James Walker: How to make the most of your cash at college

It's hard being a student in 2017. We're a long way from my university days where lectures and a lot of partying were the order of the day. Now students have to contend with high fees and worries about debt for decades to come. That can take the fun out of fresher's week.

Be wary of online sites which offer discounts for students.

If you’re just getting your head around student life, try a few of these money-saving tips so you can make the most of your cash.

◆ Don’t get tempted by flashy giveaways with bank accounts. Go for the biggest free overdraft you can find. And don’t spend up to the limit. Check to find out what happens when you graduate – the interest rates can change.

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◆ Use your student powers for free stuff. Get the NUS card and railcard – you’ll save a packet. There are loads of online sites offering discounts for students. But watch out for non-university affiliated Facebook groups. I’ve had loads of reports about fraudulent “free” deals on them.

◆ After living in overpriced (and pokey) student accommodation you’ll be itching to move into a house with your mates. But before you do, make sure you’re all listed on the contract and bills. You’re fully liable for the entire bill even if your friends move out and dodge the electricity bill – so make sure everyone coughs up each month. Go digital for the bills if you can to avoid letters with personal details going missing in communal hallways.

◆ Don’t pay money upfront for anything, from viewing properties to buying a guitar online. You’ve got no way of getting the cash back if there’s a dispute. Once you have an agreement, pay by debit or credit card if you can.

◆ Watch out for fraudulent emails. There are lots of increasingly convincing frauds doing the rounds. As a general rule, never respond to anything asking you to confirm your private details or bank account.

◆ Do a few safety checks – a working smoke alarm (or one with a battery actually in it) is really important. Boilers should be serviced once a year so check with your landlord that this is happening. A lot of student accommodation is rubbish so ask for a carbon monoxide detector, get some anti-mould spray and, if the house is damp, get a dehumidifier.

◆ Don’t overshare on social media. From Snapchat to Facebook, you’ll be building up your friends lists at university. But don’t give too many details away, like your date of birth, first school or any of the other things that could feasibly be used by banks or other organisations to identify you. Watch out for those rubbish mini-quizzes or “what kind of superhero would you be” things that do the rounds. In reality, they mine your data and sell it on.

◆ Don’t panic if you get into money difficulties. There’s loads of help out there. Check out the National Association of Student Money Advisers who provide free, confidential advice. The important thing is to admit it as soon as you need help and not panic and take out a payday loan that offers a short-term, high-interest way in too much deeper debt. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You won’t be the first student to get in to debt – and there are loads of solutions.

Worryingly, the majority of young people with a valid complaint don’t pursue it. If you get scammed, ripped-off or treated badly, from shops to student loans, Resolver can help you out.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk