It’s no secret that going to university is expensive. Aside from the enormous loan taken out to cover tuition, you still need a way to pay for accommodation, food, travel,academic supplies and, if you’re lucky, the occasional social event.
It doesn’t matter what course you’re studying, one of the biggest lessons you’re going to learn over the course of your degree will be how to stay afloat financially. You’ll need motivation, discipline and honesty with yourself if you’re going to survive.
If money is already a concerning issue for you, here are some of the best ways to stay in control of your wallet and have something left to spend at the weekend.
- Track your money
Knowing what you’re spending is essential for staying in control. Avoid simply handing over your card to pay for things without a second thought (no matter how liberating it feels), unless you’re happy to be completely skint without having any idea why.
Setting a budget might sound like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. You can find a number of free apps that will help you with budgets and repayments – check out a list here. There are also current accounts with built-in saving assistants, like Monzo, which will help you set budgets for different spending categories and stick to them.
- Don’t forget about the maintenance loan
The vast majority of students will apply for (and receive) a loan to cover the costs of their university tuition. However, don’t forget that you can also take out a maintenance loan under the same terms to help you with rent. If you were planning to live at home (or are in your second or third year and previously lived at home), it might have slipped your mind to apply.
Maintenance loans can also be means tested, so if you come from a low-income household,you may be eligible for extra loans or even additional grants (which you don’t have to pay back).
Just don’t forget that this loan is usually only enough to cover your rent each term – not your nights out, online shopping habits or grocery deliveries. If you’re finding that your university accommodation costs more than your loan provides you, keep in mind that you might be able to find cheaper housing opportunities in town by going through an estate agent or private landlord.
- Support yourself with a job
Earning an income on the side of your studies is going to be crucial for staying afloat – even if you only make enough to cover transport costs or the occasional nights out. Unfortunately, the majority of jobs available to students will only pay minimum wage (or something very close to it). However, you might be able to find employment that offers other perks,such as:
- Flexible hours (particularly giving you more/fewer hours around holidays)
- Being able to work at different locations during term time and holidays
- Indulge a hobby or passion that you have
- Reward you with discounts on clothes, food or entertainment
- Give you time to study during quiet periods
- Earn you substantial tips or commission
- Meeting new people in your town
If you have a particular skill set or qualification, you maybe able to earn better money by exploiting it. Are you an accomplished musician, or do you speak another language? Becoming a tutor is an excellent way to charge a higher hourly rate.
- Be extremely cautious about taking non-student loans
If you do find yourself financially in the red, avoid taking out more loans to try and balance your books. If you just want to be able to afford something nice, this is even more important. Student loans offer a reasonable deal and a safe repayment plan, but you’re not going to find the same generosity elsewhere.
The fast loans you see advertised everywhere can end up being very expensive and you will always end up paying more money than you borrow. Signing up for something like a guarantor loan might be slightly safer(read more about them here), but is still not ideal. Before reaching for a third-party, try and think of other ways in which you could raise the money,like talking to friends and family members, asking for extra hours at work or talking to your Student Union for advice.
- Shop around for your student bank account (with overdraft)
Like your loan, the overdraft available to you as a student will probably be one of the best deals you will have over the course of your life. They’re usually free up to a reasonably high limit, and repayment typically won’t be required until a year or so after you graduate (or longer,for some banks).
Go into multiple high-street banks and talk to an adviser about the student loan account deals they provide. On top of 0% interest and delayed repayment, some accounts come with free student railcards, phone insurance and other financial incentives… just make sure to do the maths before signing up (is £20 of free music really better than a £200 switching bonus?). This article has some more tips about finding a good deal.