It’s now just a matter of weeks before 500,000+ students head off to university for the first time. And while there’s the prospect of learning, new friends, activities and adventures, the nightmare of debt, tuition fees and running out of cash also looms large for many. This year, tuition fees are rising to £9,250 at most UK universities. Rents are higher than they have ever been and we’re all feeling the pinch from post-Brexit price rises. So, if you’re a new student or one heading back to university in October 2017 how do you win at your finances without winning the lottery first?
Make the most of the money that you have
Money might be tight but there are ways that you can make it go further.
Learn how to budget. According to research by Leeds Beckett University around 20% of students arrive at university worried about how to manage their finances. Budgeting is the foundation of making the most of the money you’ve got and staying in control. What is coming in, what has to go out (and when) and how can you reduce one, or increase the other, to create more wiggle room?
Find discounts. A huge number of stores offer a student discount now, from retailers like Topshop, through to cinema and food chains. These are always worth researching and using, particularly when it comes to paying for the non-essentials like a night out or dinner with friends.
Be savvy about savings. If you’ve got £20 to last you until the end of the week then the smart choices are those that give you more for £20. Apps and websites come in very useful here, whether you’re working out where the cheapest place is to get your weekly shop with an app like Latestdeals or finding vouchers for discounts on travel or entertainment on Wowcher.
Drink less. Despite discounted prices, booze remains a significant expense for party-loving students. You’ll do your bank account – and your liver – a favour if you cut down what you’re imbibing at least a couple of days a week.
Healthy food does come cheap. The best sources of nutrients and minerals are vegetables, beans and grains – and these are always much cheaper to buy than ready meals or meat feasts. Learn how to cook a few basic dishes that will fill you up without draining your bank balance. Soup, pasta bake, vegetable curry and frittata are some of the easiest and cheapest options that are healthy too.
Get an overdraft. Everyone needs a financial safety net – student overdrafts are easy to arrange and come in very useful. Most high street banks will offer a student overdraft of up to £3,000 interest-free. Unarranged overdrafts are much more expensive, so plan ahead instead.
Finding extra cash so that you don’t get into unmanageable debt
According to research by Save the Student, 66% of students don’t think that maintenance loans are big enough. So, for many, the only option appears to be to keep borrowing various loans and credit cards. However, there is another choice – additional income. Most student timetables leave at least some room for part-time work, and there are other options to, which can significantly reduce the pressure on your finances.
Bars, restaurants and coffee shops – for casual shift work that is social and fun, and for which you don’t need any qualifications, a bar or coffee shop is ideal. You won’t make your millions but should end up with enough to supplement what you have without borrowing more.
Office work – depending on your course you might be able to get part-time work in an office. For example, solicitors firms often take on students during the summer and roles such as secretaries, PAs, admin assistants and cold callers are all an option on a part-time basis. Office roles tend to pay more but you’ll need to be able to commit to regular office hours.
Gig work – if you need a flexible income then working in the gig economy might be more appealing. Cycling for Deliveroo, selling your writing skills online or driving for Uber are just a few of the options.
Corporate sponsorship – if you’re keen to work for a particular business when you graduate and you’re doing the right degree then you might be able to get sponsored by them. This could mean financial help with course materials and living costs.
Bursaries and grants – there aren’t many of these around these days but if you’re on the right course (e.g. a teacher or a nurse) make sure you’ve explored all the options to get a grant or bursary to help with the cost of student life.
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam