University was the first time that I was completely in charge of my own money. Having full control meant navigating the challenging world of overdrafts, paying bills, and savings. I didn’t have much guidance before I went and it felt like I’d been pushed into the unknown. Here’s the advice I wish I’d been given about money before heading off.
Set yourself a budget
Getting your money at the beginning of each term, whether from student finance or other means, is an exciting feeling. Even though it’s tempting to spend it all at once, it’s very important to remember that it has to last a while.
To make sure that my money stretches, I list everything that will come out of my account in a spreadsheet, e.g. rent, bills and nights out. This way I can clearly see what I need to pay for and when, and make sure I have enough money for what’s needed. I then use this information to set myself a budget, which I note down.
In my first year of uni, a friend told me about Starling and mobile banking. Since then I’ve used the app to help me manage my money and keep track. One example is the Pulse feature on the home screen that shows my daily spend in real-time and helps me stay within my daily limit. I can see, at a glance, how much of my daily budget I have left.
You may not be able to eat like a king or queen but that doesn’t mean that you have to live on baked beans.
I find that having a stockpile of staples, like pasta and rice, means that I end up spending less on food each week. Fresh produce i.e. eggs and milk, is the only food I have to buy on a regular basis.
Doing a bulk shop online also helps me to save on individual items of food. Deals like “3 pizzas for £4” are easier to find on a website than in a physical shop.
Take advantage of student discounts
Not many things are just handed to you in life, but when you’re a student, discounts are.
With websites like UNiDAYS and Student Beans you can get anywhere between 5% and 50% off of clothes, shoes, food, technology and more! You can access these discounts online or in-store. They can even be added on to sale items, helping you save even more money.
The savings don’t stop there. Getting an NUS extra card for £12 per year will give you access to all kinds of offers which you can use both in the UK and abroad, such as discounted gym memberships or insurance.
Save for unexpected costs
When my laptop broke at the end of my first year, I didn’t have the money to fix it and I wished I’d been saving from the get-go.
The Goals and Round Up features of the Starling app let you save on autopilot. By setting up a regular automatic payment to your Goal, your savings will build in the background. Let’s say you start a £3.50 weekly payment in January to a Goal called ’travelling’, by December you would have saved £182!
The Round Up feature will keep topping up the money in your Goal too. If you spend £5.20 on a train ticket, 80p will be added to your goal.
Talk about money
Occasionally going into your overdraft is OK, but living in it is not ideal. If you ever find yourself struggling to stay afloat, it’s important to seek advice. Advice can come from a university advice centre, online resources such as the Money Advice Service, or perhaps your parents.
It’s also worth checking if your university has any special measures for students struggling with money, such as a hardship fund, and whether or not you qualify for it.
Good friends won’t judge you if you can’t go out every Friday night - I know this from experience.