Money is a big issue for students – or, more precisely, a lack of it. If you don’t have the Bank of Mum and Dad to rely on (or sometimes even if you do), years at university may well be lived on a shoestring. So, if you’re about to head off to university for the first time, getting your finances ready for the experience – and planning how to cope with the cash pressures you’ll feel – is essential.
How to get your finances ready for university
It’s estimated that most students spend more than their student loan by around £150 each term. But with some careful choices you can ensure that your own spending is well managed:
Find the right bank. Different banks offer a variety of deals to students and some are better than others:
Look for an incentive to open an account with a specific bank, such as a free rail card or instant cashback. Opt for the incentives most likely to help you reduce your spending.
Make sure the bank has a good reputation for customer service on student accounts – spending hours on the phone trying to fix problems could be costly.
Is access to ATMs free with this bank and are there cash machines on campus?
Does the bank require a minimum amount of cash to be paid in each term?
How good is the savings interest rate?
Investigate overdrafts. Debt is a necessary part of life for most students but you don’t have to pay over the odds for it. Student overdrafts are typically interest-free but the size of the interest-free part of the overdraft can vary depending on the bank. Find the bank that offers the largest interest free overdraft with increases in years two and three. Just remember that, at the end of your university years, the interest-free element will go and everything will have to be repaid.
Get used to budgeting. Living life constantly at the edge of your finances is no fun at all at any stage in life. So, get used to budgeting the money that you have from the first day of the new term. Calculate your income and outgoings and see where adjustments will need to be made to keep you on track.
Get ready to feel rich (for about a day). Most student finance is paid on a three monthly basis so you’ll get a huge one off payment which might be more than you’ve had before. The most basic advice here is: don’t spend it. Instead, transfer the money into a separate account and work out your budget. Then transfer money across as and when you’ve calculated that you need it.
Avoid credit cards. Introductory deals on credit cards might seem to offer 0% on purchases – but there is always a time limit on this. If that time limit expires before you start working then your monthly repayments will significantly increase, eating further into your student finances.
There’s an app for that
Personal finance apps are plentiful and they can help you to better manage your budget, no matter how small.
Yolt. This app is free and will enable you to centralise your account information in one place. It provides smart spending insights and also helps to set and manage budgets.
Chip. Another free piece of tech, Chip is a smart app that will work out what you can afford to save and transfer it into your savings account automatically. So, you’ll be accumulating savings without even trying.
Latestdeals. Food and household products can be a big expense as a student – this app shows you where to find the best prices on the items you want to buy.
VoucherCode. From cinema tickets to nights out you can find deals to save cash on luxuries and experiences with this app.
Quick tips for student money saving tips
Use your NUS discount – most shops on the high street and online will give you a decent discount with it (e.g. 50% off Spotify, 10% off ASOS)
Stop smoking (or don’t start) – just five cigarettes a day will set you back £730 a year
Negotiate your rent – you don’t have to accept the monthly rental you’re offered and if you’re not staying the full 12 months then request a discount from the end of term time
Shop around to reduce energy costs – not all providers charge the same and you might be able to pay less by switching
Use sites such as Quidco to get cashback on everything you buy
Insure your phone – it will probably end up in the toilet after a night out or get stolen on campus and the cost of replacing phones is high
Don’t join a gym – use the free facilities at university or just take up running instead
Make sure you reclaim your tax – if you’ve been working and you’ve been taxed you should be able to reclaim this as long as you haven’t earned more than your personal allowance (£11,850).
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley