How to manage your money at University
For many of you starting at University, this will be the first time living away from home – which also means it might be the first time you’ve had to manage your own money.
Many students find managing their finances much trickier than expected so we’ve come up with some tips to help you relieve some of that stress and hopefully allow you to still have a social life while you study!
1. Work out what’s available to you
The first thing you’ll need to do is work out just how much you’ve got to play with each year/term/month.
For most students this will be in the form of a maintenance loan. This is means-tested, which means the amount you receive will depend on your household income. The maximum maintenance loan available for students who are living away from home (outside of London) is £8,200. It is usually paid in two installments so remember this when working out your budget!
You might have additional income from a part-time job or perhaps your parents are giving you a monthly allowance so make sure you add this into your overall income.
2. Work out your essential expenditure
Of course there will be plenty of things that crop up that you can’t plan for but if you can work out your known expenditure for the year, this will help to work out how much disposable income you have left over for everything else i.e all the fun stuff!
Your biggest expenditure is likely to be accommodation – if you’re living on campus, your accommodation costs include things such as electricity, heating and Wi-Fi, but remember you’ll probably need to allow extra for this if you are living off campus in private accommodation.
You’ll need to cover course materials – you’ll usually be sent a reading list - see point 5 below for help to cut down costs here - and your course tutor should make you aware of any additional costs such as field trips etc. well in advance.
You’ll obviously need to pay for things such as groceries, transport, entertainment etc. but we’ve included separate tips on these below.
3. Keep track of your spending
After you’ve worked out your budget then you’ll need to stick to it – the best way of keeping track of this is to open up a student bank account which will give you online access so you can instantly see what is going in and out of your account. Some banks offer incentives when opening up a new account so make sure you shop around to get the best deal.
It may also help to use a spreadsheet, or even better an app, so you can keep track of your finances on the go.
4. Learn to cook
It may be tempting to live on takeaways or ready meals but this is definitely not sustainable on student budget - and your waistline will not appreciate it either!
Learning how to cook a selection of simple, nutritious meals can go a long way to stretching your budget out. You’ll find plenty of easy and budget-friendly recipes online.
Why not club together with your flatmates, split the budget and take it in turns to cook for each other – this can be a fun way to make friends and buying ingredients in bulk can be a cost-effective way of shopping at the supermarket.
5. Don’t buy new
Although it’s nice to have new things, it isn’t necessarily the cheapest option. Just think how many students have studied the same course before you, why not see if any of them are selling their old books?
Wrexham Glyndwr operates a book exchange to make the buying and selling process much easier – you could pick up your required reading material at a fraction of the price!
6. Search out all the freebies and discounts
Discounts and voucher codes do not mean you’re a cheapskate – being savvy about your spending while you’re a student will set you on a good path for life. Check out website such as moneysavingexpert.com and hotdealsuk.com for all the latest bargains.
As a current student, it’s also worth investing in an NUS card – it’ll cost you around £12 a year, but will give you access to some fantastic discounts so it’ll pay for itself in no time.
7. Set yourself a limit
If you’re going to stick to your budget for the whole year, you’ll need to be pretty strict with yourself. It’s all too easy to blow your budget all in one go – particularly early on in the term when your student loan first gets paid – but you don’t want to be living on baked beans and toasts for the next few months.
Set yourself an upper limit of how much you’re going to spend on going out – and don’t go over it! If you’re budget is £30 for a night out, take it out with you in cash and leave your card at home so you aren’t tempted to stop at the nearest cash machine for a little extra.
8. Don’t give in to peer pressure
If you really can’t afford to go out for the fourth time this week, then don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re out with a group of friends, and they are all flashing the cash, don’t feel like you have to do the same.
Your friends might be enjoying living in the moment, but they are also the ones likely to regret it a few months down the line when all their cash has gone and they can’t afford to go out at all.
Big nights out are par for the course and all part of the fun of university life, but not at the expense of your annual budget!