Students: Treat Yo’self!

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Don’t neglect your social life due to budget woes. Read on for some of the best deals around town..

By Mia Ohlin

We have all been there.

That sinking feeling when you realise the café has a $10 purchase minimum, and you know there’s about $9.45 left in your account.

Or when you have eggs on toast for dinner five nights in a row so you can afford a couple of beers on the weekend.

Or when you avoid paying your phone bill for so long that the provider cuts you off.

Living on a budget and being a full-time university student goes hand-in-hand.

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Over the last three years I have experienced the highs and lows of being a university student, and by far some of the biggest lows are the financial struggles faced on a daily basis.

There are also issues that come with the responsibility of taking care of yourself, your food and your home.

Things you learn once you live on your own & have to shop for yourself:

  1. Cheese, cleaning products and hygiene products are some of the most ridiculously expensive things in the supermarket aisle.
  2. Electricity bills are never fun. Not using the air-con and clothes dryer will be the hardest test.
  3. If you keep potatoes in the fridge for more than a week, you are not going to have a good time.
  4. Take the rubbish out when it is full – you do not want to make friends with flies and their maggot offspring.
  5. Do not leave your washing in the washing machine for days. It will stink more than when you put it in and it will take a long time to get rid of that smell.
  6. Do not worry about the embarrassment you will feel when asking for $2.50 worth of meat at the delicatessen because you literally cannot afford an ‘approximate handful’ – just accept the direness of the situation.
  7. The day before pay-day usually consists of rejecting multiple offers for outings of breakfast, lunch & dinner and feeling sorry for yourself with a packet of two-minute noodles (or Mi Goreng if you are that way inclined.)
  8. The price of fresh berries will shock you to your very core.
  9. If you thought you had grown out of lunchboxes and juice poppers – think again…
  10. Seriously have you seen the price of cheese?

If any of those statements ring true then I imagine there is not much help in me trying to offer tips for grocery shopping or house maintenance.

I can however, offer some handy tips for your social outings – that you can most definitely have – if you budget correctly.

Going out for breakfast:

This is a tough one, because it is the most important meal of the day. You need carbs, and you need them fast. Most breakfast menus consist of the usual hot meals (bacon & eggs) and friendly starters such as fruit salad and avocado on toast. My best tip?

Check out that first or second line of the menu. More often than not you will find “X toast with conserves”. Now look at the bottom of the menu – there is usually a little list of sides. Here is where the magic happens. You know you need bread. Now pick the most filling but inexpensive side. Mushrooms and bacon are usually out of the question. But eggs, tomatoes and spinach are usually the cheapest (and healthiest) options. If you select carefully, you’ve got a delicious breakfast under $10. Drinks wise? Go for the table water. You need to keep hydrated right?

Going out for lunch:

Simple sandwiches are forever soaring in price in the café sector, and this means lunchtime can prove to be a challenging budget dilemma. We are lucky in Townsville to have great take-away lunch options that are healthy and inexpensive – you just need to know where to go. Woolworths have really stepped up their delicatessen area with midday goodies, including smaller portions of fresh roast chicken, and fresh microwavable meals under $10. If you’re up for making your own lunch, grab a fresh bread roll, some coleslaw or salad ingredients and a quarter of a roast chicken. This shouldn’t cost you more than $10 and will satisfy any hunger. Heading out with friends? Stop in to Zambreros at any of their three locations (Stockland, Castletown and Flinders Street). My all time favourite is a Chicken Chik-ito, for $7.90. These babies are so filling you will wonder if you have room for dinner. I also have to mention the greatness that is sushi – at any given sushi restaurant (Miss Sushi, Sushi Sushi.. etc) you will find prepared rolls for approximately $3. I guarantee three of these will be filling enough, and yes, you’re only spending $9

Going out for dinner:

This is the fun outing because it is usually the least frequent, and most enjoyable as it is a break from the routine. Everyone knows Tuesdays are a good night on a budget – Cactus Jacks offers all you can eat Chilli for $10, and who can go past a huge crumbed steak at Molly Malone’s for $7? Going on a date? Head to Heritage Bar from Monday-Thursday night for a dozen oysters for $12. Those things are said to be an aphrodisiac, how convenient.

Now the big dilemma. What are you going to wear to all these social outings you can now afford to attend?

Myer at Stockland offers 10% off to students who present their student ID on Thursdays. They have a great range for guys and girls, and often have big sales on their already reasonably priced apparel. Girls, pop into Hunter on Tuesdays with your student ID. They also offer 10% off to students.

Really want to perfect the art of dressing well on a budget? Then you need to visit op-shops and trawl the Internet for the best deals. Websites such as ASOS and Topshop consistently offer fast fashion at a great price, and not to mention their students deals (also 10% off).

Looking for a fun outing? Don’t forget to take advantage of your Cinebuzz card at Event Cinemas on Student Mondays ($8 movies), as well as return tickets to Magnetic Island for $21.30 (when you present your student ID).

If you are looking for discounts at just about anywhere, then you need an Entertainment Book. They are $60 and include 2-for-1 deals and up to 50% off at many local restaurants, cafes and recreational centres.

Now I know these options exclude many great deals going on around Townsville and the extended community. I wish I knew them all. I bet you do too.

Lightbulb moment!

Post a great deal you’ve come across/use on a regular basis in the comment box below or post on our Facebook page.

The art to enjoying the student lifestyle is simple: do not let budget woes get the best of you.

Setting aside enough money to go out with your friends is key.

Life is what you make it and if you do not go out and treat yourself every so often… well I would say you are going to cry a whole lot harder when that electricity bill arrives.