By now most young people have found out which universities they have been accepted into, and now comes the hard part – budgeting for themselves! From now on, they will have to organise their own finances and make their grant, student loan or salary last them for their term time; not an easy task if you have never had to budget before. But with some forward planning, and advice about organising spending, from how to get the best deals, to buying the most economical items, it is not as difficult as first anticipated. The first thing that is required is that the right bank account should be chosen and then a budget can be set.
Research the right bank account
Getting a good bank account will be essential as some will have great offers, but you should be looking for a student account that gives you an interest free overdraft. Once you have this, you can see what extras they have. Remember that the overdraft is not ‘spending’ money and the bank can ask you to pay it back at any time, so don’t rely on it. Also choose a student bank account that gives you access to online banking, and get into the habit of checking your account often, so that you know exactly what you have in there at any one time. You can also sign up to text alerts if you are heading overdrawn.
What is your budget?
You should know by now how much your student loan is going to be, or how much roughly your salary each week from a part time job, etc will bring in. So write down what you have coming in each week, and take off what you estimate you’ll need for food, rent, expenses and see what you have left for socialising etc
Sign up for discounts
Many stores offer student discounts and will display an NUS sign in their shop window, but it is always worth asking if you do not spot one. Take advantage of your university’s free software such as Star Office or Open Office, rather than paying over the odds for Microsoft, as these are typically cheaper and some are free, but give you exactly the same options. If you have a smartphone, download apps that show you discounts when you are out and about either shopping, or for a night out.
Learn to cook
Eating a ready meal every day is not only expensive, it is not very good for you. Why not get into the habit of asking round a group of friends, class mates and cooking up something cheap every two days in the week? Spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie, a vegetable curry cost a few pounds to make but if everyone either chips in, or if the next person makes the meal, you can have a nutritious dinner and make new friends at the same time. Plus your culinary life skills will be coming on a notch or two!
Buy second hand
This does not only go for clothes, as most students know, you can get some fabulous items of clothing from charity stores, but you can also save money on costly text books by buying second-hand from previous students and why not even sell your own on at the end of the year? Look on the notice board at your university, or on second hand sites such as PreLoved.com.
If you are lucky to own a laptop, iPhone, smartphone, or any other expensive item, make sure you take out contents insurance whilst you are at university. You might not relish paying out for this expense, but calculate the cost of replacing every single item if they were stolen or lost. And if you are driving to college or university in your own car, insure it in your own name. Never try to save money by insuring your car with your parent or relative listed as the main driver, this is illegal and known as ‘fronting’ to the police and could invalidate your insurance.