There’s no doubting that it’s a strange time for everyone at the moment. And for college students who were set to take their final exams before heading to university or undertaking an apprenticeship in September, your college years probably aren’t ending on the high you and your friends had expected.
While it may feel a little odd and isolating right now, it’s important – where possible – that you keep calm and carry on as normal when it comes to planning your next chapter. If you’re preparing to take the Further Education route, you’ll probably be thinking about budgeting and how to make every penny count.
Financial adviser, Louise Woollard, offers 10 top tips to think about when it comes to money, to make sure the start of your university journey is as financially savvy as possible...
- 1. Be sure to plan ahead
You’ve probably heard it a million times from your parents and teachers, but the ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’ mantra really is vital when it comes to planning for university.
There are some important questions to ask yourself before September arrives, such as ‘how much money will I be able to save before the term starts?’ and ‘will I be able to work over the summer to earn some more money?”
Ordinarily, the above would be much simpler to answer, but because of COVID-19, we’re having to approach things in new ways and look for techniques to overcome fresh hurdles. While summer work may be more sparse than usual, there are still many remote working and freelance positions available for students, so it’s worth investigating what’s out there before throwing in the towel.
- 2. Establish a budget
If you do one thing above all else, try to plan out how much you think you’ll be spending, so that you have some idea of what to expect.
The best way to do this is to create a four-step breakdown of monthly income, essential, non-essential and additional outgoings. From here, you’ll be able to accurately gauge what you’ll have in your bank each month.
Monthly income should include all loans, grants, bursaries, wages and gifts, while essential expenditure is up to you to decide. This will likely include rent, utility bills, internet usage, food shopping and insurance, but could also encompass other items such as travel or gym memberships – depending on your own personal interests.
When it comes to the non-essentials, again, this is completely dependent on your own preferences, but could cover nights out, takeaways, activities, haircuts and clothes. Finally, additional costs should factor in expenses for birthdays, holidays and Christmas – these are often overlooked, so make sure you give them some attention, to avoid being stung financially at the end of the month!
- 3. Think about the ‘small’ things
You’d be surprised at how few people truly know how much they spend each month. Almost everyone underestimates the real figure, and that’s because they don’t account for the ‘problem areas’ – aka the items you often buy without giving them a second thought.
From that daily coffee or lunchtime snack to contactless payment and cash withdrawals, these smaller purchases are often the difference to meeting – and sticking to – your budget goals.
As a result, these should all be factored into one of the four columns in your personalised budget plan.
- 4. Embrace banking technology
We don’t often leave the house without our smartphone, so why not make the most of them when helping you with budgeting?
There are lots of great banking apps on the market – such as ‘Monzo’ and ‘Revolut’ – which don’t only help you keep an eye on your funds, but you can set in-app budget goals and monthly saving prompts too. Helping you to take extra measures to keep your finances on track.
- 5. Take out contents insurance
Give that one in five students have been the victim of burglaries in halls and shared houses, it’s crucial you protect your possessions – e.g. clothes, tablet, phone and laptop – by taking out contents insurance.
You may even be able to claim on your parents’ home insurance policy – depending on the type – so it’s worth having a chat with them beforehand to see what action you need to take.
- 6. Consider part-time work
Where possible, having a temporary job is a great way to raise a bit of extra cash both before and during your university years. As well as the obvious financial advantages, it enables you to enhance your skills and give your CV a boost, for when you’re applying for future roles.
While popular job vacancy websites such as ‘Indeed’ are a good place to begin you search, be sure to check out the advertising boards on campus, as well as asking in local bars, cafes and shops.
- 7. Have a deep clean
If you’re looking for other ways to make a bit of extra cash, why not have a good old clear out?
Gather all those clothes you don’t wear anymore, plus any old toys, video games or unused gifts, and set up an account on an online marketplace such as ‘Depop’ or ‘ebay’. You can then sell your unwanted belongings – a quick and easy way to boost your bank account before uni.
- 8. Make the most of student discounts
While your student years are some of the most memorable, they’re also some of the most expensive, so where possible, take advantage of any discounts and concessions you’re entitled to.
The ‘TOTUM’ card – from the National Union of Students – is a money-saving option for undergraduates, featuring discounts across a range of fashion stores, fitness brands, restaurants, entertainment, travel, beauty products and supermarkets.
There are also lots of other money-saving options, such as the 16-25 rail card – which offers a third off all train fares within Great Britain – as well as websites such as ‘UNiDAYS’ and ‘Vouchercloud’, which offer further deductions at your favourite shops and restaurants.
- 9. Be organised at the supermarket
We all know that there’s nothing worse than heading to the supermarket when you’re hungry – you always buy things you don’t need – so bear this in mind when you’re heading out to do your weekly shop at university.
Thinking about meals you’re going to have in the week is a good way to help reduce the number of unhealthy impulse-buys, and also help you stick within your budget. It’s also worth thinking about making your own lunch, instead of buying on campus, as this will be cheaper and more cost-effective in the long term.
- 10. Compare the competition
Finally, when it comes to accommodation, if you’re renting and aren’t going into all-inclusive halls of residence, be sure to use comparison websites for your utility bills.
They aren’t just a great tool for car insurance and getting free cinema tickets, they allow you to evaluate the cheapest gas/electric rates, most beneficial offers and discount periods too. After all, no one wants to be spending all their money on bills, so be sure to choose a tariff that’s right for you.
If you have any questions about anything in this article, please contact Louise on Twitter, or via telephone (07734 035068).
Please note that clicking a link will open the external website in a new window or tab. Links from this website exist for information only and we accept no responsibility or liability for the information contained on any such sites. The existence of a link to another website does not imply or express endorsement of its provider, products or services by us or St. James's Place.