Student finance

Student money: 10 things to remember to budget for

By Rebecca Hughes (Digital content producer, Which? University) - 01 September 2014

Student budgeting, saving, finance

When it comes to students and money (or lack thereof...), it can be tough to make your funds last until the end of term. To help ensure budgeting becomes second nature, it's good to get prepared early - four in 10 first-years said they'd found managing money trickier than expected and a worrying 15% said they were struggling financially.

Get set for student money management with this top 10, covering what to remember to factor into your budget. Plus take a look at other advice on stretching your student loan and what to expect in your freshers' term.

1. Course materials

Starting university comes with a fair few upfront costs, including course materials. 45% of the first years we spoke to told us that they have spent more than expected on extras such as books and arts materials. Here are some of the ways you can save.
  • Many universities run second-hand book sales, giving you the opportunity to buy books from older students (and to sell them once you’ve finished with them!).
  • Which texts do you actually need to buy? Head to the library to see which ones you can borrow.
  • Discounts - you may be able to get cheaper deals on course materials by buying direct from your uni department, and don't forget to make the most of your NUS Extra discount card.

 

2. Transport

Whether it's a bus to lectures or travelling back home for the holidays, you'll need to factor in travel costs. To help, there are student travel cards out there to help you reduce the costs of getting around by as much as a third:
  • 16-25 Railcard - £28 a year for a third off rail fares.
  • 18+ Student Oyster Photocard - pay a £10 admin fee for 30% off London travelcard costs.
  • Young Persons Coachcard - £10 a year (plus £1.50 p&p) for a third off coach fares.
For added savings, plan ahead and book in advance if possible.


3. Food

It’s a myth that students live off baked beans – it is possible to eat normally and healthily whatever your budget. Here are a couple of pointers to get you started:
  • Prevent impulse buys in the supermarket by making a shopping list – and sticking to it.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze. This way nothing gets wasted, it works out a lot cheaper and you always have a back-up plan when the cupboards are bare!
  • Make packed lunches for cheaper meals on the go.
Check out the Which? guide to student food and cooking for more budget-friendly food tips. 


4. Entertainment

From freshers' week to club subs, student nights, gigs, fancy dress, sport or a quick catch-up with friends at the union - the cost of socialising can soon mount up. Try and allocate yourself so much a week during term time for 'entertainment'. Being sociable doesn't have to be expensive - think nights in with housemates, free events at your union or two-for-one cinema nights.

Sudent-specific discount websites such as NUS Extra, Student Beans and Urban Tribe offer deals on cheap days and nights out including theme park visits, cinema and theatre trips and eating out.

5. Utilities

If you’re in halls of residence, utilities such as gas, electricity and water are usually included as part of your rent - but that might not be the case if you're heading into private housing. Along with your rent, you'll need to put aside a certain amount each month to cover utility bills. Setting up regular payments is a good way of managing the outlay. 

If you're able to, see if you could save by moving to a different energy supplier or tariff. You can compare energy suppliers online (using a free service such as Which? Switch). Online deals are usually among the cheapest, plus you'll often get an extra discount if paying by direct debit. And of course, there are lots of steps you can take to use less energy in the first place.

This Which? guide reveals more ways you can cut your energy bill

6. Internet

This is another cost you'll often have covered in halls of residence, but will need to factor in if you're in private housing.

Don’t forget that there are often a few costs involved beyond the quoted broadband price – the cost of installing a phone line and monthly line rental, for instance. Again, compare deals online to check you're on a good value package.

7. Insurance

You might be surprised how much your belongings are actually worth - try totting up the cost of your laptop, smartphone, TV, clothes, specialist course equipment and so on. According to Endsleigh Insurance, the average student owns £1,981 worth of hi-tech gadgets.

You might be covered as part of your parents' home insurance policy - if not, student contents insurance packages start at around £10 a month.

8. Toiletries

You might not realise until you become a student how much things like toothpaste and shower gel cost! Set enough aside for the basics, making the most of special offers and value brands.

9. Clothes

It’s tempting once you get your loan to head straight to the shops but you'll regret blowing your clothes budget in the first week. Save money by:
  • Making the most of student discounts in shops (and online by checking out deals on sites such as MyUniDays).
  • Find extra discounts and money back by shopping online through cashback websites.
  • Consider clothes swapping – try online on websites such as BigWardrobe, or host your own clothes swapping party for a fun, cheap alternative to shopping!
     

10. Extra study expenses

Printing, photocopying, library fines (avoid these, if possible!). The little costs can add up  – here’s how to keep them to a minimum:
  • If you're taking a course where you're likely to be submitting lots of essays, it might be worth buying a printer (you can get a decent budget one for under £50) rather than using university facilities.
  • Print double-sided and in black and white.

What other tips do students themselves have on managing money?

Our student video reporter hit university campuses to find out...

 


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