Financial Experts Reveal Their Top Tips for Managing Money at University

student accommodation loughborough

For most students, going to university will be your first real experience of living independently. But although it’s generally smooth sailing for most students, there are often some teething issues – especially when it comes to finances! You’ve suddenly got a big chunk of money in the form of your student loan, and it’s very tempting to blow it all in the first few weeks of the semester and leave yourself destitute.

This New Year, we’re sure many students want to get a better grip on their finances. Whether it’s Fresher’s Week regret, a worryingly large overdraft, or just the feeling that you seriously need a budget, we’ve got you covered. We’ve got in touch with 14 experts on money and student life, and have asked them to share their top tips and insights on managing money whilst at university. From better planned food shops, to managing bank accounts, and planning student budgets, these tips cover everything you need to know.

Take a look below and read through all their fantastic suggestions.

Camille Dupont | Head of Creatives at www.thenationalstudent.com

“Write down what you spend so that you can see exactly where your money goes. And actually do check your bank account – don’t put it off out of fear! It’s scarier not to look.”

student accommodation loughborough
student accommodation loughborough

Emily Harrison | Marketing Executive at www.thenationalstudent.com

“Work out how much free money you’ll have for the term aside from expenses like food and rent, and put it in a separate account. This is your money for nights out, clothes shopping, cinema, etc. You could even set up a direct debit so that you “pay” yourself a certain amount every week or month. That way you’ll know exactly what you’re spending.”

“Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek support, no matter how minor your issue. If it’s affecting your mental health or you’ve only got £20 left until the end of term, it’s much better to talk to someone and sort things out sooner rather than later.

All universities and Students’ Unions should have someone available who is trained to give suitable advice. They’ll be able to tell you about university hardship funds which are in place for students who need extra financial support.

If you’d rather stay anonymous, there are several support organisations which you can contact for free – such as StepChange Debt Charity, Money Advice Service, and National Debtline.

For day-to-day, an easy way to save money as a student is to share food shops and cook with housemates. You may find you don’t finish the groceries you buy for yourself before their use-by dates, so a lot can go to waste. Buying in bulk usually costs a lot less, and communal cooking is great for getting to know your housemates!”

Sam Jefferies | www.moneynest.co.uk

“My number one tip for managing money at university is planning your meals!

Plan your meals and buy all the ingredients for them in a single weekly shop. This gives you three clear wins:

1. You know what you’re eating each night
2. You spend less time in grocery stores
3. You spend far less money buying food at corner stores, on takeaways, and in restaurants; since you always have the right ingredients for a meal each night.

This might seem simple but the impact of a single weekly shop vs 1 big shop, 2 top-ups, and two takeaways can really add up over time.

If you want to take it further I’d recommend listing your favorite meals (alongside their ingredients) in Google Sheets and repeating some of the meals for one or two weeks, since half of the ingredients will likely carry over (e.g. Spices) this will save you even more.”

Eileen Adamson | www.yourmoneysorted.co.uk

“Student money management can be made easier by having 3 different bank accounts – a bills account, a savings account and a spending account.

Start by paying everything into the bills account, and arrange for all direct debits and regular expenses to come out of this account. Then work out how much will be left over, and available for spending, then transfer that amount over to your spending account each week. This makes it easier for you to budget, because your bills are all taken care of in the bills account, and you only need to manage the smaller amount of money in the spending account. If there is any money left in your spending account at the end of the week, transfer it over into your savings account, which will build up to provide you with savings for emergencies and unexpected expenses.”

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Nadia Alomar | www.moneyforlife.org.uk

“From using cashback and voucher sites, to scouring social media for freebies and cash hacks, there’s no shortage of ways to slash your spending as a student. A little time, research and budgeting can really pay off in the long run. Start by downloading the free Pennies to Pounds app, designed to help with your savings goals”

Johnny Rich | www.push.co.uk

“The three golden rules of financial survival at uni are maximise your income, minimise your costs and plan your spending. In other words:

• Get every penny you’re entitled to, including bursaries, support from parents, benefits, student loans and, if you need to, earnings from part-time and holiday work.

• Only spend money you need to spend and always buy cheap. Discounts are good, but only if you would have bought the thing anyway.

• Make a budget and stick to it.

