Six top money-saving tips for students

save money at uni

First featured in The Times

You’re starting at university later this month. It’s an exciting time, but also daunting — with an array of hefty new costs and responsibilities ahead. Here are six top tips for money-saving and financial management.

1. Think carefully about your student bank account

Picking the right student bank account means avoiding expensive fees and interest rates in the future. It’s so important you don’t blindly stick with the bank you have (or the bank your parents are with) out of familiarity.

Don’t wait until you get to university to set up a bank account. As soon as you know where you’re going to university, let Student Finance know straight away. Thousands of students are all trying to get their student loans organised before term starts, so the sooner you do this the better chance you’ll have of getting it sorted. You don’t want to be in a situation where you have no money in Fresher’s Week.

Generally for students, you’re looking for a bank account with the biggest 0 per cent overdraft. Don’t get swayed by nice freebies while ignoring interest rates and fees. Santander will give you £1,500 for the first three years and a four year 16-24 Railcard.

2. You may be entitled to a bursary

You might not be entitled to anything, but it’s worth checking. Depending on your circumstances, there are a variety of student grants and bursaries you can apply for. What is particularly great about these bursaries, is that unlike loans, a lot of them don’t need to be paid back.

There are also scholarships and awards, which are handed out by universities and educational trusts. See the government advice on student finance to see what kind of loans and grants are out there. Also check out Scholarship Search to see which might be applicable to you.

3. Don’t buy all your textbooks

You’ll probably be sent a long reading list ready for the start of term and the cost of the textbooks on there will easily add up to hundreds of pounds. Don’t buy all the books immediately. Wait until you get to university to see which ones you will definitely need.

Brand new textbooks are usually £40/£50+ each and, chances are, you’ll probably never read it more than once. Head to the library as soon as you know which books you need, there will usually be reference copies of all set texts. Also, keep an eye out on notice boards around campus for second-hand copies from second and third year students who are hoping to make a bit of cash (you’ll be doing the same thing in a few years).

4. Work out your budget

You’re going to be pretty poor at univeristy and it’s really hard to start budgeting when you are skint. But it is so important you do, so you can avoid expensive loans and unnecessary debt once you leave. At first, your student loan may seem like an infinite amount of money, making it easy to splurge, especially when faced with the pricey temptations of freshers’ week. It’s going to be hard, but don’t be tempted to do this.

If you’re using student loans to pay for everything and have no other income, it means you’re going to have to make sure you stretch out your money over the entire year. Think about what income you currently have: savings, student loan, money from family, birthdays etc. Then consider your essential costs: rent, bills, food. Whatever you have left (which probably isn’t that much), you use on luxuries, like booze, socials and holidays.

5. Invest in a decent laptop, and back everything up

Your laptop is the most important thing you’ll own at university. You’ll need it for making notes, writing essays, Facebook, Plenty Of Fish and binge watching Game of Thrones — so it needs to be reliable. The last thing you want is for your computer to be super slow and quick to crash. There are a lot of laptop discounts out there, so don’t be afraid to negotiate – or at least get a freebie thrown in.

Its also worth picking up an external hard drive. You can get a 2TB one for £50, which you’ll be so grateful for when you accidentally tip your cuppa on your laptop the day before your coursework deadline.

6. Always ask if there’s a student discount

Getting a discount will never be as easy as it is now. Just flashing your student card gives you access to deals and vouchers which makes everyone else horribly jealous. ALWAYS ask for a student discount, even if you don’t see a sign offering it — if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Never pay full price for anything and really make the most of freebies. Check out Student Money Saver, which is a student specific money saving site. Remember that discounts don’t just mean 10 per cent off your trainers, but also big savings on bills, utilities and travel.