Top student budgeting tips

Heading off to uni? Worried about how you'll afford the nights out and the course books? Follow Clare Walsh's top budgeting tips which will help you avoid a financial hangover...

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Young people around the country have now found out which university they’re going to. There’s a lot to organise – but possibly the most important of these is your finances. There’s no need to worry though – all it takes is a little forward planning!

Set a budget

You’re likely to receive a lump sum from your student loan so work out realistically what you’re going to need on a weekly basis for essentials such as rent and food. You then know how much disposable income you’ve got left for activities and the all-important socialising.

Get the right bank account Choosing the right student bank account is essential. Just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of being swayed by freebies.

The most important thing to look out for is an interest-free overdraft. Many banks offer this on a tiered basis, so as you progress each year you’ll get a higher limit. Just remember – your overdraft isn’t free money. Every penny will have to be paid back so try to only use it as a back-up.

Online banking is a great way to keep tabs on what you’re spending. Many banks also offer text alerts, allowing you to forward plan and know exactly where you’re up to.

Sign up for discounts

Take advantage of student discounts by using your free NUS card. For even more exclusive deals and savings, an NUS extra card costs £12. MoneySupermarket also has a vouchers and deals channel where you can get a range of discounts on everything from restaurants to gadgets to high street deals.

Also, make sure you don’t pay over the odds on software for your computer! Look for student versions of software such as Microsoft Office, as you will get a discount for being in education. If you are trying to save even more money, try looking online for ‘open source’ software like Open Office or Star Office. This will either be significantly cheaper, or even cost you nothing!

Prioritise

Prioritising what you want to use your money for by planning ahead can really help. For example, if you are out at lectures all day, make your own sandwiches and bring a flask of tea rather than buying them. Learn to cook rather than just eating out – there are numerous student cook books out there with great ideas for cheap eats.

You may also be able to save money on costly text books by buying second-hand from previous students and even selling your own on at the end of the year.

Insurance

If you’re taking a laptop, iPhone, tablet or any other expensive items to university, you’ll need to take out contents insurance to make sure they’re protected. While this is another expense that you won’t fancy forking out for, it will protect your possessions against theft or damage – and could end up being the best money you’ve ever spent.

Many insurance policies will set a single item upper value limit, so if you have particularly valuable items you may need to extend your cover or get a specialist policy.

If you’re taking your car to university, make sure it’s insured in your name. Don’t try to save money by insuring your car with your parent or relative listed as the main driver – this is a practice known as ‘fronting’ and could invalidate your cover and even land you in trouble with the police.

Remember, your university is also likely to have student support should you need financial help or advice, so don’t bury your head in the sand – just ask for help.

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