As we are starting week 3 of 2018, I thought I would reflect on the money mistakes I made as a foreign student. I hope this helps anyone who’s recently relocated to start their studies and/or looking at managing their finances better this year.
Continue living as a Congolese in South Africa
Congolese (my beautiful people) care FAR TOO MUCH about their appearance and often spend a lot of what they have (or do not have) on their looks: I did the same i.e. living la vida loca… on a shoestring budget. My favourite cash burners were make-up & clothes: Almost every night out had its own outfit, how silly & unnecessary! No one really cared in varsity esp. from first to third year when everyone is just trying to survive really. If you study in France, this might be different as the French are known to be very chic (always)!
South Africans, on the other hand, are VERY casual (sometimes even too much) and you can get away with wearing literally anything,lol! I did two things to address this: (i) stopped chasing brands (and/or their fake overpriced version)…Mr Price and some factory shops became my go to. (ii) I decided some (very seasonal) fashion items would just skip me…lol!
I would link this to my upbringing (a little). Back home, there was always a kind uncle/aunt around keen to throw some money if pocket money was tight especially if you were a good child (which I obviously was, duh…lol!). So…many of us grew up thinking that saving as a teen/student is almost unnecessary as a result. I almost NEVER had any cents left for the first 4 years in South Africa: I spent EVERYTHING (& more sometimes). This changed when I met my friends (read more about what I learnt from them, here). However small, I wished I had given myself the discipline to save (even if it was R100-R200/month, ~$10-20/month).
Budget well (or lack thereof)
It is safe to say that budgeting was not really part of my monthly to-do list (which is not too surprising based on the above). This is a must: draft one & do your level best to stick to it. If it does not work, then adjust it. There are now all sorts of apps, that can help you track your spend which would simplify your life. You will need it later in life for sure 🙂
Pay for friends when out
This is not a mistake I made. As a girl, I got more free drinks and meals than I could ever afford…lol! I added this for my African brothers who are often the victims of this. Back home, when you invite people (especially as a man)…It is expected that “thou shall cover the bill”…ALL of it! I understand this is also the case in Nigeria, Angola and other parts of West Africa. However, this is not the case in most Western countries including South Africa, Southern & Eastern Africa except maybe for special occasions (e.g. a date, sponsored graduation dinners-thanks to them folks,etc.) as sharing the bill is the norm. It is perfectly normal for everyone to cover the costs of their food/drinks + proportional tip. My word to guys is: Drop that habit like a hot potato and save yourself from financial ruin…Lol!
Not ask the locals for good deals
Again, this is something we are probably all guilty of. We ask our countrymen/women for their experience adjusting to a new country rather than the locals themselves as they know best. This will be very handy for extending your pocket moolah i.e. access to specials/restaurants/cool bars/coupons, finding factory shops, grocery shops which sell in bulk, etc.
I hope you find this helpful…do watch out for Part 2 of this article next week 🙂
Other useful articles
- 5 worst money mistakes you can make in college by Forbes Magazine (here)
- Top ten student money mistakes by BankMobile Vibe (here)
- Top 5 money mistakes you should avoid in college by Money Crashers (here)
P.S: All the gifs were taken from GIPHY.COM