Top 5 bad money habits to break

It’s very easy to fall into bad habits. You may have the best of intentions, but if you’re having a bad day, or your friends suggest an impromptu night out or trip to the shops, you could make a spending mistake – or three – which can make you run out of cash earlier than you thought.

Here are our top 5 bad money habits – and practical ways in which you can break them.

Spending sprees

It is so tempting to go out – or log on – and spend your loan as soon as it hits your bank account. After all, you’ve probably been waiting weeks or even months to feel this solvent. However tempting it may be, try to avoid going on a spending spree as soon as you’re paid – it may feel great at the time, but this will soon wear off when you start to worry about how you’re going to afford rent or food.

The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead by making a budget and sticking to it – see our How to budget post, as well as Student calculator, which is a useful online tool.

Ignoring your money problems

If you’re running out of money – or completely overdrawn – it is tempting to try not to think about it and brush off any letters, emails or calls you receive, but this can only exacerbate the situation. Even if you know it’s going to be bad news, the longer you leave it, the worse it is likely to get (i.e. you may get hit with interest and charges – which can spiral out of control).

Take a deep breath and face your fears. Friends and family may be able to offer a helping hand with this. If you do not feel you are able to do this, or you think you need specialist support, see our Stressed about money post for further details.


Spending too much on ‘non-essentials’

There is usually two types of spending: ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’. ‘Essential’ costs are those you need in order to live (e.g. food, a home, utilities) and to study (e.g. books, computer equipment, internet/ phone, childcare (if relevant), and travel to university). ‘Desirable’ or ‘non-essential’ is everything else, such as socialising, clothes, subscriptions, downloads, coffees and lunches at university, etc.

It’s very easy to underestimate how much you spend on non-essentials – as many of these may be impulse buys – but these can soon add up. Checking your bank statements regularly can help identify your spending patterns. Can you remember what you spent your money on? (If not, see our post about the lure of contactless payments).

Ask yourself – do I need this? Can I get this any cheaper? It is alright to treat yourself, but make sure you include it within your budget.

For further ideas, see our Savvy shopping, Cooking vs takeaway, Make small changes to save money, and Minimising expenditure posts.


Bringing your car to university

For some students, a car is essential. But if you live near the University, and don’t have children to ferry about or placements to get to, you will save so much money by making do without. Not only are insurance and tax huge outlays, petrol and maintenance will continuously chip away at your money. Unless you really need it, leave it at home – and use the subsidized bus service, cycle or walk to university.

If you’re planning to go home, you can save money by buying your train/ coach ticket early. Using a 16-25 railcard or NUS TOTUM card can bring extra discounts.


Taking out too much credit

As a student, you might be offered opportunities to borrow money – known as credit. Although it’s advisable to try to live within your means whenever possible, sometimes credit will be very helpful i.e. an overdraft if you’re running out of your loan. Applying for credit can also help improve your ability to take out more credit in the future (which you may need for a graduate loan or mortgage). However, you need to remember that credit is not ‘free money’ – it always needs to be paid back – and if you splurge on credit, it can end up costing you a huge amount in interest and charges.

If you’re regularly relying on credit, ask yourself why you need it. Is it for essentials like rent or food, or for desirable spending such as socialising or clothes?

If it’s for essentials, can you look at increasing your income? If you’re using credit for non-essentials, can you take steps to cut back, make small changes to save money, and mend your spending habits?


It can be difficult to manage money, but is never too late to try and break bad money habits. Remember that you have the power to make changes to your life to improve your finances – this will boost your confidence, and allow you space to study and enjoy everything else that university has to offer.

Do you have any top money tips that work for you? Let us know and we’ll feature them on this blog.