Managing your money as a student can feel like an overwhelming task, and for many of you this may be the first taste of financial independence after leaving home. But, don’t worry, we’ve got together a list of 7 simple things you can change to manage your money and spend a bit more wisely while you’re at university.
1. Work out a budget
A great way to start managing your money is working out an set weekly budget – even a rough idea of how much money you will have available each week will help you to avoid blowing through your money early.
The simplest way to do this is to make one list of all your monthly income (e.g. from loans, part-time work etc.) and another listing all the expenses you can think of.
Remember, the more accurate you can be when predicting expenses, the clearer the picture of your money situation will be – include everything from rent, bills and food, to things like books, library fees and laundry. Once you have both lists done, subtracting your total weekly or monthly expenses from your total income over the same period will give you an idea of how much is left over for entertainment.
2. Get the right bank account
Your choice of bank account is an important step to managing your money. Before you choose, work out what features are important to you – paying particular attention to monthly fees, overdraft charges and such. If you’re already set up with a UK bank account, remember that if you’re not happy with your current provider you can always look into switching accounts. The main things to look for in a student account are:
overdraft facility and fees: find out how much you can borrow and how much will it cost each month. Some charge a monthly fee for using an overdraft, whilst others will charge interest on the debt and some will even offer you an overdraft that is interest free while you are a student (although you will be charged interest later on when you graduate). Which works for you depends on how much you are likely to go overdrawn each month.
interest paid on balances: every penny counts, so look for an account that pays interest on your money when you are in credit.
access to your money: it’s a good idea to make sure you choose a bank with either a branch or a cashpoint near where you will be living. This way you will be able to withdraw funds without extra charges and have someone to speak to face-to-face if you need some money advice.
3. Spend your money wisely
It’s no good planning your finances if you then overspend once you get to university. Try to stick to the budgets you set out by shopping around for bargains and saving money on ‘essentials’ wherever you can. Consider:
buying second hand books: you can often find course texts for sale at knock down prices at the university union, online or through Facebook groups and pages like the Manchester Students’ Facebook group.
learning to cook: trust us, you will save a lot of money if you can cook yourself a few basic meals, rather than relying on ready meals and takeaways.
clubbing together to save money on food: if you live in shared accommodation, club together with your housemates when buying food or at the very least other shared household essentials like washing up liquid, toilet roll and cleaning products. Go for value brands and try cheaper supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl as well as shopping locally when you can.
4. Shop smart with student discounts
There are lots of great discounts available to students in shops, restaurants, transport, etc. and so by making the most of those you could make loads of savings a year. And, as most of our shopping has moved online these days, with your TOTUM card, and other sites like UNiDAYS and Student Beans, you’ll be able to get your online student discount at stores like Apple, Urban Outfitters and more.
Though not true for every retailer, most companies allow discounts to stack too. So If a store is running a 40% off sale, you may still be able to get 40% off your new clothes and an additional 10% student discount on top, leading to some serious savings.
5. Find part time work if you’re able to
Once you’ve worked out your budget, you’ll see if taking on part-time work is a good idea to make up some extra cash. We acknowledge that, in current circumstances, there are more obstacles in place for securing part-time work but there should still be plenty of opportunities opening up throughout the year so don’t feel disheartened if you don’t find something straight away.
We also don’t want you to neglect your studies – research shows that more than 20 hours of work a week can have a negative impact on academic performance. So if you’re aiming for a job during term time, try and find a good work and study balance.
6. Make savings at home
A few easy changes can help to keep your utility bills down – especially now the colder months are approaching. We’d recommend having a flat meeting or at least having a discussion with your housemates to all agree to make savings where you can, and use the tips below so that you’re all on the same page.
keep energy bills down: do full loads of washing every time to save money on energy bills or at the launderette. Wear extra layers of clothing instead of turning the heating on. Remember to turn off lights when you leave a room, and don’t leave laptops and mobiles on charge. Switch the charger off to save energy. Finally, only boil as much water as you need in a kettle.
avoid food waste: freeze food that’s close to its use=by date to save for another day, and if your vegetables are getting old make it into a homemade soup and freeze it in portions. If your freezer space allows, try to cook in batches and freeze. Love Food Hate Waste has resources to help you reduce food waste, including recipes and ideas for using up leftovers.
grocery shop smarter: Decide on a weekly meal plan, make a shopping list and stick to it. We’d recommend never to ho shopping when you’re hungry, and when you do go try to head down after 7pm or on Sunday afternoons to get bargains. Try to buy in bulk with your housemates, and stock up on store cupboard basics that have a long shelf life and don’t take up all the space in your shared fridge.
7. Keep track of your spending
You can use budgeting and money tracking apps, and check your bank balance online. Keep track of your spending patterns and don’t ignore if you are overspending. Make the change now rather than ignoring and letting things spiral out of control.
Always open your post. Deal with bills and statements straight away, don’t let them pile up and go unchecked. If you miss a regular direct debit payment, this can affect your credit rating. Contact your bank or the relevant company immediately.