Money Matters

Financial Guidance Blog | University of Northampton

Top 5 good money habits to start

Starting new habits doesn’t mean having to completely change your life. Although making adjustments to your usual behaviour can be scary, even taking small steps can help  improve your wellbeing – as well as your bank balance.

Here are our top 5 good money habits to start – adopting these will really help you improve your money management.

Start a budget

Working out a budget – and then sticking to it – is the best way of ensuring that you manage your money effectively while at university. Even though we are now several weeks into the Spring term, it’s not too late to create a budget

  • first, think about how much money you have (and any you’re due to be paid),
  • add up the ‘essential’ spending that you still need to make, such as rent, food, travel, etc, to the end of term and beyond,
  • if there is any money left, divide this total by the number of weeks until you’re due to receive your next payment to calculate what you have for ‘non-essential’ or ‘desirable’ spending (everything else).

Ideally, you should check your budget and update where necessary just before the beginning of every term, or anytime you might have a change in your income or essential spending (i.e. the summer vacation).

If you need a hand, check out our How to budget post, as well as UCAS and Which University which have  useful online tools.

Check your bank balance regularly

This is the easiest way to keep control of your money. If you check your balance regularly, you can see how much you’ve spent, where and when this was, as well as how much you have left. If you’re looking to cut back, it can help you identify regular spending patterns. Keeping an eye on everyday spending will prevent unpleasant surprises – like bank charges due to being overdrawn, or even unauthorised usage of your account (such as fraud).

Most of the large banks now have apps to help you with this – sometimes they will even give you money for checking your balance! If you prefer to bank completely online, there are plenty of new app-only banks available; see Money Saving Expert for further details.

Even if you opt out of receiving paper statements, most banks will let you download PDFs, which you’ll need if you’re looking at your spending patterns over the last few weeks or months – NB you’ll also need at least 3 months’ worth of these if you want to apply for Financial Assistance Fund or EU Hardship Fund!

Plan ahead

If you’ve set up a budget and check your bank balance regularly, this will make planning ahead much easier as you’ll be able to anticipate when and where you might have difficulty managing your money – before you run out.

Here are some ideas to try:
• If you have difficulty curbing your spending, set up a separate bank account. Keep your original account for your ‘essential’ costs (e.g. rent, food, bills, etc), and then transfer the rest to your new one for ‘desirable’ spending (everything else)
• Set up standing orders/ direct debits for your rent and bills so you don’t forget to pay them
• Speak to your bank about getting an interest-free overdraft before you need it – so that you can avoid unnecessary bank charges. If you don’t already have a student bank account, think about applying for one
• Apply for additional funding such as Financial Assistance Fund or EU Hardship Fund early before you run out of money (as assessment looks at your costs over the full year)

Learning to cook can save you at least £700 per year!

It’s true – if you spend £20 per week on takeaways, this totals £700 per year! (based on an academic year of 35 weeks)

While hopefully the occasional takeaway or night out won’t break the bank, regularly eating and drinking out (whether a 3 course meal, or grabbing sandwiches on the go everyday) can seriously drain your cash – so mastering a few recipes instead can really make a difference.

Although student cookbooks are available from all good real (or virtual) bookshops, there are plenty of recipe ideas online; check out Save the Student, BBC Good Food, and Cooking on a Bootstrap for cheap and tasty meals.

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

Increase your income

If your budget works, pat yourself on the back. Ideally though, you should have a small amount left over to put aside for a rainy day. If all of your money is accounted for, it’s a good idea to take steps to improve your income.

The best way of making money is to find a job – we promote part-time work all the time on this blog, but it’s an excellent way of improving your CV as well as your bank balance. Speak to Unitemps or other local agencies to see what’s available.

While you’re waiting for that first pay-check to come through, you might be able to make some money by selling your old stuff. If you have any clothes you don’t wear anymore, or unwanted games/ blu-rays/ books, it can be surprising how much money you can make. Check out sites such as Ebay, Vinted, Shpock, and Music magpie, which you can use to list your pre-owned goods locally, nationally, or internationally.

On average, it can take 21 days to embed a new habit; so be patient with yourself if you find it difficult. However, it is never too late to make a start to improve your finances. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll always be solvent if you follow the steps listed above, you will find it much easier to manage your money, allowing you time and space to enjoy your studies and university life.

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

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Victoria Bull • February 5, 2019


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