It’s no secret that students are stringent with their pennies: whether it’s dining on pasta for six nights a week, or brand testing Tescos-Own, Sainsburys-Own and Morrisons-Own, money can’t be frittered away. Nearly all university students and graduates have their own horror story – the lowest they had to sink to stay afloat and in the black while studying – and it’s all part of the not-so-glamorous side of student living. However, surviving on tins of beans and frozen bread for three years isn’t necessary if you start preparing now.
Sort out your finances
If you’ve decided that university is for you, don’t hesitate to start looking at fees and rough costs now. While you’re eligible for a student loan, these only cover living expenses to a certain degree: it’s unusual for the maintenance loan to pay for everything you need! Think about rent, food, and bills – these are the basics that your loan is for, but on top of that, you’ll need money for course materials, days and nights out – and the odd shopping trip! You also want to be covered in case the worst happens – a lost phone or broken laptop – and not be surviving on week old leftovers just because you can’t afford this week’s food shop.
Once you have a rough idea of how much you’ll need per year, you can start creating a saving plan. If you don’t have an ISA account already, set one up. Shop around for the best interest rates, and use this as the base for your university piggy-bank.
Save, save, save
University might be a while off yet, but there’s no time like the present to get saving. The longer you can save up for, the less you have to put aside to reach your target amount. ISAs are great due to their high interest rates, and separating your savings from your spending money is the best way to ensure you won’t be splashing out now, instead of eating three meals a day at university.
When you can put aside more money, do it. As you won’t want to miss out on holidays and fun things before university, don’t be too over-ambitious when deciding how much money you’re going to put aside.
Acclimatise and adjust
Living as a student away from home is going to take getting used to. You’ll have bills and rent to pay, as well as having your own food to buy. In order to arrive at university and not be thrown in the deep end, it’s a good idea to start learning to budget now. When you go out shopping, think carefully about your future purchase – is it really necessary? Do you need it? And most importantly – can you afford it?
Do something about it
Saving and not spending aren’t the only ways to stay out of your overdraft. Find out if you’re eligible for grants or scholarships with the government or at your university, and apply to any and all of these if they are open to you. If this isn’t applicable to you, it’ll be time to start the job hunt. Working at university can be tough at times, but it’s a way to relieve your financial burdens, as well as teaching you a lot about time management.
Adjusting to life with more financial responsibilities is hard, but one of the best life lessons you’ll learn while away. Cheap but nutritious recipes will be the foundations of your life, and hunting for bargains in the sales will become a new hobby. Little things become treats: a takeaway or a taxi home, and you’ll soon get used to doubting yourself over every (unnecessary!) purchase.
Written by JC (Guest Blogger)