Reluctantly sliding on into my third year of my university course this September, I thought it wise to share some of my experiences with managing money as a student who has been living in halls for one year and privately rented accommodation for the other. Some of us are lucky in that our parents moonlight as an infinite supply of money, but for those who don’t have that luxury we have to manage our money like responsible adults. Bummer, I know.
Not managing our money properly can lead to terrible decisions that have to be made; Do you buy the food for the week or the cheap beer that’s only on offer today? Do you pay your rent or go out every night in a week? As you’re a student, and because you’re reading this article, you’ve obviously gone weeks without eating and been behind on your rent. On a serious note, this can not only effect your health, well being and state of mind, but also result in you becoming homeless or having legal action taken against you. Not what you want at any point during your university life.
In my experience, living in halls on your campus or private halls elsewhere is the easy option. Payments are, usually, in tune with student loan payments and bills and utility payments are usually included in the price. Your first year is usually one crazy year and one you’ll want to cram lots into. For this you need money. Halls is definitely the way to go here.
A few simple things you can do though, to make the most of your first year and prepare for the second. Firstly, if you do receive a student loan and maintenance grants, put them into a high interest savings account. This will hopefully provide you with a few extra quid through interest. Most student accounts require you to use that current account as your main account, and they do check. So have the funds sent to that account and then transfer them to your high interest savings account. Secondly, set aside a certain amount that you will transfer from your current account to a savings account. This is the easy part, but leaving that fund alone will be the hard part. Usually, opening an e-ISA or other savings account is usually free, requiring an initial £1 deposit but this may vary. Basically, it’s easy so there’s no excuse.
When it comes to your second year at university, you’re probably going to move into privately rented accommodation with your mates. That was my decision, anyway. When you do, do your research. What is the normal weekly cost in your area? What length are the tenancies? Will you get a summer concession during the summer months when you’re probably not even going to be living in the house? There are a few things to consider that your SU can probably help you with. Moving into a house, or flat, is a more complicated experience. Firstly, try and go through websites such as Unipol which will hopefully keep the nasty, evil landlords from your computer screen. See the properties. Ask them about the things listed above. And most of all, ask how you’ll be paying. Some like to be paid monthly, or in instalments. Work out when the money will leave your account, and when any money will be entering it from loans or jobs etc. You don’t want to fall behind on payments; although many landlords are quite forgiving, some are not and missing a single payment, even by a day, can be a breach of contract which can lead to eviction.
A top tip for living privately is to plan how much you have to spend over each period between rent payments. Don’t spend more than you have. It’s not worth the hassle.
Other things you can do to help include getting the best phone contract you can, so downgrading to a cheaper tariff, only turning the heating on in your house for a few hours a day. Those sorts of things go a long way. Not getting Sky, Virgin Media or BT, but sticking to Freeview or better yet, just using your laptops/computers to watch your favourite programs. Looking for the best internet deal for your property and not just sticking to the provider that the previous tenants had. And, don’t use your overdraft if you don’t have to.
So, what have we learnt?
Well, if you’re a student you probably didn’t read all of that. So, here are Sunny Man’s top student finance tips to help you have a money trouble free year at university:
- Transfer your loans/grants into a high interest savings account.
- Put aside £5/£10 a week into a savings account over the year.
- Know when and what you have to pay and to who.
- Try not to use your overdraft, however good it looks.
- Have fun, it’ll be the best years of your life so far…