Penny pinching at university – helping your fresher with money management

In the short lifespan of this blog one topic that has come up frequently is money! Long gone are the days of grants or even reasonable tuition fees, so the subject of being clever with your student loan at age 18 is a hot topic in 2015.

student finance money tips
Learning how to budget – another crucial student skill probably requiring a little parental help initially…

There are some very helpful websites out there to help with the more fundamental questions of tution fee loans and maintenance loans – notably Ucas Money advice for parents   which includes a National Union of Students finance breakdown . I would add that their concluded total seems rather high to me, but perhaps they base their calculations on the whole year, not just the academic year. In our (entirely subjective) case, the financial arrangements with our student children stopped in June/July when they moved back in at home and if they wanted to go on holidays with friends etc they had to work to pay for those themselves.

The main challenge for our new students is the same as it ever was: there is a big chunk of money in their account at the beginning of the Autumn term , there are lots of tempting fresher parties for which tickets are being sold and fancy dress costumes called for. As any 2nd year student will tell you: the first term is the longest term financially – be careful to start with:

  • Get a student discount card and the NUS card as soon as you can
  • If they haven’t got a (16 – 25) rail card yet – get one now. The initial outlay will be saved after just a few journeys.
  • Try and get them to plan rail journeys ahead. Book the Christmas journey home early –  you know you’ll want to travel home and it will be so much cheaper than that old student favourite: the day before the end of term!
  • Get them to check out Studentbeans.com for extra discounts!
  • Get them to think about getting a job, if you think they can balance both work loads. Without wishing to incur the wrath of humanities’ students’ parents, if your child’s contact time at uni is 10 hours per week or less then they might be able to fill some of the remaining time in that week with a part-time job, rather than lengthy lie-ins (I speak from experience). Your medicine, engineering or architecture student with many more lectures in the week may struggle to find the hours.
  • student job
    Get a job, they said to Edwina. ‘It’ll be fun’…

    There are jobs available on campus, most university towns have a multitude of cafes requiring waiters and .Tutoring pays better per hour than most other student jobs.

  • Get them to work with the new economy: if your daughter buys clothes from Asos because they don’t charge for returns, then she can re-sell them on Depop  which I have been told is much ‘less faffy than ebay’ and works mainly over their phones.
  • Other tips to save student money:
    • Get them used to drinking skimmed milk rather than semi-skimmed before they go to university – no one will steal their skimmed milk from the communal fridge !
    • When things get really tight at the end of term: avoid the kebab on the way home – stagger home and have a bowl of cereal instead!
    • I hate to make this recommendation but as far as money goes this makes sense: drink before you go out – much cheaper than overpriced drinks in nightclubs
    • Also suggest that they only take cash (no cards) when they go on nights out to avoid overt generosity when getting in the rounds or trying to impress the opposite sex.
    • You may have to point out to your middle-class child that there are supermarket own-label food products which cost less. They will learn to love Aldi and Lidl, too!
    • Early library bird gets the worm...
      Early library bird gets the worm…

      Books can be a huge expense for students: tell them to get organised early on, most books are available from the library (yes, the ‘information and learning centres’ or whatever your uni calls theirs do actually still house books, too) – but their number is limited – be quick! Try and buy second hand from recent graduates or older yeargroups.

    • Girls – swap those clothes! Somehow wearing an outfit only once has crept into the instagram generation – a habit which is a bit too expensive for your average student, so get creative with your housemates’ ensembles. Please ask if you can borrow first!!!

On a practical note, as part of the fresher-preparations your child will set up a student banking account. We set up an instant access savings account at the same time in which the maintenance (loan) payment was paid, and then set up a standing order for a monthly sum into their current student account – budgeting a monthly sum is much easier than a big lump which needs to last for 3-4 months. Online banking can be very helpful here although it requires a certain amount of maturity – another huge aspect of becoming a student! We live in hope 🙂

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