Tips and tricks on managing your finances as a university student in Singapore

How to plan your finances when university is starting soon

Stepping into university marks a crucial milestone in one's financial journey. There are no fixed timetables, no assigned time slots for recess, and nobody to manage your budget and spending, except yourself.

Therefore, it is important to keep a handle on how much money you are spending as a university student.

Here is a breakdown of how much a typical university student might spend monthly.

Expense type Amount Remarks
Accomodation $400 - $800 Depends on room type (air-con/non air-con), hostel location and single or double room.
Transportation $40 - $90 Depends on whether you stay on-campus, or have to travel to school from home everyday.
Food $200 - $450 Based on an average budget of $10-15 per day for meals at food courts/ hawker centres.
Mobile phone & internet $20 - $50 Depends on mobile packages and data amount.
Entertainment $50 - $300 Depends on individual lifestyle and spending habits.

As you can see, monthly expenses would vary wildly, and are dependent on numerous factors. For the most cost-conscious student living on a shoestring budget, one could expect to spend a minimum of around $250 a month.

Certain hostels also include meal plans as part of their staying requirements. Even though the hostel food at times might not be pleasant, it certainly helps to reduce how much one would spend on food!

If you do not stay on-campus, having your dinner at home with home-cooked food will also help reduce your food expenses.

For personal entertainment, if you are content with winding down with Netflix at the end of the day, your wallet will be more than grateful.

However, if you are all about hitting the clubs and enjoying the nightlife, you might need to expand your entertainment budget.

Student discounts & offers

As a student, you are entitled to many benefits. The first thing that comes to mind might perhaps be student meal discounts.

For that, there are multiple telegram groups that frequently announce various student promotions, for instance, SG Student Promos.

Otherwise, you can check out diners like Eighteen Chefs, Pastamania and Green Dot for their well-known student discounts. LiHo is also famous for their $2 milk tea promotion, just for students.

If you are keen to have the occasional big-screen experience at cinemas, you will be delighted to know that most cinemas offer a $7 student price from Monday to Friday, before 6pm.

Yes, this includes tertiary students as well! However, the caveat is that you are required to purchase your ticket at the box office counter itself.

Student loans

Even though tertiary education is highly subsidised in Singapore, it is still a large amount for most Singaporean students. As a result, most university students sign up for study loans to help pay for their fees while they are still schooling.

Maybank Education Loan

  • Early Repayment Fee: one per cent of loan prepaid
  • Late Payment Fee: three per cent min $30
  • Age: 18 and above

Maybank's promotional interest rate of 4.45 per cent per annum and a processing fee of two per cent, are among the cheapest available.

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Additionally, the bank offers its promotion to students that study either locally or abroad. Maybank also provides loans of up to $200,000 or eight times the borrower's monthly income, making it an optimal choice for those that require a larger study loan.

POSB Further Study Assist

  • Early Repayment Fee: N/A
  • Late Payment Fee: $30
  • Age: 17 - 65

POSB's study loan is a great option for students who want the flexibility to be slightly late on their monthly payments, Moreover, it imposes no penalty fee for early repayment.

However, do ensure that your school is included in POSB's list of preferred institutions to qualify for its low-cost programme.

Credit cards

You might be wondering, why would a student require a credit card for university? After all, aren't credit cards only meant for working adults with a minimum salary requirement?

Fortunately, that is indeed not the case. There are a selection of credit cards targeted for students, with no annual fees and minimum income requirements.

Furthermore, you will be earning attractive cashbacks with every purchase (with a $500 credit limit).

DBS Live Fresh Student Card

Pros

  • Five per cent rebate on select merchants & five per cent rebate on sustainable spend
  • No minimum spend requirement
  • Annual fee waived five full years

Cons

  • Just 0.3 per cent rebate on general spend
  • Total rewards capped at just $50/month

The main perk of this card is its attractive cashbacks for eco-friendly merchants. Students will be able to get up to five per cent Green Cashback on selected Eco-Eateries, Eco-Retailers and Eco-Transport Services.

Some examples include JustDabao, The Green Collective and even BlueSG.

Furthermore, you can get up to five per cent cashback on favourite student brands, such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Golden Village and other movies and TV streaming services.

Maybank eVibes Card

Pros

  • Students & NSF earning less than $30,000/year
  • People looking for easy cashback on all spend
  • Individuals hoping to avoid paying an annual fee

Cons

  • Young adults who'd prefer a card with EZ-Link functionality

How does this credit card compare against the DBS Live Fresh Student Card?

The Maybank eVibes Card offers one per cent cashback on all spending. Yes, this means you are not restricted to a particular spending category.

Other promotions also include discounts for Agoda, as well as Golden Village. It also has a $5 quarterly fee, which is waived if you charge your card at least once every 3 months.

Interestingly, the Maybank eVibes Card instead has an annual income limit, in which applicants cannot exceed $30,000 in annual income. However, this shouldn't be an issue for students.

Savings accounts

Another way students can accumulate small savings while they are studying is through a high-interest savings account.

Fortunately, there are several accounts that provide students with a way to earn competitive interest rates without having to worry about minimum requirements or fall-below fees.

One highly popular savings account used by many students is the OCBC Frank Savings Account.

OCBC Frank Savings Account

  • Min. Age Requirement: 16 
  • Min. Initial Deposit: $0
  • Min. Balance Requirement: $0 if younger than 26 years old, $1,000 for 26+

This savings account is a great option for students looking to open their first savings account. There are almost no barriers to entry. There is no minimum income or salary requirement, and no minimum initial deposit.

Moreover, those under 26 years old are exempt from the minimum average daily balance requirement.

Students with lower balances – especially below $1,000 – can earn more with OCBC Frank than with most competitors with their friendly interest rates.

As a result, young adults looking for an easy starter account should consider OCBC Frank.

Conclusion

Managing your own finances is never easy as a university student, especially when most of us have no experience budgeting on our own prior.

However, student loans, credit cards and savings accounts aside, the most important value is to still spend within your means, and ensure that you spend on your needs and not your wants.

This article was first published in ValueChampion.