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Top 10 ways to manage your money

Money is often a concern for students. This Guardian article features second years discussing  how they spent their money during their first year – most agree that taking steps to manage your finances is key!

By not leaving your finances to chance, you then can spend more time enjoying your studies and your life at university without worrying about your bank balance.

Here are our top 10 ways to manage your money to get you started:

1. Make a budget and stick to it!!!

It’s not the most fun of tasks we know, but being realistic and forward planning is what is going to keep your finances in order throughout your time at Northampton. Plus getting into good habits now will really help you in the future. There are plenty of good online tools or apps that can help you (like the UCAS and Which University budget calculators), and see our How do I budget . . ? post for guidance.

2. Have a ‘Unexpected’ category

Even the most careful planners can forget something and unexpected costs can appear at any time, so it’s always good to put something aside for miscellaneous items or surprises. That way you won’t be thrown into too much disarray if an unplanned bill or an unexpected night out, etc. comes your way.

3. Sign up for online banking

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 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.

4. Plan your meals

Before you go shopping, plan ahead for what you will be eating for the week and then ONLY buy what you need for these meals. This is a great way to curb over-spending; it’s much easier to throw a treat in your basket if you are going to the shop every day or you’re hungry. Try My Supermarket to see which supermarkets have deals on what you are looking for, and Save the Student for supermarket shopping tips.
If you need recipe ideas, see our Mend your Spending habits post for cheap, tasty meals.

5. Share

Talk with your house or flatmates about sharing cooking responsibilities; it’s a great way to save money and to learn about new dishes. Could you set up a kitty for essentials like toilet roll, washing up liquid, etc.? It will save you money and help avoid flatmate drama!

6. Don’t forget student discounts

There are loads of places that offer student discounts – don’t be afraid to ask! Get yourself an NUS TOTUM Card for extra discounts – 10% here and there can really cut down costs in the long run. It’s also worth checking out cashback and voucher websites to see if you can save further.

7. Remember that small changes count

Do you really need that £3 coffee every morning? Bring in your own hot drink instead. Choosing a £3.50 lunch deal while you’re on the run is quick and easy, but if you buy one of these every day, the cost will soon add up – can you get up slightly earlier than usual to make a packed lunch? Even if you make small changes, over a year the savings can be well in the hundreds. Have a look at our Make small changes to save money post for guidance to see whether you can make any small, pain-free savings – these can make a bigger difference than you think.

8. Compare and switch

There are loads of money saving websites out there that give excellent advice on comparing and switching your utility providers, broadband, mobiles, credit cards and much more. Our favourites are Uswitch and MoneySuperMarket – don’t sign up for that expensive phone or broadband deal until you’re checked out what’s available for cheaper!

9. Avoid payday loans

They may appear to offer a quick fix to short-term money problems but the truth is not so rosy. The interest rates are usually sky-high and this can mean you end up paying back far more than you needed to borrow – which can only cause more financial problems down the line including a negative impact on your credit score. Applying for a student bank account with free overdraft facility is a much better option – see our Good and Bad Credit post for further details.

10. Ask for help

If you can see your finances not starting to add up, please come and ask for some help. It can be scary to admit that things aren’t going well, but it’s so much easier to deal with the problem sooner rather than later – when it may become a crisis. Further support is available from the Financial Guidance team, based at the Learning Hub, Waterside Campus.