This is quite a poignant post, as my ten-year spell as a student recently came to an end. But one thing is for certain: if I can survive ten years as a student without financial meltdown, there’s hope for all of us. You could say I’ve become a specialist of the ascetic existence.
So, as the new academic year begins, my top five tips to new students would be as follows:
1. Don’t be seduced by every offer.
Freshers’ Week, and particularly the Freshers’ Fair, is the prime time for university societies, local bars and businesses to promote themselves and snap up new members. But don’t be rushed into splashing your cash everywhere because of tempting offers. There will always be new offers just around the corner.
2. Resources are finite, including your time.
Just remember: it’s not just cash that you’ll be short on at university, but time as well. University terms are intense. You’ll work hard, play hard, and probably find yourself tired quite a lot of the time. So think carefully before signing up to a bundle of societies or for an annual gym membership. They’ll almost certainly be good value; but if you never get to use them, there’s no value.
3. 16-25 railcard.
I’m going to miss this most of all (as you’re entitled to it as a postgraduate too). The 16-25 Railcard costs £30 and allows you to save a third on rail fares for a year. As we’ve pointed out here before, rail fare is notoriously expensive. As an undergraduate, I often ended up flying between Bristol and Newcastle to save on travelling by train. You’ll only need one long-distance train journey using this railcard, and it will already have paid for itself.
4. All discipline lapses cost money.
This sounds painfully dull, but there are ways to help yourself. Not skipping meals at catered halls is a good start (you will acclimatise to the food). And bookmark the relevant page of the library website to minimise the effort required to monitor your library books regularly. It’s not untypical for a university library to accrue over £100,000 every year on fines – and that’s predominantly down to our laziness.
5. Picking a good student bank account.
When I started as an undergraduate, there was no shortage of banks offering incentives to sign up. With a level playing field, I ended up choosing my student bank account because of its nostalgic appeal. But banks are less profligate at the moment, and it’s worth weighing up a couple of different factors, including overdraft charges and branch proximity. Most major universities will have at least one bank available on campus, which does make it easier to micro-manage your finances and speak to trained counter staff for advice.
This tips section features in a more comprehensive article on students and their credit rating. View it here!