Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Student strugglers tighten belts

Research shows lack of cash hits eating habits for a third of scholars.

Stefan van Woerden. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Stefan van Woerden. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Low-grade mince is apparently still a staple of university life, with more than a third of students surveyed in new research saying lack of money has affected their diets.

Of the Massey University students surveyed, 41 per cent also said their finances were a significant source of worry.

Only 20 per cent had contents insurance, and 12 per cent said they struggled to make ends meet.

Despite that, Massey senior lecturer Dr Claire Matthews, who analysed the student responses, said most had a reasonably good attitude to their finances.

"On the whole, the students ... had good attitudes towards savings and retirement planning, and their attitudes were okay in the areas of money management, debt management and budgeting."

She said 35 per cent of students said they had changed their eating habits in the past six months due to insufficient funds, but it was unclear how.

"That may be that they are changing what they are eating - for example skipping breakfast because they can't afford to have three meals a day.

"But the other option is that they may simply be eating cheaper food, and while arguably healthy food is cheap, the reality is it is probably an indication that they are eating less healthily."

One area of concern was the fact only 20 per cent had contents insurance.

"They do recognise the importance of having insurance, but ... not many of them actually insured their contents. Because that is actually the type of insurance that students realistically could have.

"They may argue, 'well actually we haven't got much', [but] by the time you add in computers and similar electronic stuff, they can own a reasonable amount."

Dr Matthews said although only 12 per cent of students said they struggled to make ends meet, that response was dependent on their perception of hardship.

"Someone who is budgeting really tightly and managing every cent might not see that as a struggle ... [but] those that are saying they are struggling are possibly actually spending a little bit more."

The survey of 269 students was conducted by the Financial Education and Research Centre, a joint venture between Massey University and Westpac.

Tough times

35 per cent of students have changed eating habits due to lack of money
41 per cent say finances are a significant source of worry
80 per cent with no contents insurance
Source: Fin-Ed Centre

Student ekes out a life without too many baked beans

When your mother is a food technology teacher, there is no excuse not to know how to cook a decent meal.

For Massey University student Stefan van Woerden , it means having the skills to budget for certain ingredients and keeping things healthy.

"I try to limit the baked beans on toast," he says seriously. "Mum's taught me well so I get a lot of pasta, mince, frozen veges and things like that." A lot of his cooking - mainly pasta bakes and mince-based meals - is done in bulk, which he then freezes.

The 21-year-old, a former Hamilton Christian School pupil, is in his third year studying towards a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours. He is the only student living in a flat with others and each person has their own shelf in the pantry.

"I buy food when my shelf is starting to look empty. I have a budget of about $30 a week for groceries and it is definitely hard to shop sometimes. I look out for specials and so will buy things on special."

"I do worry about money a bit, but I don't sit around. I have a student loan and I work hard in the summer to put a bulk of money away to pay that back."

Stefan's weekly groceries

* Packet of pasta
* Two loaves of bread
* Two cans of tomato paste, sauce or canned tomatoes
* Box of cereal (every second week)
* Onions
* Milk
* Frozen vegetables
* Meat (100g of mince)
* Shaved ham
* Miscellaneous: Salt, herbs and spices
(Rough total: $30)

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