Whether you are starting university for the first time or continuing on your course this Autumn, there are several simple ways in which you can manage your finances more effectively– so you can focus on your studies and enjoy the opportunities university offers, rather than worrying about money!
Even if you struggled with money last year, it’s not too late to start afresh for the upcoming year – all it takes is a little time dedicated to planning ahead.
Here are our five ways to get ready financially for university:
Re/apply for your student finance
If you’re planning to start your studies or continue them in 2019/20, it’s worth applying to Student finance to check whether you are eligible to receive financial support towards tuition fees and living costs while you are studying. Student finance can take up to 8 weeks to assess (this time frame is likely to increase during the summer vacation) – if you have not done so already, make sure you apply as soon as possible so that you know what you are eligible to receive before you start university.
If you have applied and have not yet received a notification, check your online account or contact Student Finance to check they have all the necessary information – this should reduce any delays in being paid your funding. Don’t forget to confirm that you agree to the terms and conditions otherwise you won’t receive anything at all!
In addition, it usually takes between 3 to 5 working days for the first instalment to hit your bank account after you have enrolled so we recommend that you bring some money with you to cover the first few days.
Sort out your budget
This is the best way to manage your money while at university. A budget is where you compare your expected income with the spending that you’re likely to do – see our How do I budget … post for further details. If you’re continuing your studies this year, you may already know how much your rent and other essential spending is likely to be; if you’re new to University, see our How to spend a student loan – parts 1 and 2 posts for guidance. Online budgeting tools such as these from UCAS and Money Saving Expert can be useful here; also see our Apps to help you save money post.
Don’t panic if your budget doesn’t balance first time – see our posts on Increasing your income and reducing your expenditure for tips on how to improve it. Don’t forget to include some flexibility in your budget in case of unexpected costs – so that you won’t be thrown into too much disarray if an unplanned bill or an unexpected night out, etc. comes your way.
Learn to cook!
There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, but eating out or ordering in every day is one of the quickest ways to run out of cash. If you’ve not had to fend for yourself before – or you relied on takeaways last year – it’s not too late to try out some new recipes before term starts. For cheap, tasty meal ideas, see our Mend your spending habits post, as well as BBC Good Food and Cooking on a Bootstrap. Try My Supermarket to check up-to-date food deals, and Save the Student for a guide to thrifty supermarket shopping.
It’s amazing how much you can save by planning ahead – if you spend £20 per week on takeaways, this can total up to £700 per year (based on an academic year of 35 weeks)!
Cooking or preparing your meals will be healthier for your body, your bank balance, and may even help you make new friends too!
Get the most of your student bank account
Many banks offer accounts specifically aimed at students – these often include freebies like vouchers or discounts to encourage you to sign up, but best of all, there is often an interest-free overdraft to boot. Overdrafts are not ‘free’ money, but they can help buffer you between loan payments – always speak to your bank if you need an overdraft and only use it for essentials.
Most banks also have an app for your phone now too, so that you can easily keep track of how much you are spending. Make sure you log in every few days to check your account, and remember that sometimes it can take a few days for card transactions to show up, especially if you are using contactless. It may seem like a chore, but it is a good idea to check your bank statements too as this will show you where you may be over-spending.
Polish up your CV
Working part-time can make a huge difference to your finances – and can provide you with useful experience to improve your CV for the future too!
Where to find further help
We hope you find these ideas useful; if you have any budgeting tips that worked for you, let us know and we may feature them on our blog.