Going to university is an exciting time in anyone's life but flying the nest can also be scary. It’s often the first time in your life you have to organise yourself to get up and attend your lectures on time, do your own grocery shopping and manage your own finances. If you splash the cash too much, you could be eating beans on toast for the rest of the year. So, to help you take away some of the stress of leaving home, here are some handy tips for taking control of your finances.
Draw up a budget
Managing money when you’re at university is no easy task. A recent study found that 44%1 of students struggle to pay their rent and 78%2 worry about making ends meet. If you want to enjoy your university experience without feeling stressed about whether you can afford to pay your rent and bills, take control of your finances early by creating a budget. First, add up all your income, including maintenance loans, bursaries, money from your parents and any money from a summer job. Then, list your monthly outgoings, such as rent and bills and your social fund, and estimate how much you spend on average for food groceries and miscellaneous purchases and add them to your list. This will give you a clear picture of your financial situation and can help you see where you could cut down.
1: Save the student, July 2018 - https://www.savethestudent.org/accommodation/national-student-accommodation-survey-2018.htm
2: Save the student, July 2018 - https://www.savethestudent.org/money/student-money-survey-2018.html
Live with other people
Renting in the UK doesn’t come cheap. Research reveals that the average monthly rent in the UK is £1,0033 for a 1-bed property. However, choosing to live in a 5-bed property could be cheaper. Since the average monthly asking rent is £4,1573 you could be paying around £831.40 a month if you were living with 4 other people, meaning you would save approximately £171.60 a month. Sharing accommodation can also help you cut back on bills coming with a flat fee, like broadband internet. So, unless you enjoy being alone, living with other people could be a good way to combine cheaper living costs with greater fun, provided you get along with them and have similar standards of cleanliness.
3: https://www.zoopla.co.uk/market/uk/ - prices correct as of August 2018
Keep your course expenses to a minimum
UK students spend on average £204 a month on books - this is £200 over the year! If you want to cut down your course expenses, avoid buying new shiny books and have a look at the campus’ library. Chances are that most of the books on your reading list can be found there and as long as you return them on time, you should be saving some cash. If some books aren’t in your library, check your uni noticeboards as they’re always full of books being sold or buy them second-hand online or in charity shops. You could also join your university Facebook page and see if previous students are selling theirs – don’t forget to haggle to get them at a cheaper price.
4: Save the student, July 2018 - https://www.savethestudent.org/shopping/how-to-save-money-on-student-text-books.html
Walk or cycle to class
If you happen to live near your campus, you could choose to walk. Not only is it good for the environment and your health, it’ll also help you save some cash. If you study in one of Central London universities, you could expect to save on average £905 a month by walking or cycling. However, if you’re living too far from university or you can’t face the rain, use public transport. As a student, you should be able to benefit from reduced price tickets across all forms of transport. For example, if you’re taking the underground or train, you can buy an 18+ student oyster card or a 16-25 railcard giving you 1/3 off fares.
5: Times Higher Education, Dec 2017 - https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/cost-studying-university-uk
Make your own food
After rent, food weigh a lot on students’ finances. UK students spend on average £1086 on food per month, equating to an astonishing £1,080 for the year. Don’t let sandwiches from your university cafeteria tempt you. Buying ready-made meals might make your life easier, but it’s typically more expensive than making your own food. So, create a menu for each week, list the foods you need and stick to it when you go grocery shopping. It might be worth buying supermarkets’ own brands as they tend to be cheaper and taste doesn’t differ that much from other products. Also, if you live with other people, make one big meal and share – that way you’re not cooking every night and you can all share the washing up too.
6: Save the student, July 2018 - https://www.savethestudent.org/money/student-money-survey-2018.html
Do your research
When it comes to utility bills (water, gas, and energy), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the offers knocking at your door. But don’t choose the first you hear about and do your research. Spend some time online looking for energy providers and remember to check comparison websites, like uSwitch and Money Supermarket, which will give you a handy list with the cheapest companies to go with. Before making any move, you might want to check with your landlord that they’re happy with you switching.
Take advantage of student discounts
Being a student comes with its perks. With your NUS card, you can benefit from many discounts in supermarkets, clothing shops, restaurants, cinemas, and apps - so, don’t forget to pick up your card and make sure you replace it if you ever lose it. You could also buy a NUS extra which can bring you an extra 2007 discounts, even when you’re abroad. Also, have a look online, there are some websites, like Student Beans, offering discount codes to help you shop for less.
Have fun for less
Going out is part and parcel of university life, but it can burn a hole in your pocket very quickly if you’re not careful enough. A typical night for British students costs around £308, including club entry, drinks, and transport. But saving money isn’t rocket science. Get to know the days where your favourite clubs have free entries and student nights, check for happy hours, take cash out and leave your card at home so you’re less tempted to spend. Also, don’t just go clubbing, stay home and invite some friends over to watch Netflix or play video games.
8: Times Higher Education, Dec 2017 - https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/cost-studying-university-uk
Start putting money aside
Saving money is a habit worth developing when you’re at university. Not only is it important to have money aside for emergencies, but it can also help you bring short-term projects to life, such as summer holidays with your uni friends. So, try to put as much as you can in your savings account – it doesn’t have to be huge amounts, you can always choose to save small sums regularly. Also, if you want to save money, consider living at home where you can build your rainy-day fund. It’ll set you in good stead for when you graduate and get your first job. Then, if you already have an emergency fund, you might be in a position to start investing.
Please remember the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you could get back less than invested.
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The comments and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and should not be taken as financial advice from Wealthify.