So, you’ve just started your university journey and are away from home for the first time which also means perhaps for some, looking after yourself for the first time too! For me, when I started university, I was older than the average student so had already gained some life skills away from home and was never too dependent on my parents. But for some, it can be a massive step to really fending for yourself for the first time and that’s where I can help. Saying that though, when it came to money I was never very good at controlling my budgets and when I entered university it was a massive shock (queue monkey covering eyes emoji here…). Yes, you do get a student loan but spending it all in the first few weeks is definitely not what you want to do, especially in the first term when it is the longest of the three in the academic year. I made this simple mistake and I had to call the bank of Dad to help me out. Needless to say, by the time I had finished university I was more in control of my money and I had learnt a very good life lesson.
So here I have some great tips on how to avoid a situation like mine in the first term at university!
Managing your money is the most important thing you can learn whilst being at university, apart from actually gaining your degree of course! If you can’t learn to manage your money it will lead to all sorts of complications, such as not having enough to feed yourself to fuel your brain for those all important deadlines and exams to not being money conscious when you leave university. Plus, if you don’t budget your money, how will you ever know how much you have left over for socialising or shopping with?
Organise a budget for yourself. My best tip would be to work out what you have left to spend at the end of each week (after rent and bills) and then separate that into categories such as: food, going out, clothes etc. then take that amount and leave your card in your room in a safe and secure place. I find this helps because it stops you from spending little bits here and there when you have your card on you 24/7, as each little bit really does add up!
Get a student account. Most banks offer student accounts with some perks for signing up also. They offer interest free overdrafts (which trust me, do come in handy in emergencies) and I even got a free four year rail card too! It’s worth it because the little costs of these also add up.
Saving whilst spending is every students’ dream! As a student you get discount in most retail shops and even restaurants and trust me when I say, take advantage of this. When you head out into the adult world after university and can’t take advantage of the discount anymore it makes you realise just how much it was worth having. It may not seem like a massive saving at the time but adding up student discount over your three or four year course will make you realise just how much you saved on all your shopping and eating out.
HOWEVER discount is great but if you have to ask yourself the question ‘should I REALLY be buying this?!’ then stop right there. The answer is NO. You probably shouldn’t. If the item you want is just too expensive, look for a cheaper alternative. Once I got into the swing of money saving at university my friends were forever asking me ‘where did you get that from?’ and ‘hey! I paid so much more for the SAME item!’
Apps and websites can really help to also make you money. Get rid of those unwanted clothes on apps or websites such as eBay, Vinted, Depop and Gumtree. You can also make money from shopping with Top CashBack and Quidco. Sign up, read the terms and conditions and get started. As the saying always goes ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and you will be surprised at how much stuff you can get rid of to make some extra cash.
Another tip I will add is for students to make their own budget spreadsheets and write down everything they spend using the categories’ technique explained above. This way you can keep on top of your spending weekly, monthly, annually and review it like I did every month. You can then see where you could cut back on your spending and save it for something else or simply just pop it in a savings account for a rainy day or for travelling after university, the choices are endless if you can become a money conscious student!