The fourth rule is that, if you do find yourself in financial difficulty, get help from your uni, your SU, your bank – don’t wait until it’s too difficult to help you. “

student accommodation loughborough
student accommodation loughborough

Vicky Eves| www.ibeatdebt.com

“My top tip for managing money at university is to not take cards or electronic payment devices on a night out! Work out what you can afford, or want to spend, withdraw that cash, and don’t spend a penny more. If need be, remove Apple or Android pay from your phones or devices and leave plastic at home. Nights out are fun, and a big part of Uni life, but they are also one of the top times to overspend. Using cash is a great way to manage your money at all times as well – not just when you’ve had a few!”

Emma Bradley | www.emmaand3.com

“The best way for students to manage money at University is by meal planning. Food is one of the biggest expenses after accommodation costs and you can be smart when meal planning.

Plan ahead for the week, write a list and buy only the things that you need. Cheap meals include pasta dishes and also eggs which will also fill up students (and line their stomachs before a night out). My daughter doesn’t like cooking for one either and therefore I have taught and encouraged her to batch cook as this ensures that she is well prepared and doesn’t end up eating expensive convenient food instead of nutritious home-cooked meals.

A favourite is filled jacket potatoes and these can be made and then frozen. They then just need warming up, it is a super cheap meal and is easy and quick to make.”

student accommodation loughborough

“Prepare lunch at home rather than buy it when you’re out! A £3 meal deal 5x a week adds up to over £700 a year! Plus if you go to your local market you can get veggies/meat/fruit on the cheap, saving you even more while supporting your local economy!”

Catherine Morgan | www.themoneypanel.co.uk

“The best way for students to manage money at University is by meal planning. Food is one of the biggest expenses after accommodation costs and you can be smart when meal planning.

Plan ahead for the week, write a list and buy only the things that you need. Cheap meals include pasta dishes and also eggs which will also fill up students (and line their stomachs before a night out). My daughter doesn’t like cooking for one either and therefore I have taught and encouraged her to batch cook as this ensures that she is well prepared and doesn’t end up eating expensive convenient food instead of nutritious home-cooked meals.

A favourite is filled jacket potatoes and these can be made and then frozen. They then just need warming up, it is a super cheap meal and is easy and quick to make.”

student accommodation loughborough
student accommodation loughborough

Faith Archer | www.muchmorewithless.co.uk

“I felt rich when my first student loan payment landed. But before blowing it in the first week, work out what it needs to cover. Take off any big expenses like rent or hall fees. Then divide the rest by the number of weeks till your next loan payment, and try and stretch it over your other expenses.”

Michael Royce | Proposition Manager at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk

“Getting into the habit of budgeting. Receiving your student maintenance loan or grant doesn’t mean you’re instantly rich. Remember this money has to last you for the whole month or term, so weekly budgeting will make it easier to identify where you can cut back and save. There are plenty of online tools to make budgeting easier, such as the free budget planner tool on the Money Advice Service website.

“Another useful tip is to set up a separate account for your savings, so you’ll be less tempted to spend it than if it’s in your main current account. Look for an account that will pay a good interest rate, and don’t be afraid to shop around.”

“Budget! Look at what you have coming in, so any student loan payments or part-time income and be honest about what’s coming out. There’s no point in kidding yourself. Take you outgoings from your incomings and divide by the number of weeks in a term. That gives you how much you have a week to spend.

You can do this by using a simple Excel spreadsheet but I’d recommend using a app like Chip or Yolt. They’re both safe (regulated by the FSA) and give you daily updates on what your bank account really looks like. They can even swap money over for you automatically.”

Tracie Fobes | www.pennypinchinmom.com

“The one thing I find most college students do not do is create a budget. It does not matter how little or much you make, you absolutely must have a written budget so you can track your spending. A budget will not limit your buying power but ensures you are satisfying your monthly obligations such as housing, food and clothing before spending on things that you want.

Take the time to put your budget in writing. If you have not done one before, ask your parents to help, or search for budget help online. There are countless spreadsheets, printables and apps you can use so you find the budget that best works for you.

If you can start using a budget at this age, it will be a natural transition when you finish school and start your career. Budgeting is the key to money management.”

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Andrew Chell can be contacted as follows:

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Email: [email protected]

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