For many students, money management won’t have been an especially pressing concern until university life begins. Whether you’re relying completely on your student loan, you’ve got some savings in the bank, you do some part-time work, or you get some financial help from your parents, you could end up having a pretty miserable time if you don’t get your head round what’s coming in and what’s going out.
‘Budgeting’, like ‘cleaning rota’ or ‘crabs’, probably isn’t one of the first words that leaps to mind when you start thinking about the intellectual and social adventure that is student life, but ignoring these things could leave you penniless, living in squalor and very very itchy.
Your main expenses will be rent, utilities, phone bills, course materials, food and, of course, going out. You should be able to work out fairly accurately how much you’ll need to spend on the first 3 each month. In general, you’ll buy most of your books and other course materials at the beginning of each semester, so you’ll need to factor that in too.
Don’t underestimate what you’ll need for food; you can keep costs down by keeping the takeaways to a minimum, but you should still aim to set aside around £20-£30 a week for trips to the supermarket. Learning some basic cooking skills will help you eat on a budget and stay healthy.
Whatever’s left once the bills are paid and your ongoing survival is ensured is pretty much yours to fritter away as you see fit, but if you have a surplus of cash, it’s always worth saving some for those months where you spend more than usual.
When you get each instalment of your student loan, it makes sense to stick most of it in a savings account – you’ll start earning interest, and you’ll avoid the inevitable temptations that arise from having a 4-figure bank balance. Make sure you’ve got a student current account with a decent interest-free overdraft, but remember you’ll have to pay it back when you graduate. If you do get into a financial mess, most banks will try their best to persuade you a credit card will make everything OK. It won’t, so always speak to your parents or your university if things get out of hand.
Effective budgeting really can help to stop you overspending and it’s as simple as knowing how much you’ve got coming in and how much needs to go out.
- Write a list and stick to it. If you force yourself to do this you’ll prevent yourself from making any impulse purchases that soon add up!
- Discount code hunting online might seem like a bit of a pain, but a quick search will soon reveal savings codes and printable coupons for everything from washing powder to beers!
- Supermarket brands might not have the fancy packaging that the bigger brand products do, but what’s inside is often the same quality and has a more appealing price tag.
- Take turns cooking with friends or cook in batch and freeze food. Buying ingredients to cook for four will often work out cheaper per meal than buying ingredients just for one.
- If you’re living in private rented accommodation, check to make sure you are getting the best deal on your utilities. There is more than one gas and electricity supplier and the rates often differ between them. Compare online and make sure you’re getting the best value for your money over the duration that you’re in there.
- Employ some energy saving methods; energy saving light bulbs, draft excluders at doors and turning lights off when you leave the room. Small little things to do but they will result in lower utilities bills.
- Nobody’s saying “never go out.” Your University years will be some of the best of your life and there’s no denying that the social element will play a huge part in that. But what about socialising ‘in’ sometimes. House parties, for example, can be a great way to spend time with friends without paying a premium to hit the bars and clubs.
- Student Unions and bars around University Towns will often have special deals on during the week. Check out the Happy Hours and specials.
- There are a surprising number of ‘free to attend’ events that take place in most towns. Websites like wherecanwego.com allow you to search such events. These can be a cost-effective way to entertain yourself.
- Don’t forget to check out charity shops, second hand shops and libraries for the books you need.
- Try making contact with some students the year above you. Many of them will probably be looking to sell any course books they no longer need and this can be much cheaper than buying brand new from academic book shops.
- Check prices online. If you really must buy new, then compare a few different online book retailers too. You won’t always get the cheapest price in the shop within your university town.