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].


Preparing for College 101

With just over two weeks to go before lectures start, I will be running a series called “Preparing for College 101” from Monday, 02 February 2015.

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Topics will include:

Tips for Surviving & Thriving at College

– Why You Should Attend Orientation

– Coping with Homesickness

– Time Management

– How to Budget

and more.

These posts, though aimed at new / First Year students, will provide helpful information for all students regardless of what year you are (socially or academically).