Money, Money, Money…

You have probably have heard this a million times already but going away to University is a really big deal. Unfamiliar surroundings, a different style of learning, so many strange new people… On top of this students have to learn very quickly to be independent, and this means being in charge of their own budgets. Taking on this responsibility is a huge learning curve and it’s a vital life skill. Never fear, student finance loans for tuition and maintenance fees make it possible for anybody to go to university without worrying about how they will afford their education. Of course, this money will have to be repaid when you start your working career.

Budgeting is a word you will hear frequently when you first go to University, but it can be a difficult process. There is a huge range of expenses that you will be paying whilst studying – rent, utility bills, food, drink, travel, clothes… the list goes on. Student finance loans and grants are usually paid in instalments at the start of each semester. This means you will have a good 3 months to budget for. Budgets are personal for every student – some may tend to spend much more on food than others, whilst some may prefer to budget for an extra fancy gym membership. Therefore, it is important that you take the time yourself to think about how you might realistically want to spend your money over those 3 months. However, always make sure you have money for food and the roof over your head. That new pair of trainers you fell in love with in the shop can wait, but your grumbling stomach can’t! Excel spreadsheets are a great (and admittedly quite geeky!) way of calculating budgets and keeping on top of how much you have spent each week. The Internet is full of useful budgeting guides and most Universities will provide sessions on budgeting and will have advice available for those who need it.

If like me you wanted to be sure you never got caught short of money each month you could always take up a part-time job. Working up to a maximum of around 8 hours a week shouldn’t interfere with your studying, but provides you with peace of mind that you will have enough funds to cover all your essentials. I’ve had a range of part-time jobs that I’ve really enjoyed, such as working in a campus bar and tutoring A level students, easily fitting both jobs around my studies. In such a big city as Manchester there are hundreds of jobs out there ideal for students but most universities and students’ unions will have plenty of term-time jobs on offer.

Some things that I personally find useful to manage my money are:

  • Checking bank statements (very) regularly. This is especially important if you frequently use your debit card to pay for items. Don’t be afraid to check your balance! It won’t bite. But, if you keep up with it regularly and know where you stand each week you will have a much better chance at being able to keep on top of your finances.
  • Researching! Wherever you are handing over particularly larger amounts of money, make sure you have looked around. Apply this to any money you spend for optimum budgeting. Can you get a better deal somewhere else? Are you sure you really need this? Is there a cheaper or even a free alternative? Make sure you are in the know before you part with your cash.
  • Talking money with friends. Often the best ways to save money come from conversations with friends, or even something you overhear on a bus or train. Money is an important part of University life and you can help each other by sharing tips or personal experiences (good and bad!) that you have had whilst getting used to juggling your finances.

Hopefully this blog has given you some useful information and tips about money at University. Next month I will be writing about how to go about the all important decision of what and where to study, so be sure to look out for my next blog during early March.

The Complete University Guide website has a good section on budgeting, including some sample annual budgets for 2015 entry.

To find out more about student loans visit the further information section of the student finance website.