Thousands of students will be leaving home and heading off to places new, far afield, in search of education and trying to avoid poverty.
Here are 19 tips which helped me through Uni on a tight budget.
1. Which bank should I open a student account with?
Find out which bank has a branch close to campus – it can be useful to bank with the local branch as they will generally be more understanding of student needs – remember they are trying to capture you as a lifelong customer (it’s a dog eat dog world out there!), although in this day and age of cash machines and internet banking it might be more important to you to choose the bank which is offering the best “enticement” to bank with them.
In an article I will be writing next week I will compare and comment on the student offerings of the various banks – be sure to subscribe to ensure you receive a copy once published.
2. Make a budget and stick to it!
Ensure your money doesn’t run out before the end of term – you might like to use our income and expenditure spreadsheet to plan how your money will be coming in and going out (!).
3. Do I need a credit card?
Many institutions will be offering you a credit card which can be tempting – we’ve all been there! The thought of a £1,000 or more credit facility can be very tempting – but remember, that it’s not really a credit card – it’s a debt card and unless you pay off the balance in time, each and every month, you will start paying interest – then that great bargain you saw whilst out shopping will not be such a great bargain once the interest starts accruing.
Did you know you can get a prepaid credit card – these allow you to add money to them – either online from your bank account or through a Post Office – I have one for travelling and it is a Mastercard – ensuring it can be accepted at all places where Visa and Mastercard are accepted. There is no possibility of incurring any interest or debt with these and are a wise choice for students as parents can top them up at home for you as well with the money normally being available almost instantly if credited at certain retail outlets – ideal for those emergency situations.
4. Set aside your rent before you do anything else!
Once you have your funds in place, whether that be a student loan or money which you have saved personally, set aside your rent for the term or academic year in a savings account to ensure your don’t spend it elsewhere – many students, myself included, had to go cap in hand to their folks asking for a “loan” a couple of weeks before the end of term.
5. Fresher’s fair – beware of “joining societies” syndrome
Freshers fair is a bustling hive of activity – all the societies and clubs will be vying for your membership – we all thought it would be a good idea to join plenty of clubs and societies – “a discount if you join today!” – only to never attend a single event – beware – choose carefully!
6. Pay your Bills on Time
For many it will be the first time they have had to manage their own finances – ensure that your mobile phone, gas, water etc bills are all paid on time – you don’t want to receive red letters and be charged fines for missing payments – you probably don’t have enough money as it is!
7. Try not to use a car
Many students feel the need to use a car whilst at University – not only are they expensive to run but they also affect the environment and cause local congestion in the University city in which you live.
- Walk if possible
- Live on a bus route – most cities have excellent transport facilities to and from University campuses
- If you must use a car try car sharing – sharing the petrol and cutting down on the congestion
8. Earn some money
Most students I knew had to supplement their income by working, either during term time or after the end of term in the holidays. Make sure that any work you do does not interfere with your studying – that’s what you’re at University for! You can earn £6,475 in the current tax year (up to 6th April 2010) without having to pay any income tax – ensure your employer gives you the correct tax code.
9. Start your Own Business
Today there are more opportunities for students to earn a living on the side – selling stuff on Ebay, car boot sales, writing a blog and earning an income from advertising (not easy) – be creative – you don’t need to stack shelves in a supermarket!
10. If in trouble ask for help
If you have money problems speak to someone about it – parents, friends, Student Union (they will have excellent staff who can really help you sort things out) – the worst possible thing you can do is stick your head in the sand and ignore an issue – it won’t go away and will most likely get even worse.
11. Avoid fraud
Be wary of any offer which looks too good to be true – it often will be! There are a lot of scumbags out there trying to take your money off you – just be careful.
12. Don’t carry lots of cash
There is no need to carry lots of cash with you – you might drop or lose your wallet or purse, or even worse. Get a pre-paid credit card – it can be cancelled and be replaced – cash can’t
13. Get contents insurance
Many specialist insurance companies offer policies ideally suited for students. You may not think you need insurance but consider how much it would cost for your replace that laptop or that hifi, that nice new LCD flatscreen. Policies are not expensive and are strongly recommended – it’s a sad fact that student accommodation can get burgled – we were but thankfully we were insured.
14. Shopping around can save you money!
You don’t need me to tell you that buying the latest DVD etc in the shops cannot be improved on by shopping online – make sure you shop around to get the best deal going – there is no need to pay top dollar for any purchase – and as a student you will have plenty of free time to shop around and plan ahead for birthday and christmas presents.
15. Student Card – Use It!
Many retailers in University towns will offer discounts to students – your Student Union will probably issue you with a list of local traders – use them – save money.
16. Student Nights
Many clubs will offer student nights – usually in the week – when I went to Uni back in the early 90’s it was free entry and £1 a pint! Cheaper than drinking in the local pubs and clubs.
17. Don’t hang out with frivolous people!
“Keeping up with the Jones’s” when you are at University and it is fair to say that some students will have considerably more money than you – it’s difficult to keep up a champagne lifestyle on a tap-water income! Choose your friends wisely – you will probably spend the next 3 years trying to shake off the friends you make in the first 3 weeks anyway!
18. Buy One Get One Free!
Take your time in the supermarket – there are some great offers if you look. Learn to cook – there are loads of simple recipes online for students – here’s a site I just found – it can be fun to cook your own food – pre-packed meals are boring and if you cook too much save some for later or invite some friends over.
19. Avoid getting into trouble – get a TV License
If you live away from home you may need to ensure there is a TV licence in place. Visit the TV Licensing website to find out about your own particular circumstances.
Please share your own hints and tips by adding a comment below.
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Interesting article –
Check out this article over at moneywatch.co.uk – the most expensive and cheapest University towns
Great article – thanks – I am going to try and avoid using my credit card this year!
Great tips for students. You mention getting insurance — one other thing students can do is purchase laptop anti-theft and recovery software (such as Lojack for Laptops) for their laptops. Check out our website for more ways that students can protect their laptops at school:
I agree – if you share with non-students then the property will be liable to council tax and this is something you should try and avoid.