If you’re starting or returning to university in September, here are some tips on student budgeting to help you keep your costs down before, during and after your studies.
While coronavirus has caused disruption to those at university this spring and summer, September may see students return to universities across the UK.
Here are some things you can do to keep your costs down and make your cash go further while you’re studying and after you’ve graduated.
Getting ready for university
Apply for your student loan
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has a handy guide explaining how student finance works depending on where in the UK you’re from and where you’re looking to study.
Budget for your living costs
Setting and sticking to a budget makes sure you do not spend more than the money you have coming in – this is especially important if you need to survive off a single student loan instalment each term.
You may want to make use of this ultimate student budget planner, which helps you budget for all aspects of your student life. It helps you keep track of everything from personal spending, household costs, transport and nights out.
Saving money before you start university
Savings rates are not great right now, largely due to the Bank of England Base Rate being at record lows. However, it’s never a bad idea to put money aside, particularly to cover unexpected living costs.
A good way to do this is to open a savings account. Even putting a small amount away each month can make a difference further down the line.
While you’re studying
Getting a student bank account
Many large high street banks offer current accounts just for students. These accounts typically offer services like more generous overdrafts than standard current accounts, freebies and other perks.
Student discounts and perks
Many high street retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues offer discounts to students. Some only require you to prove you’re a student, by showing your National Union of Students (NUS) card.
Paying your bills
If you live in halls of residence, most bills are usually included in your rent. Some student houses will also include all bills in the rent you pay.
If you will live with others and have to pay your bills separately, work out exactly how you will split and pay the bills in advance to avoid falling out.
Broadband, phone and TV
Do not just look for the cheapest package you can find – find one that covers everything you need, whether that is all the sports channels, free minutes to phone home or a decent broadband download limit.
If you will only be in your student house for 9 months, look for deals that offer a shorter contract, in case they are cheaper than having to pay for an entire year.
Use this student broadband comparison to find the cheapest internet deal that suits what you need.
Unless it is included in your rent, you will have to pay for the gas, electricity and water you use.
As well as picking a cheap supplier for each, you can save money by limiting how much you use and submitting meter readings to make sure you are not paying for more than you are using.
For some tips on how you can save, read this guide to cutting your utility bills.
A standard TV Licence costs £157.50. You can pay in one go, or you can spread the cost over the year by Direct Debit. If you don’t need your licence for a full 12 months, you can apply for a refund.
If everyone in your house is a full-time student, you will not need to pay any council tax.
However, you will need to apply for exemption from council tax if you get sent a bill for it – you can do this on the GOV.UK website.
Working while you’re studying
If you study in the UK during term time, but you have a holiday job abroad, you’ll need to pay UK tax on everything you earn above your personal allowance.
You can find out more about how students who work part-time are taxed on the GOV.UK website.
If you’re a student with a low income, you may be eligible for extra financial support beyond any student finance and maintenance grants you may receive. For example, you may be able to apply for Income Support.
UCAS has detailed information on how to apply for DSAs and what kind of help these payments can provide.
Once you’ve graduated
Once you’ve completed your studies you may be looking to enter further study or to begin working.
Postgraduate student finance
You may be able to obtain a Masters’ loan from the government to cover the cost of postgraduate courses. The way you apply for this kind of loan will vary depending on where you normally live.
Selling your old course books
Some universities offer the ability to sell course books you’ve bought over the course of the year to other students who may be interested in buying them second hand.
The website Save The Student! has some handy tips on how to sell your used course books online.
Understand student loan repayments
The Money Advice Service, a government-run organisation that provides advice, guides and online tools to help you manage your personal finance, has a detailed guide on how loan repayments will work for you.
Get the right bank account for you
As mentioned earlier your student bank account will usually turn into a ‘graduate’ account once you finish your course.
It’s worth checking how your existing student account will treat any overdraft options you have, and how they change after you’ve finished studying. You can continue to use your student account after you graduate or get a new student account that offers a better overdraft.
Find out more about the Student Budgeting Guide at: www.money.co.uk/guides/student-budgeting-guide