According to a survey, students spend an average of R3 768 a month on living expenses, meaning that each person spends a total of R45 000 a year.
While the rest of South Africa pinched pennies last year, students dished out more of their families' cash than ever on things like rent, car payments, entertainment, booze and cigarettes.
According to a survey of 3 650 students undertaken by youth marketing and recruitment company Student Village, the country's students are spending an average of R3 768 a month on living expenses, meaning that each person spends a total of R45 000 a year. This is almost double the average monthly expenditure of people in the country, which amounts to an annual individual spend of R25 000.
Researchers obtained responses from people aged 18 to 24 between February and April this year, and annualised data to give a feel for yearly spend. The survey found that the average amount spent by students has risen by 27% since 2010, when the first survey of this kind showed that monthly expenses amounted to R2 968.
Most of the R41.1-billion that South Africa's 940 000 students are expected to spend this year is not earned, but given to them by parents and family members. Only 14% of the money comes from part-time work, and 10% from bursaries or sponsors.
The report found that "students are all about the now".
"When asked what they would do with a gift of R5 000, nobody suggested paying off debts or loans or saving the money," Student Village reported.
"Instead, responses were primarily around spoiling their partners, drinking with friends, or going out for a fancy dinner. Twenty-eight percent of students own credit cards, with the most popular banks being Standard Bank and Absa, occupying 28% and 26% of the student market share respectively."
Big clothing chains
And students don't shy away from other forms of high interest-bearing debt. Almost one in four have retail cards at big clothing chains, with the most popular being Edgars. Of those who have retail accounts, 71% have debts outstanding, The amounts still owing were not indicated.
Saving is low on students' lists of priorities. One-third of those surveyed said they did not save at all. Another 40% saved between R1 and R250 a month. Even those who are saving the indicated maximum of R250 put away only 6.6% of their average monthly expenses. This is half the amount recommended by most financial experts for people wishing to retire comfortably.
While high levels of debt generally have an adverse affect on consumer confidence, this does not appear to be so for the student population. Almost two-thirds of students said that despite the fact that they are in the red, they are confident they will settle their debt. But 40% of them will be reliant on family and friends to do so, and only 39% are "happy to settle debt on their own".
Karabo, a University of the Witwatersrand student, told the researchers: "The most famous saying when you won't have enough money for the month is, ‘We'll make a plan'. Most of my friends and I have some sort of safety net like an aunt or uncle who can help you to the end of the month."
The biggest single expenditure item is rent. The survey found that those who are not living with their parents spend about R2 500 a month on accommodation. Those who own cars are spending about R1 740 a month on car repayments, and R800 on motor insurance.
The biggest ticket purchase item is cellphones. Students splash out on high-end brands such as Samsung, iPhone and Blackberry, and spend about R150 a month on airtime. Despite this, a large number still make calls from public phones, adding up to R125 a month to their expenses.
Different ethnic groups among the students sampled spent the bulk of their money on different things.
Black students tended to spend most of their money on petrol and vehicle repayments; Indian students spent most on entertainment; coloured learners splashed out most on fashion and takeaways; and white students shelled out on alcohol and cigarettes.