Being financially organised, no matter how much money you have, can make a big difference to the university experience and when you leave. And it's never too early... or too late to start.
You need to learn to budget. It’s simple but you’d be surprised how many students don’t do it.
Step 1. First figure out how much money you have to last you for the whole year. Your student loan, a part-time job and if you’re lucky enough to get some help from your family.
Step 2. Now make a list of all the things you’ll have to spend money on.
Step 3. Keep track of where you are with your budget. If you overspend deal with it as soon as you can to get back on track. If you underspend don’t be tempted to blow it - squirrel it away in a rainy day fund.
Rent - if you are staying in student accommodation, payments are usually required 3 times a year, to match your student loan - September, January and April. If you are sharing with friends in landlord accommodation you will have to pay your rent on a monthly basis. Don’t be the one who is always late or who has to be asked to pay their share. This is a sure fire way to cause friction in your friendships.
Utilities - until you move into a property, you won’t know how much your electricity and gas are going to cost. Take a look at the bills at home to familiarise yourself with charges. If you're sharing in a landlord based house or apartment, somebody in your house should take responsibility for the bills. Check out if you are getting the best deal and if you can change suppliers for the 12 months you are living in the house. The cost will depend on how many of you are sharing, how well insulated your place is and if you’re living with friends that keep the heat on all year round. Budget around £40 a month as a starting off point and review once the first bill is in. Make sure to give true readings and don't rely on estimates. This means you know what you are spending every month and avoids any nasty surprise when moving out.
If you are staying in student accommodation - your utilities are all included so you don’t have to worry.
Broadband - As with Utilities, your broadband will be included in student accommodation - be sure to check out speeds when you are making your decision.
When sharing a house or flat, this is another bill to factor into your account. Depending on if you roll this up with TV packages, the price can vary hugely. Factor in how many people are going to be in the house and choose a package that is going to provide you with enough speed and data to satisfy your streaming and browsing needs.
Food. Before you go to Uni, it’s really helpful to get a good fix on how much basics cost. For example, beware of special offers, while they can save you money, they can easily inflate your weekly shopping budget and contribute to food waste.
When you are comparing different brands and sizes get your brain thinking about quantities and price per lb, kg, litre or unit. You’ll be amazed at how something which looks like a great bargain really isn’t.
Have a few stock recipes up your sleeve and if you have room to freeze food then cook in batches - this saves you money and time. Remember, you can still be healthy and cheap. Avoid the ready meals and microwaveable chips which are usually full of salt, sugar and preservatives. Try to cook from scratch. Knowing how to make things like lentil soup, pasta and baked potatoes will mean that you’ll have plenty to eat and you’ll be more likely to stay healthy.
Pull your resources - think about creating a cooking rota with your flatmates. Be prepared for the different standards of cooking - from amazing to "erm tastes... interesting!"
Books. Textbooks can be expensive. Digital assets are great when you can use them. Rely where possible on the library. It’s also a great way to read around your subject and add depth to your knowledge. If you need a primary text book try and get it second hand at the bookshops around campus. You will save a fortune. Alternatively you might find a fellow classmate who will split books with you - make sure they’re organised tho' - you don’t want to be fighting over a text book the night before an essay is due!
Insurance. Add up the value of everything that you’ll be bringing to Uni, you’ll be surprised at how much it would cost you to replace it. You may be able to be covered on your parent/guardian’s home insurance. Student Accommodation providers usually roll in the insurance for your belongings if they are lost on premises. If you’re living outside of student accommodation, you should make sure you are covered.
Travel. Depending on where you stay and where campus is you might need to travel around. For our residents in Newcastle they seldom get public transport as we’re only a few minutes walk from city centre and Newcastle and Northumbria Unis. Check out your location and then decide if a travel card is worth the investment and how much to put aside in the budget for weekly travel.
Remember to account for traveling home or during the holidays. Buy in advance to get cheaper deals on the bus and train.
Going Out. Figure out how much you have to spend every week on socialising - and stick to it! If the budget is a bit tight here are a few tips:
Go out on student nights when bars and restaurants give special discounts or offers to students.
Join societies and find activities that are subsidised. This is a great way to pursue things you are interested in or try new things. Fancy rock climbing, canoeing, debating, hiking… there are loads of options and this is a cheap way to make new friends.
Have friends round to yours. Make a big pot of something and ask them all to bring something with them. Take turns.
Meet up at someone’s flat before going out for pre drinks. (the usual notices about drinking sensibly apply - probably even more so with home measures!)
Don’t forget your student vouchers.
Getting a Job
A large proportion of students get a job to help with finances and get a bit of experience of working. Keep in mind that you are in Uni first and foremost to get qualified and kick start your career. You need to find a balance between a job, getting your work done and making the most of your uni experiences.
Look for bar work, waitressing, office cleaning and retail. These types of jobs should be easy to come by.
You could also look for student rep and ambassador jobs. These will pay to different extents - in smaller roles it might be in vouchers. They usually don’t require too much effort and they look great on a CV.
Don’t forget your holidays. Using your holidays to make some extra money is a great way to take off some of the pressure for the following year and fund your summer. There are lots of alternatives, some pretty exciting like helping out in kids camps in the States.
As soon as you get a place in Uni start looking for a bank. It can take up to a month for some banks to go through the process of giving you an account so the sooner you start the better.
Compare between banks as the offers can change drastically. What are they offering? Travel cards, vouchers, insurance, good rates..?
Check if there are any branches near where you are going to be staying and that you can easily lodge and withdraw money.
Look at the overdraft offer. This can come in handy but always remember that it has to be paid back and you should avoid adding to your debt.
If you are given a credit card then always pay back every month. Credit cards are the easiest way to get in debt and interest on your borrowings are high. If you can avoid them do.
So that should help get you thinking and organised financially for Uni.