Welcome to university life, where you will be faced with more freedom than you have ever known. No morning assemblies, no physical education classes, no teachers badgering you to hand in homework; life at HKU is heaven compared to 12 grueling years of secondary school. However, this new-found freedom also applies to finances – you are now responsible for how much you spend. And assuming that you have essentially moved away from home, living costs have already skyrocketed.
To prevent HKU students from embodying the ‘broke college student’ stereotype, here are five ways to save money.
- Cook your own food (whenever you can!)
Not only is cooking an easy way to save money, you may also find your own culinary experimentation a welcome change from the monotonous canteen food you’d otherwise be forced to eat day after day. After all, there’s only so many times you can eat those twenty meals.
Assuming you live in HKU residences, access to kitchens or pantries is often included in the fee, so take advantage of that! There are thousands of free recipes online, so experiment and find out what you like. Some people actually find cooking relaxing, so who knows, this may become your preferred method of stress relief.
For girls who desperately hope to avoid the dreaded ‘freshman fifteen’, remember that it’s much easier to keep your diet in check if you know exactly what you’re eating. By cooking your own meals, you get to decide the amount of fat and carbs you’re putting into your body, whilst saving money that you may choose to spend on that pair of shoes you’ve been craving for since last year.
- Along the same lines, bring your own coffee.
To put it bluntly – buying coffee outside is a rip off. Even with the 30% student discount HKU students get at Starbucks, you’d still be paying around HK$30 for a cup of sugary, diluted coffee. According to Starbucks’ own website, a 16-ounce iced coffee with milk contains 23 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of 5.5 teaspoons. Not only are you overpaying for coffee, you are also ingesting your entire daily intake of sugar.
Try buying a jar of instant black coffee at any supermarket, and making your own coffee or latte. Since the seasons are turning a little cooler, invest in an insulated tumbler which you can bring your coffee around in. A word of advice – don’t buy the ones from Starbucks, as they do not retain heat and break easily. Buy a stainless steel one, as they retain heat better and are also more durable. In fact, even if you insist on getting your daily Starbucks fix, providing your own tumbler entitles you to a HK$3 discount.
One of the main attractions of Starbucks is the convenience. You don’t have to prepare your own coffee, nor have to lug around a heavy tumbler. However, there is a cheaper alternative. On the Run Run Shaw Podium, there is an orange kiosk called the iBakery, which sells cups of coffee for $9.
- Utilize student discounts.
Most businesses realize that college students don’t have much money, and most offer student discounts to help us out. Apply for the MTR student card if you haven’t already, it saves you 50% every time you have to travel somewhere. If you’re eating nearby at Kennedy Town or Sai Ying Pun, it’s worth asking the waiter if there’s a student discount – more often than not, you may get a few dollars knocked off your bill, or a free drink.
HKU students also enjoy certain privileges found on-campus. For example, did you know that our tuition fee includes a free membership to three different gyms? Hit up the gym in the Jockey Club Tower, Flora Ho or Stanley Ho Sports center – you’re paying a total of $0 compared to other gyms, which can range from HK$200 – HK$1200/month.
Additionally, being an HKU student also entitles you to access to the University Health Service, which provides medical and dental consultations at either free or discounted prices. To save money on stationary and other school supplies, there is the bookstore in the Student Union Building, which offer lower prices compared to other commercial stores.
Also, remember to check your email frequently! The Student Union of the University of Hong Kong often sends out emails notifying students of different promotions. These can range from laptops, karaoke, to camera equipment discounts, so you might never know where you could potentially save some money.
- Buy textbooks secondhand.
Apart from tuition fees, textbooks are another area where the most expenses are generated. Try to delay buying textbooks until the first lecture – (if you get a good one) your lecturer might upload the scanned copies onto Moodle or they might tell you it’s available in the library. Considering a textbook normally costs a few hundred dollars, you could potentially save a few thousand dollars throughout the course of your degree.
Other ways you can avoid paying full retail price for textbooks is to scout out secondhand fairs; having to deal with a few highlighted pages or underlined words is definitely worth the half-off deal that you’re getting. Additionally, you could also ask the seniors in your department if they have any old textbooks you could take off their hands.
- Explore the area and find stores that sell cheap goods – you may never know what you find!
Don’t just rely on the tiny Park ‘n’ Shop in the Chong Yuet Ming Amenities Building for all your food, there’s so little variety and you’re often not getting the best deals. Try venturing a little farther away from campus; Bonham Street and Water Street both have much larger supermarkets where you can find different varieties of products. At Exit B of the HKU MTR station, there are wet markets where you can find all kinds of fresh vegetables and fruit, often for really low prices.
For dry goods and snacks, there is the 759 store, which sells imported Japanese and Korean products for extremely low prices. Compared to the two ‘big’ supermarkets, Park ‘n’ Shop and Wellcome, 759 store often has cheaper prices. Another way to further increase your savings is to sign up for a membership card, which you also automatically get when you spend over HK$300. This entitles you to 10% off every purchase, and 30% off whenever 759 store hosts one of their frequent sales. 759 store has expanded rapidly since it first launched in Hong Kong, and currently has around 200 branches all around Hong Kong. There are two stores conveniently located in the HKU MTR station, and another bigger branch at Exit B.
Hopefully these tips will help save you a few bucks. In the long run, the pennies will add up, and you’ll be able to splash out on more meaningful events such as friends’ birthdays or nights out. Remember that these budgeting skills are part of the essential life skills you have to develop for when you eventually become an adult.