BOOKS, transport, and the odd pint – students need to factor all these and more into their weekly budgets. Emma O’Neill examines how they might make their money go further
When you’re a student, money is tight. For most, university means living away from home for the first time, and with that, more independence – and all the opportunities and risks that brings.
But with a 21 per cent increase in 17-24 year olds seeking debt advice, money is becoming a more important factor in people deciding whether or not to study at further education institutions.
Helen Saxton, senior writer at MoneySavingExpert.com, says that while students are often told about the importance of budgeting, no one ever tells students how to budget properly.
1. Count your income as your student loan, any grant, cash from parents and any work income, if you have a job. Don’t include your overdraft in your budget – leave that for emergencies.
2. When picking a student bank account, don’t get sucked in by freebies. Look for the account with the largest overdraft. The cost of a freebie will pale in comparison if your overdraft isn’t big enough and you find yourself paying over-the-limit charges.
3. If you find you are nearing your overdraft limit, speak to your bank. They may be able to raise it. And although you might end up paying interest on a higher limit, this will be nothing compared to the over-limit charges banks issue. MoneyAdviceService.org.uk is also a great site that gives impartial advice on saving money. They have some more tips for students.
4. If you can, don’t buy new textbooks. Your required reading list will probably recommend you buy the latest editions and they usually come in around £35 each. Chances are they were also written by your lecturer. The library will more than likely have the newest editions on their shelves. While you’ll probably be fighting for them with other students, if you’re organised early enough they should be pretty easy to loan out. Or, try online second-hand book stores to see if you can get a deal from previous students selling their things.
5. Don’t overspend on food shopping. Having the freedom to buy your own food for the first time may feel amazing at first, but if you’re not careful, you’ll spend the last week before your loan eating tins of baked beans. Never go shopping while hungry, and always write a list of what you need. It’s always best to pre-plan your meals before you go shopping to avoid food waste. Also, if you’re half-decent in the kitchen, it’s cheaper to make bulk meals and freeze the leftovers.
6. Think about travel costs. If you take a bus into university, look into what monthly or yearly passes you can get. It will work out cheaper in the long run. Also if your home is far away from university and you plan to use the train to travel back and forth for visits, consider getting a 16-25 rail pass. The current cost is £30 for one year, and it saves you 30 per cent of train journeys. It will pay for itself after a couple of trips.
7. Use coupons and vouchers. Many people feel put off by using a voucher or coupon while shopping in supermarkets or in resturants. But many offer good deals, and if you were going to buy it anyway, why not get a discount. Check your usual supermarket magazine or newsletter to see if they are offering discounts on products that you usually find in your shopping basket. Even a quick Google search may come up with some voucher codes for online shopping. Websites like Unidays.com will become your best friend when saving money shopping online.
8. If you’re living in private accommodation, shop around for utilites. While some student flats may have gas and electricity included in the rent price, many will come “inherited” from the previous tenants. Shopping around can get you a good deal, and can save you quite a bit through out the year.
9. Check if you’re exempt from Council Tax. If you’re only living with other students, your household won’t have to pay Council Tax. This can be a big help with freeing up money so if you do get a bill come in, then you can apply online for an exemption. Don’t just ignore it and assume you’re alright though, it’s worth getting it sorted so they’ll leave you alone for the year.
10. Get an NUS Extra card. An NUS Extra card lets you get discounts across a range of companies, from food and drink to retail and tech. It costs £12 for one year but can allow you to get up to 30 per cent off hundreds of brands, so you’ll likely make back the cost pretty quickly. Visit nus.org.uk/nus-extra to see the kind of things you can save money on.