November 27, 2023
5 min read
Cress Warnell

Our top student finance tip is this: Take control of your money before it takes control of you. 

Being in control means thinking about planning and budgeting. It means being sure of the difference between essentials and luxuries (and everyone needs a few of those in their life). It means not being afraid of money and certainly not hiding from the hard questions.

Learn to become a confident money manager as a student. Now you've got a life-skill that will serve you well - for life!

How do you get that confidence? Let's get started on our student finance tips.

Become the boss of your budget

When you budget you know what money is coming in and what money is going out. You know when and where it will happen, and you know what you're spending on.

With a solid budget and a sharp eye on your spending, there should be no nasty surprises.

There are loads of apps to help you budget. But maybe all you need first is a pencil and paper. Write down all the money you expect to receive, and when it will come in. Include:

  • Student loans and grants
  • Your own savings
  • Cash from family

Add it up and the total probably looks excitingly massive.

Let's bring that total down. Make a list of all the stuff you'll need to spend it on, like:

  • Rent and bills
  • Books and course material
  • Computer and phone
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Transport
  • Socialising

Once you've added up this lot, there's a big dent in the cash left over.

Budgeting isn't something you do once. Check in with your budget regularly - at least once a month - and compare it with what's really happening to your money. This helps you stay in control.

Know the real cost of what you buy

Got less in the bank than you expected? Not sure where it's going? You'll be surprised at what's nibbling away at your cash day after day.

The big expenses, like rent, are easy to plan for. The problem costs are the little things, the few pounds here and there. Coffee. Apps. Takeaways. When you add up how much you've spent in a term on that daily latte you'll be shocked at the number.

A good habit is to make a note of every payment you make to be sure it's in your budget. It might be 'just a few pounds' on this and that, but those few will quickly add up. Have a line in your budget for 'unplanned extras' or something like that. Know what your limit is and stick to it.

An excellent tip for controlling the cost of living as a student is to discover discounts. There are so many discounts around, on everything from absolute basic foods through to high-end computers. You don't have to do all the hard work of finding them. There are websites and apps that make it easier by listing discounts and offers.

Take care not to fall for offers that give the impression of being a discount, but aren't. Clever wording can catch you out. These are easier to avoid when you have a firm understanding of what you're spending and how much stuff usually costs. That way you can spot a genuine bargain and snap it up.

Master the money management tools on offer

The two big money management tools you'll be offered as a student are a bank overdraft and a credit card.

It's essential you know the difference, and you know how to use them.

Student Bank Overdraft

An overdraft is a loan. The bank is lending you money which you must repay. Banks usually charge interest on loans, and maybe other fees, but because you're a student you can have it for free.

There's a limit to how much you can borrow. At some time after leaving education you'll start to be charged for the overdraft.

Having an overdraft can be handy if you find yourself short of money. If you need to use it, have a plan for repaying. If you keep borrowing, you could be creating a debt that takes a long time to repay.

Student Credit Card

A credit card is a loan. You borrow some money and once a month you can pay some, or all, back. If you pay in full there's no charge for interest. This means it can be a useful way to manage your money.

But if you don't pay some back, you get charged interest. It's a high rate of interest compared to other ways of borrowing, such as an overdraft. If you use a credit card, our tip is to pay in full each month. If you can't do that, make it a priority to pay it off as soon as you can.

Learn to cook for yourself

Saving money on food doesn't mean eating less. You do it by learning how to cook simple meals with ingredients bought from supermarkets. There are excellent discounts to be had if you learn when and where to shop. Here are some tips:

  • Buy in bulk where you can - this can mean sharing with other students.
  • Buy less expensive brands and see if you notice the difference.
  • Learn when your local supermarket discounts its short-dated stock.
  • You may find fruit and veg cheaper at a local greengrocer.
  • Avoid impulse buys - have a plan and stick to it.

Making your own meals isn't just cheaper than takeaways. Making soups and baking are relatively easy. Use lots of fresh fruit and veg, along with other basic ingredients, and cooking for yourself is often healthier. You might discover that you love cooking - loads of people do. Share your own tips and ideas on TikTok and you might develop a following of fans!

Find ways to boost your finances

Careful budgeting isn't the only way to make your money go further at university. You can also find ways to generate more cash.

One way is to get a part-time job. Loads of students work in bars, restaurants or for other businesses that need flexible workers. Just take care that the work doesn't interfere with your studies. It may also interfere with your social life, but that's for you to work out.

Another way to earn money is to offer a service through a freelance service website. These match people with skills against people looking to buy those skills. Services include video editing, graphic design, coding, writing and many more. The income is often quite low, but it gives valuable experience. If you're very good with a niche skill it could become quite lucrative.

Alternatively, you can sell clothes and books second-hand. Online markets make this easy.

More student finance tips

Here's more advice on how to make the most of your money as a student:

  • Buy second-hand clothes, books and furniture.
  • Get haircuts from trainees, a local college or even friends.
  • Use loyalty cards that offer savings.
  • Make packed lunches.
  • Save electricity by not leaving devices on charge all the time.
  • Discover warm places to work, like a library.

Become a confident manager of your money

The most important tip is not to let your money manage you. If you feel overwhelmed by your finances or worried about getting into debt, get help. Take advantage of your university student support services. Whatever your concern, they will have helped others with the same issue. 

Cress Warnell

Cress is a skilled copywriter who transforms ideas into captivating content. With a passion for words and a keen eye for detail, she crafts compelling copy for Summer Schools, helping students explore their options in education.

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