One of the biggest issues that students face in their first and even second year of University is learning how to not buy stuff, especially if their previous situation allowed them to buy stuff. Buying things that you don’t really need is bad enough at the best of times - especially so when you’re on a student budget...
It comes as no surprise that many students across the UK are strapped for cash. High course fees, rents and living costs next to low student loans and grants have lead to many peoples’ studies and diets suffering as a result. Managing a student budget is a burden on it’s own without the pesky addition of clever marketing that some find hard to resist. We are in a consumerist culture so it’s no wonder that many students struggle considerably to halt their purchasing throughout Uni. If you want to help program your head to stop making impulse purchases of things you don’t really need, you’re in good hands.
Conditioning the student mind to not buy any-old-junk is a task in itself. Companies employ clever tricks and games both in store and online to try and get us to hit ‘buy’, so we need to be aware of these and how they can manipulate our spending power. Once we understand these we’re on the road to stopping buying stuff we don’t need.
When you're out shopping
Quite frankly, if you’re verging on compulsive-buyer the best motto to have is “keep your head down and don’t touch anything.” Colours have a big impact on how impulsive we are. Reds and yellows encourage action, so either try to remember what they can do when you see them or just actively avoid sales altogether. Big shops and supermarkets place these deals in clear view and in places that actively block your way to what you needed to buy in the first place, so keep your head down and ignore them. And don’t pick things up - companies put things in easy reach because your mind then associates that item with yourself and you’ll want to buy it.
One thing to remember is that many shops make use of sounds and smells to try and condition your mind into a happy place where you are naturally more relaxed with your money. By all means, enjoy the nice things - lay down on a sofa and have a nap even - but remember that those nice things are there to brainwash you.
On the internet
It’s way too easy to spend money on the internet on a whim. If you have go-to sites, it’s a good idea to make sure that you make it hard for yourself to make any purchases. Don’t store account details or addresses - make sure you have to go to a big length to actually buy anything. That way you’ll have more time to consider if those purchases are actually worth it. Use your shopping basket like a list of things you want - not a basket of things you're about to buy. Set your own limit and if you breach it then close your browser, walk away, have a coffee and come back refreshed and ready to have a long-hard talk with yourself about whether or not you need to buy that pointless stuff. If that’s not enough you could consider blocking sites.
Get a mental tickbox
This is good for everyone, not just students. Create your own ticklist (mental or physical, your choice) that you put every purchase through. If it doesn’t make the cut, you put it down and walk away. Why not choose five or six from the following points...
Is this planned or have I just seen it?
Was there any money left over in my budget for this?
Is an utterly pointless thing that I love but don’t know why?
Have I got five tops this colour already?
Do I have room in my tiny studio flat for this?
Do I really want a toastie-maker in a student flat where others will destroy it?
Has the shop got into my mind?
Should I even be shopping in my dire financial state?
Loan day is just like any other day
Companies want your student loan so don’t make it easy for them to get it. There can be a lot of hype around loan day and student spending picks up considerably. Don’t buy anything apart from essentials for the first week. That way while everyone else is crying their eyes out because they’ve squandered everything in 168 hours, you can just smile and feign interest.
Get used to being poor and love Uni
University is an incredible experience, however, you will be poor. Try not to prolong your own agony by buying stuff that you don’t need - instead, get a name for yourself for being thrifty and nail being poor. That way you can love Uni to the full.