How to spend a student loan (part 2)

Our How to spend a student loan- part 1 post looked at typical costs of rent and utility bills; in ‘part 2’ we’ll now consider course costs, mobile phones/ broadband, and travel.

Course-related costs

Course costs can vary greatly, depending on the type of course you’re studying; for example, if you’re enrolling on a Fashion or Fine Art course, you’re likely to spend more on additional materials than if you were studying a course such as Business or History. Students usually need to budget for books, stationery, printer consumables, photocopying, and field trips. You may also need to allow for placement costs like travel (depending on your course, you might be able to claim these costs back). Allocate money at the beginning of each semester for core texts, but remember that you don’t need to buy the full reading list – check out the library for a variety of books in physical and e-copy formats. Look out for any second-hand texts for sale, as well as student discounts on paper, ink, etc, which are frequently available. Course costs can range from £300-£600+ per year, so this can soon add up – consider setting aside £10-12 per week towards these.

Mobile phone/ broadband/ TV licence

Having online access is essential for your studies; although broadband is included in Halls rent, this is unlikely to be the case if you’re living in a shared house. Before you sign up with the first deal that you see, take time to research what’s available and think about what you (and your housemates) can afford. You also don’t need to buy the most up-to-date smartphone – especially if this means that you’ll be living on toast all year! Save the Student and Money Saving Expert have comparison guides which can help.

Don’t forget that if you watch live TV or BBC iPlayer, you will need to buy a TV Licence too – it could be a costly mistake if you get caught out without one.


One of the easiest ways to save money is to leave the car at home if you can, as petrol, insurance, tax, and maintenance costs will soon add up. Also ask yourself – do you really need the car? If you live locally, you can take a bus to university instead (with student ID, this is often either free or at reduced prices – 50p – £1 single journey approx), cycle or walk. If you live outside Northampton and are planning to commute, remember that the cost of your train and/or bus tickets might be high (even with possible discounts) as you may need to travel at peak times to get to morning classes; it might therefore be cheaper to rent a room nearer campus than making several long return trips to university each week – as well as potentially saving money, you’ll have more time for studying and socialising too.

Health costs

Being a student will not guarantee that you’ll get free prescriptions, eye tests or dental check-ups, but you can apply for help towards these if you have a low income; further information is available from NHS.

Don’t forget the extras!

If you don’t take account of all of your spending, your budget won’t work. Be honest – you need to include socialising, clothing, footwear, haircuts, birthday/ Christmas presents for family and friends, fitness classes/ clubs, coffees and lunches at university, etc.

And finally…

Look again at your budget when you arrive at university and be prepared to change it where necessary. If you can’t balance your budget, consider ways of cutting down on your spending and/ or increasing your income; we hope you find our blogposts Minimising expenditure and  How to increase your income helpful here.

Please remember to bring some money with you to cover the first week or so, because you won’t receive any of your student finance until after you enrol; the first instalment of funding is usually paid 3 – 5 working days after your enrolment is confirmed on the first day of term.

For further guidance on money management, see How do I budget, and why do I need one? and our other posts; online tools like UCAS and Which University budget calculators can help. If you’d like help putting your budget together, please get in touch.

If you have any budgeting tips, let us know and we’ll feature the best ones on the blog!