Whether you’re embarking on fresher’s week or the start of your final year, it may be tempting to blow your budget.
It is easy to overspend, whether at the student bar or on day-to-day living expenses. But while you want to enjoy your time at university, avoiding a degree of debt at the end of your studies should also be a priority.
Here is your indispensable guide to managing your money wisely, from finding the best current account to seeking advice on money worries.
Pick the right current account
There are plenty of banks keen to attract students seeing somewhere to deposit their student loan – but look past the perks on offer, and pick wisely. The most important aspect of any student current account is the interest-free overdraft, so check this out first.
You can use an overdraft to spend more than you’ve got, to a set amount. Some allow interest-free overdrafts of up to £3,000 to help avoid paying unnecessary interest charges on debt.
This isn’t free money; remember you’ll need to pay it back once you graduate. However, this form of borrowing is far cheaper than any options. Ideally you should rely on your current account for your spending needs, and not more expensive borrowing like credit cards which are among the speediest ways to spiral into debt.
Draw up a budget
Use budget tools online to help streamline finances, and avoid spending more than necessary.
UCAS has a handy budget calculator to help make your money last the duration of your studies. This helps you calculate how much you have to spend, before considering your likely spending.
Are there any areas where you can cut down a bit? If you really think you need to more money to get by, see if there’s any extra help available.
Extra financial help
Competition between universities for the brightest students is seeing a number trying to entice the most deserving with cash incentives. So alongside student loans and other government support, you may be eligible for a scholarship or bursary. Ask your university if this extra help is applicable to your course.
You may even qualify for free help from a charity, depending on your area, course and circumstances. Family Action is offering help through its Educational Grants Programme.
Slash the cost of your social life
From freshers’ week to weekly club nights, sporting activities and several pints at the union bar, the cost of socialising soon mounts up. You don’t need to curb the fun to cut costs – but ask yourself if there’s a cheaper alternative, or free events on offer.
Always look for online vouchers to see if you can get money off food or drinks. There are masses of sites offering discounts, on restaurants, bars, and other leisure activities. Student Beans and NUS Extra offer cheap deals on days and nights out.
It is worth checking out the NUS Extra card. This costs just £12 and offers an array of benefits. You can also find discounts on clothes, supermarket shopping and university essentials such as books and stationery.
Cut utility bills
Perhaps bills are included with your rent each month. But if they are not, the cost of energy bills, broadband and other utility costs can add up to a hefty sum – even if you’re in a shared house. Along with your rent you’ll need money set aside to cover these.
You could save a stack of cash by moving to a different supplier. Remember that online deals are usually the cheapest, and you’ll get a discount for paying by direct debit. Check for services that allow unlimited broadband use and include weekend calls.
Cut travel costs
The cost of travel can dramatically eat into a student’s budget. If you travel by train, look at the 16-25 Railcard, which cuts the cost of your journeys by a third. You can sign up to a three-year card for £70 at 16-25 railcard.co.uk.
Consider a part-time job
If your course isn’t consuming all your time, you may think of taking on a part-time job. This is a great way to bring in extra cash. Plus if your total income is below the ‘personal allowance’, currently at £10,600, you won’t have to pay a penny to the taxman. Your employer will deduct tax from your salary under pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) but you can claim a refund of this on the government’s site.
If you are worried, seek advice
Your university will probably have a student money adviser – so find out who this is, and have a chat about any financial concerns. They should be able to help you manage your income and budget effectively.
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Money Means is a news and information series written by independent financial and consumer journalists and experts. FSCS launched Money Means in 2016 to help give people clear and useful information about personal finance, to increase their understanding and confidence when dealing with money.