One piece of money advice for a prospective student – part 1

    Going to university is exciting, but it can also be daunting – it may be the first time you’ve lived away from home, organising your studies around food shopping, doing laundry, paying bills, etc. But managing your money doesn’t have to be stressful.

If you’re heading to university this year, here are some tips on student finance and funding from some of our current students* to help you get it right. Part one – which looks at applying for funding, budgeting, and student bank accounts – is below.

Apply early for your funding

‘Access all possible funding before you start your course, but tread cautiously – don’t assume you’ll get the full amount’

Applications for funding for full-time Home/ UK students are now open – applying early ensures that your funding is ready when you enrol, and that you’ll also know how much you will get, which helps when budgeting. Even if you haven’t decided which course you’d like to study, you can still apply now. Don’t leave it until after the 24 May deadline (2019), as this may delay your funding being paid at the beginning of term.

Remember that 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. If you can bring some money with you, this will help you manage your costs for the first week or so.

Budget from the beginning

‘Receiving student finance for the first time looks very exciting but you need to consider that it has to last you for up to 3 months per term.’
‘Budgeting enables you to manage your money more effectively. Be aware of your income and expenditure.’

The main financial support is usually in the form of a Maintenance loan, which is paid in three instalments, once at the beginning of each term. It can be tempting to spend it all at once, but you need to consider that this is to help you pay for all your living costs while studying: rent, food, bills, course costs like books and printing, socialising, clothes, etc.

It’s always a good idea to consider early how you’ll cover these costs, and the best way to do this is to create a budget before you enrol – see our How do I budget, and why do I need one? and other related posts; online tools like UCAS and Which University and our Apps to help save you money post can help.

‘Don’t waste money on unnecessary things, such as designer clothes, expensive takeaways, and expensive food shopping. Always make sure you have enough money for things needed for uni and books.’

To find out more about typical student costs, see our How to spend a student loan (part 1) and (part 2).

‘I advise any prospective student to save as much money before starting uni to support life living independently.’

If you’ve not saved any money yet towards university, it’s not too late to make a start, especially if you plan to work over the summer.

Open a student account

‘Consider student bank accounts and free overdrafts – they usually need to be applied for right at the beginning so you can get the full three years help that they provide.’

Just before the start of the academic year, banks will advertise their special deals to entice you into setting up an account. Look past the freebies (although free four-year railcards are certainly a good deal) to the other options – many will offer an interest-free overdraft. It’s not free money, but it will help buffer you for the last few weeks of term when you’re rooting through the back of your cupboard for something to put on toast!

Check out websites such as Money Saving Expert and Save the Student for further details.

‘Have an account as a back-up for emergencies.’
‘Anything you have left put into savings and try not to spend it as you never know when you may need it.’

If you already have a bank account, consider keeping this either for savings/ emergencies, or to transfer money for ‘essentials’ like rent, bills, food, etc, if you think you’ll have difficulty prioritising this when your loan is paid.

For further ideas on managing your money at university, see our One piece of money advice – part 2 post for guidance on shopping, learning to cook, part-time work, and where to find further support.

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

*feedback collected from NSMW (National Student Money Week) surveys in 2018 and 2019