Higher education and money: a guide for students (and parents)
€13,792 – that's the average cost of spending an academic year in student accommodation. This amount includes all study and living costs: the enrolment fee, course books, housing, clothing, water, gas, electricity, cultural (and other) outings, and more besides. The calculation was made by the Centre for Budget Advice and Research (CEBUD) of Thomas More University of Applied Sciences.
Continuing to live at home is far less expensive than living in student accommodation. Anyone continuing to stay at the hotel of mum and dad will spend €9,189 per academic year on average. The higher cost of student accommodation is mainly due to the cost of housing and extra food.
What can you do as a student and/or parent to keep a lid on spending? Here are a few tips:
1. Check if you are entitled to any grants
As a student, you may be entitled to a study grant. How much you get will depend on your family situation, the household income and other factors. Although the grant will not be enough to cover all the costs for a whole academic year, for some it is thousands of euros. It is therefore worth considering your eligibility . The link for the French-speaking community is: https://allocations-etudes.cfwb.be/etudes-superieures/. For the Flemish part, it is https://studietoelagen.be/voorwaarden-en-bedragen/kom-ik-in-aanmerking".
In certain situations, you may be eligible for other grants. All universities (of applied sciences) offer a student facilities service. The staff in such departments can give you tailor-made advice and show you all the options, such as a reduced enrolment fee or a student accommodation allowance.
2. Create a budget
A budget will help you to maintain an overview and will allow you to better identify any problem areas. Creating and continuing to use such a budget doesn't have to be a big task – a simple spreadsheet allowing you to keep an overview of the (fixed and variable) income and the most important (fixed and variable) expenses will suffice. You can take a look at this overview once a week or fortnight and make adjustments where necessary. You will find all kinds of templates and tools online to help you with this, such as this one by Wikifin (link in Dutch and in French).
If you tend to have a budget surplus, you can top up your savings reserve. If you reached the limit of your savings reserve (enough to cover three to six months), periodic investments are an alternative in order to achieve a potentially higher return.
3. Make clear agreements
Parents and the government (and students themselves) all contribute towards the costs of higher education. There is no legal amount that parents must contribute. However, parents remain financially responsible for their children's accommodation, cost of living and education until the end of the course. When their children turn 18, parents no longer have a duty to bring up their children and their parental control ceases (and so does the associated liability). However, all other parental responsibilities continue.
Although as a student, you have the law on your side (Article 203 of the Belgian Civil Code to be specific) to claim certain rights, it is of course better to sit down together for a moment and discuss things. Talk to your parents about how much they can and want to contribute.
- Who will pay for what?
- Will you be earning an income yourself?
- Which expenses should be justified?
- What will happen when you use up your budget?
4. Use your student card
A student card gives you access to great benefits, offering discounts at the gym, museums, the hairdresser's, sandwich shops and more. Try and use it wherever you go. After that, you will probably have to wait until your retirement before you ever see concessions like that again.
5. Get your paperwork in order
As a student, you will have more financial paperwork. Do not throw such documents away immediately. Expert organiser Nele Colle tells you how you can deal with paperwork efficiently.
6. Share rather than own
If you are living in student accommodation, you can share certain services, such as streaming services and the internet, with your housemates. You can even cook together.
Sharing also means going to the charity shop for furniture and other items, buying second-hand books and study materials, drinking tap water and buying own-brand labels rather than bottled water and branded products, and so on. And why not adopt a room plant from the plant shelter?
7. Old habits...
How students deal with money matters depends primarily on what they learnt about money at home. Children copy their parents' behaviour from an early age. Some of this behaviour will turn into habits at a later age.
If you have children (in higher education), talk to them about money, involve them in important purchases, and give them pocket money if your budget allows it. As you do this, it is important to make clear agreements and to allow for mistakes as well. It is better to have your children make silly mistakes with small amounts at a young age than big mistakes with large amounts when they are older.
This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendation, nor a financial analysis. Nothing in this article may be construed as information with a contractual value of any sort whatsoever. This article is intended for information only and does not constitute in any way a commercialization of financial products. Keytrade Bank cannot be held liable for any decision made based on the information contained in this article, nor for its use by third parties. Every investment entails risks such as a possible loss of capital. Before investing in financial instruments, please inform yourself properly and read carefully the document "Overview of the principal characteristics and risks of financial instruments" that you can find in the Document centre.