Johannesburg - Give a student R5 000 a month, chances are he will blow it all on spoiling his girlfriend, alcohol and buying new clothes.
This is according to an annual survey by marketing company Student Village, released this week.
Student Village surveyed 3 646 students across the country’s universities, apart from the two that opened this year (University of Mpumalanga and Sol Plaatjie University).
“Short-term spenders” that they are, students indicated that if given R5 000 they would spend it on going out, ‘spoiling my girlfriend’, alcohol, entertainment and clothes, said the survey.
“There wasn’t ‘I’ll save (the R5 000)’,” Student Village’s chief executive Ronen Aires told The Sunday Independent.
“Most said they’d spend it on taking out their partner or on friends – going out, having a big night”.
In fact, 33 percent of the students do not save at all. About 41 percent save between R1 and R250 a month, according to the survey.
“You say it’s good (that you’re saving), but they say ‘no I’m saving for a rainy day’.
“What’s a rainy day to them? ‘It’s next month in case I need to buy more clothes or I’ve got to go somewhere’,” said Aires.
“Their horizon is very short, they want immediate gratification.
“That’s why their spending habits look irrational.”
To add salt to the wound, the students are also accumulating debt, with 28 percent having credit cards and 24 percent retail accounts.
About 35 percent “still owe money on their credit cards” and 71 percent owe on their retail accounts.
Parents fund these lifestyles, as 78 percent of money spent by students comes from them.
Only 14 percent is made from part-time work by the students and 10 percent is drawn from bursaries or sponsorships.
In the absence of R5 000 being readily available, students at the country’s universities each spend an average of R3 768 a month, or R45 216 a year.
Compared to a population of 52.98 million, the country’s 938 000 university students spend more than an “average individual”, said the study. This individual spends R25 208 a year, but a student uses R45 216.
Female students were found to spend more than their male counterparts monthly. The young women apparently spend an average of R3 919 monthly, while guys use up R3 525.
The food and groceries sector scores the most from students, scooping R8.4bn a year. This is followed by smartphones and electronics at R6.1bn and R5.5bn is spent on clothing and footwear.
Students blow an average of R3.3bn on alcohol every year, some to an extent of disregarding domestic amenities.
“Most of my mates would have a wardrobe full of alcohol, but would ask me for a bar of soap on the 5th of the month,” a University of Johannesburg student is quoted as saying in the report.
Given the known socio-economic disparities of the country, however, the study should not be taken at face value, said Luzuko Buku, secretary-general of the SA Student Congress.
“It actually makes a mistake of treating students as if they are a homogenous group, whereas they are different.”
“The reality is that students who come from previously and currently advantaged backgrounds have the money to spend. Some drive Mercedes-Benz cars, and put in a lot of petrol.
“They stay in fancy flats and dine in the most expensive restaurants while they are students.
“This happens while some students struggle even to get a meal or two a day.”
Buku said the study was not necessarily deceptive, but “it has limitations because it is quantitative”.
“The results are not totally misleading, but they just fail to actually say not all students have money. Some students have a lot of money, while some have no money at all.”
Aires said the survey wasn’t claiming there’s an “average student. “We’re saying on average, when adding everyone’s spending, this is what it looks like monthly.
“But students spend differently according to their individual circumstances.”
Asked if the average the report spoke of meant one student spent R500, and another R15 000 a month, Aires said: “exactly”.