Heading off to university is both nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. For most, it’s the first big step into independence and the ‘big bad world’. There are a lot of stereotypes attached to the life of a student, but with a little bit of planning, it doesn’t need to be a life of packet noodles and microwavable meals. Here are our top tips for managing your money as a student and getting the most out of your university experience with as little difficulty as possible.
Student accounts are just like regular bank accounts, but come with incentives or freebies, as well as offering an interest free overdraft that is unique to this kind of account. When looking at the right one for you, it’s useful to look at the offering from each bank. Whilst free gifts are great, they don’t beat a generous 0% interest overdraft, so make sure the right bank for you has a good balance.
Once you’re all set up, it’s so important to remember that this isn’t free money. Using your overdraft is a good way of working on your credit score (you can read our blog on what affects your credit score), but the key thing to remember is that this isn’t free money. Whatever is borrowed will have to be repaid, and the interest free offer is only applicable whilst you’re at university. Three or four years may seem like an eternity, but you would be surprised how quickly it comes round.
If you have been granted a student maintenance loan, it will be split into almost equal amounts and deposited into your account in three installments, at the start of every semester (this differs in Scotland, where student loans are paid monthly). The arrival of your first installment can feel like you’ve won the lottery! Just bear in mind it is there to support your living expenses whilst you’re at university; it can really help with rent and bills.
It’s worth making a note of the date that each installment is due to be paid to, how much you will be receiving, and all of the necessary outgoings that you will be paying in between each ‘student loan day’. You can then see how much you have left to play with for the fun stuff. It’s a great habit to get into and one that’ll really pay off throughout your adult life too.
As you will know from the student loan application process, the amount received varies from person to person, depending on personal circumstances. Although the maintenance loan is there to support you, you may find when looking at your budget, that you don’t have quite enough to cover everything you want to do. Don’t panic, this is pretty normal.
Once you’ve settled into university life and have gotten to grips with balancing your lecture schedule and your social life, have a look into whether a part-time job could be beneficial for you. It might not be your go-to solution, but it’s more common than you would think. Restaurants, bars and shops are always looking for staff during term time and they can generally be quite flexible with your schedule. It’s a great way of building up a bit of a cash buffer to cover anything that your student loan doesn’t.
Being a student has a whole host of perks to take advantage of. Whether you’re shopping for bits and pieces to make your new bedroom feel like home, a new laptop for those all important lecture notes, or if you want to organise a takeaway night with your flat mates, there are discounts specifically for students everywhere. There are even handy sites such as StudentBeans that group them all together to make it even easier for you.
That's our round up of top money management tips for students! If you're heading to university this year or you're a recent graduate, let us know your top tips over on twitter.