Going to university and getting your student loan may be the first time in your life that you’ve had your hands on a decent amount of cash, so over-spending is very easy to do.
If you’re clever about the way you use your money as a student, you can avoid some of the most devastating debt that plagues many graduates.
Before you begin your degree, find yourself the best student bank account. Look for the biggest interest-free overdraft available, but aim to stay away from the overdraft as much as you possibly can, as you will ultimately have to pay that money back.
If you do find yourself living in the red, be sure to at least stay within the overdraft limit. Once you step over the limit you’ll find yourself faced with huge fines and charges.
It’s always better to talk to the bank if you’re having trouble, and apply for an increased overdraft limit if necessary.
In moment that the loan (and grant, if you’re also receiving one) shows up in your bank account, the excitement can be a little overwhelming.
You may be tempted to spend it on a few big purchases you’ve had your eye on, or go on a spree for a new university wardrobe.
Try to resist the temptation; you’ll sorely regret it when the end of term rolls round and you’re completely skint and living off of supernoodles or taking out payday loans.
Instead, make a budget that covers the whole of your term and accounts for all your living expenses, and then work out how much you have spare, if any.
If you get to the end of a term and find you’ve got a little left over, that’s the moment to hit the shops. Or save it, if you’re especially wise!
Make sure you nab yourself an NUS Extra student discount card. These aren’t the normal free ones; they cost £12, but you’ll more than make it back in savings.
You’ll get between 10 and 20% off at a huge variety of high street shops, and even a discount at participating Co-Op supermarket on your food shop.
Apply for your card online on the NUS website and check out the list of discounts, so you know when to show your card and save. Be aware of places that offer deals even without the NUS Extra card too, like Yo Sushi and McDonalds.
Don’t forget the great transport discounts available to you: if you take trains or the London Underground regularly make sure you pick up your 16-25 Young Person’s Railcard to save a third on your travel, and always ask on buses and coaches if there’s a student rate available as there often is.
If you find that your student loan isn’t stretching far enough to cover all your expenses, or that you want a lifestyle upgrade that you can’t afford, consider taking on a part time job.
Most universities accept that students may have part time jobs alongside their studies, and you should have time for at least a few shifts per week.
Look around your Student Union to see what’s going, you’ll often find bar work available for students or ticket selling jobs in the student theatre. If term-time is a big too hectic to consider taking on extra work, look at getting shifts in your local pub or nearby cafes back home during the holidays.
If you’re still struggling despite a good budget, take a look at the grants and scholarships that might be available to you.
The Educational Grants Advisory Service has a website offering guidance to students looking for help funding their education, so take a look just in case one of the grants might apply to you.
Scholarship Search is also a useful tool; the categories for scholarship applicants can be very specific, but you never know where you might fit in, so it’s worth a look.