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(Student) Bank Balance Confessions: Managing Work While Studying

By Grace Miner

Last week, The Cusp published a spending diary of a 33-year-old Eastern Suburbs woman earning $775 a week. On a Facebook post linking the article, partner site, Junkee, asked: “What does it look like to live week-to-week in Sydney?” Yet, for the writer, living “week-to-week” means soy cappuccinos, throwing Tim Tams in the bin “to stop myself eating the entire packet in one sitting” and having money leftover for savings. In response, Tharunka asked UNSW students what “living week-to-week” means to them.


Moving out of home can be hard. There are so many unexpected costs and a huge list of responsibilities that suddenly become yours. But when you’re a student moving out of home, you have even more to worry about. The little time you do have is split between study, work, travel, cooking and cleaning. Finding the perfect balance between how many hours a week you work, how much time you spend at uni and how much time you dedicate to doing assignments can be like solving a Rubik’s Cube. You go round and round in circles trying to find a perfect fit. I should know; I have worked full time, part time and casually while studying and discovered the pros and cons for each.


If you’re lucky enough to have the time to work 4-5 days a week, you’ll know the “Wow, I’m so rich!” moment every time you get paid. But that feeling doesn’t last long, once you think about the assignment due in five days, and the fact you’re working eight hours every day until then. And then you remember the pile of washing you have to do, the complementary pile of dishes and that you haven’t done groceries or cooked in almost a week.


Full time work while you’re studying can mean giving up a lot (or all of) your free time. You work five days a week, have class one day and have one “day off” that is full of assignments, washing, groceries, appointments, seeing friends and maybe some sleep. But you do have financial security. I’m not saying you’re going to be buying a house anytime soon, but you can afford to buy lunch at work, get those new shoes you’ve been eyeing off and maybe even save up for a European adventure.


However, not everyone studying has the time to work this much. Having class 3- 5 days a week only leaves a couple available for work. While you may find your time management better in regards to assignments, managing your finances can be a little harder. Without the luxury of being able to work whenever you want, there is a constant worry in the back of your mind about whether or not you’ll make enough money to even pay rent. You need to budget your shifts, money and time.


If you’re offered an extra shift at work, do you take it in case you get sick and miss a shift? Or in case you get sent home early one day? Or maybe you simply want some extra cash to go out for dinner. But then you also have to consider how much uni work you’ve done, what you’ll miss if you do go to work and how important it really is to get that assignment in on time.


Time management, we’re told, is very important to success, but it isn’t something that can be taught. There are pros and cons to working and studying but ultimately, you just have to learn how to create your own balance. Easier said than done.




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