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Six ways to get money-ready for uni

While your student finance may be sorted, there are some other (quick) things you can do to help improve your finances before heading to uni for the time of your life...

Going to uni may well represent the first time you’ve ever been fully in control of your finances.

Scary stuff! But there are some quick and pretty painless jobs you can get done and dusted now, to hit the ground running when Freshers’ Week starts.

We’ve picked out six tasks we think you should add to your to-do list. Truth be told, none of these are particularly exciting, but they’re quick and pretty painless - and it’s always better to sort out stuff like this sooner rather than later!

1. Choose the best student account

If you already have a bank account and want to convert it into a student account, don’t just stick with your current bank. It’s well worth taking the time to look through the different options and making the right choice.

Navigating all the offers and varying overdraft limits can get anyone’s head in a spin. Luckily for you, we’ve done all the hard work for you.

In our annual university student survey in March-April 2018, we asked over 3,000 undergrads about how happy they were with their student bank account. We combined this with a score we awarded each bank on their overall package for new undergrads in 2018, to create a league table separating the best from the worst.

Find out the best student bank accounts for 2018 on the Which? Money site.

2. Set up text alerts from your bank

A brilliant way to keep on top of your spending is to let your bank do the hard work for you. By setting up text alerts from your bank, you’ll always know how much you have left to spend - and might mean you’ll think twice before buying just one more drink… Plus, it could come in handy if your card is stolen and used.

It’s a good idea to download your bank’s app too, to quickly view your balance and make transfers. Don’t do this if you’re connected to public wi-fi, though! To take it to the next level, you could also consider having a secondary app-only bank account, offered by Monzo or Starling. By doing this, you could transfer yourself a weekly budget from your main account, to make sure you don’t accidentally overspend.

Monzo and Starling send you notifications on your phone whenever you spend anything - another great way to keep on top of your spending. Neither offers a specific student bank account, so it’s worth looking elsewhere for the extras you can get…

Take a look at the Which? Money guide on challenger and mobile banks for more info.

3. Buy a railcard

If you’re 16-25 years-old, make sure you have a Young Persons railcard - especially if you’re going to uni away from your hometown. It costs £30 a year, and you save a third on train travel - you’ll make the money back in no time.

If you prefer to travel by coach, you can also buy National Express’ Young Persons Coachcard (available to anyone aged 16-26). It costs £12.50 a year (or £30 for three years), and saves you a third on all Standard and Fully Flexible fares - and 15% off travel to events and festivals.

Fancy discovering more of the UK while you’re at uni? Take a look at our city guides for fun things to do, local area tips and more.

4. Buy an NUS extra card

This gives you over 200 UK discounts, and doesn’t cost much:
  • One-year card £12
  • Two-year card £22
  • Three-year card £32
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    While your university’s student card will give you discounts when buying in a shop, many discounts are online-only - which you’ll need the NUS extra card for!

    Take a look at the NUS website for all the discounts that an NUS extra card opens up.

    5. Work out how much money you’ll need each month

    Figuring out how much money you’ll need before you’ve even started at uni may prove laborious and a little stressful, but it’s not impossible.

    It’s worth thinking about these things now, and coming up with a plan you can stick to, rather than only being able to afford toast for dinner for longer than you may like...

    To make this task more manageable, use our student budget calculator. It shows you the average costs of living at your UK university of choice, from rent and bills to food shopping and going out.

    You can then download your breakdown, to use as a guide when monitoring your spending.

    6. Make a checklist of top tasks for when you get to uni

    You probably won’t be able to sort out absolutely everything money-related sorted before you actually arrive at uni. For anything that springs to mind, write it down somewhere and then get it sorted as soon as possible after you arrive. We would emphasise, though, that if you can get something ticked off the to-do list before uni, future you will be very thankful to past you.

    You may want to get yourself a part-time student job for extra cash - plus, it looks good on your CV! To find one, your students’ union is a good place to start.

    Instead of packing essentials like washing powder and shampoo, it might also make more sense to buy that stuff once you get to uni. Find out more about the first move to uni with our article on what to pack.

    Next up... Freshers' survival: student banking tips

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