How are SA students spending their money.and how this affects them

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 brought widespread financial concerns for many South Africans. The team at Varsity Vibe wanted to know how students navigated through their financial challenges alongside the added responsibilities of university/college life. So, in December 2021, we sent out a survey to our users, to get some answers to these burning questions.

From the 5 854 respondents83% confirmed that they worry about money.  The majority of students are struggling to make ends meet or live on a tight month-to-month budget. It is even more unsettling to see how financial stress impacts their normal lives. 61% of students have reported mental health issues as a result.

Based on the information gathered, on average, students are over-spending by R761 each month. What is alarming is that 1 in 3 students don’t have an actual monthly budget. Only 24% of students are able to stick to their budget, with the majority of those students being post grads due to their higher income earned from working.

We found that, on average, students are spending R5 287 per month with the majority of their money being spent on accommodation (46%) and groceries (25%). While, on average, students are only earning R4527 per month and are receiving this income from various sources such as parents/family, financial aid, working, hustling, savings and loans. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many students (40% of our respondents) have had to turn to side-hustles to earn some extra cash.

The numbers do differ substantially when comparing a few things: the year of study and geographic location.

There is a large proportion of 1st years and 2nd years who have not fully adapted to university/college life and the financial responsibilities (and stress) attached to it. From 3rd, 4th and Post-Grad years, they start becoming more diligent in terms of spending as well as obtaining more income to cover their expenses.

When looking at the findings geographically, there is a significant spending gap based on where students are living. Students located in the Western Cape and Gauteng are spending almost 10% more, when compared to the rest of the country – rent and socialising being the major contributing factors to this higher expense. This does not come as a surprise since property rentals in the major metropolitan cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria and the general cost of living in urban areas comes at a much greater price than that of more remote areas.

Despite all the difficulties and challenges being faced, there is a clear answer when we asked “Is University worth it” – a resounding 97% believe that going to university is worth it, with many believing that without a degree, you cannot be successful.