Top tips for your finances

Starting university may be the first time you have been financially independent. The thought of having to juggle rent, bills and food costs can be a daunting prospect. But have no fear, there are a number of things you can do to keep yourself a float whilst studying, ensuring there is still enough to spend on enjoying yourself too! Choosing to live at home whilst at university is an attractive option to many, often meaning you get to avoid paying the market rent and buying your own food shopping. The compromise may come however from having to endure a lengthy commute to campus, so it’s worth working out what suits you best. For those that choose to move further afield and go it alone, it’s worth researching rent prices in the area where your preferred universities are. Rents can vary vastly across the UK, with the more expensive rates being located in the South East of England and often cheaper rates in the North. University halls tend to be more expensive than the local market rents, however keep in mind that the price often includes utility and internet bills.

Once you have settled on where you are going to live for university it’s a great idea to get thinking about budgeting. First it is important to make a note of your income during your studies; this can include student loans, grants and part-time jobs. Although getting a part-time job to help fund your living costs may be necessary, it is important to make sure paid work does not compromise your studies. I have worked a part-time job in a café throughout my degree but have always been clear with my manager that I could only take on 12 hours of work a week. Don’t be afraid to say which days or times are best for you when agreeing on your terms of employment. For instance, if your course has a lot of contact hours in the week, you may prefer to only work weekends. Manchester offers a huge variety of available part-time jobs, catering for the student population. If it suits, during the holidays you can always take on more hours to save for the next semester or to help fund your travel plans.

Now you have an idea of where your income will be coming from, make those funds go further by budgeting your living costs.  So, make a note of your monthly outgoings, this may include rent payments, utility bills, mobile and internet bills, travel costs, and food shopping. This will help you to identify where you may be able to make cut backs. For instance, perhaps the cost of buying a bus ticket every day is really stacking up? Buying a season ticket for transport can drastically cut down travel costs, in Manchester students qualify for a Stagecoach UniRider, meaning you can make big savings on your bus travel. Cycling to campus is another great way to cut down on your expenditure as well as being a great way to keep fit! In terms of food shopping, try to avoid small ‘metro’ versions of the supermarket chains as the choice is often limited to their more luxury brands. Most supermarkets have a basics range ideal for those trying to stick to a budget. For me, the best way to keep food costs down is to cook big meals in the evenings, making sure there is enough to take for lunch the next day. You can even freeze your leftovers, saving them for times when money is tight or for when you’re feeling lazy!

Keep all these tips in mind and you should manage just fine. If times do get tough though, The University of Manchester offers student money advice, bursaries and a hardship fund for struggling students. Plus the support available from the Students’ Union: so remember, there is support there if you need it!