Student finance: a blessing – but could it also be a curse? Thankfully in the UK, we have a government who help you survive at uni by having a student finance system. The student finance system pays your tuition fees, which are usually around £9k, and give you a ‘maintenance’ loan which is supposed to help you pay your accommodation fees and your daily expenses. FYI: Anything that says loan, you will have to pay back!
Right, first things first, get a good student current account and don’t get a credit card. A debit account is money that you have in your bank. A credit account is money that you can borrow credit on and will have to pay back. Make sure you have a sizeable limit for a student account and the option to have an overdraft facility if needs be (overdrafts are not worth it, use it if it is an emergency and make sure you don’t go too far into your overdraft as you will have to pay it back.) Don’t get trapped into an interest free overdraft, cashback and great benefits; shop around and talk to your bank about the T+C’s of the account. When student finance comes into your bank account, you’ll be thinking it’s a win, seeing commas and feeling like Future. But please remember that money needs to last you a term! Don’t be Rick Ross and flossing. You still need to pay your accommodation fees and have some food with some nutritional value. That’s not a win.
Your maintenance loan can be a struggle, but if you spend it wisely and save funds from your previous term’s payment, you can make it stretch and last. Budgeting and planning will be your best friend. Know how much your accommodation is and pay it as a priority, so you know you’ll have a roof over your head (obviously that won’t apply if you live at home… hopefully your parents or whoever you live with pays.)
After that, the money is yours. You could spend it on books (be sensible), clothes, food, clubbing, going home, whatever you want legal… or illegal! My top tip is to always manage. Think about your money like your Jose Mourinho and you want Man U to win the Premier League. It’s very easy to spend-spend-spend, but when you are broke-broke-broke, then that’s a problem. Listen – don’t be that person slyly checking how much is in your account whilst walking to the till to buy a pair of £100 jeans.
The easy rule to live by is to have more coming in than going out. Now, it’s very easy to say that; but as a former student, I know how hard that can be. Especially when the only money coming in is student finance… not everyone has the luxury/ability to have a job whilst in uni, or rely on the bank of mum, dad or ‘guardian’ to bail us out. You gotta remember, once you start seeing deductions and decreases in your bank account, you really need to reign it in.
No one told you to live like the richest girl/guy on campus… particularly not if you can’t even buy the books for your core module – even 2nd hand. Such a shame. For example, say if roughly £3,500 comes into your account every three months… emphasis on three months! At least £1,250 of that is rent (depending on how much your pay a week and if you pay bills.) You know you can’t touch that – so really, you have £2,250. Like I said earlier, budgeting will be your best friend, not Moncler.
Another top tip: buy food in bulk, and buy monthly not weekly. Hopefully, after paying the rent, the next thing on your list is food which can cost anything from £40 – £50 for the month (Including all 5 food groups and a few cheeky purchases – Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli anyone?) Write a list so you don’t go overspending on Taste the Finest. Sometimes go to Aldi and Lidl. These budget supermarkets have food that is good quality and well-priced. Also, Iceland is a good place to shop if you can as when times are hard, freezer food can make a decent meal, even if it resembles a school dinner.
So after sorting food, you’ll have £2,200. Now you can really play with your funds – but don’t go crazy now. Remember! This money will have to last you probably 2 and ¾ months. You might need to buy something useful (birthday presents), go out to eat with friends, clothes, drinks, weed (ssshh I won’t tell anyone)… just spend it wisely please. Also, have emergency money. Like, physical cash: what happens if you lose your bank card and you are waiting for a new one? If you have that money, you can still live a little, or pay the taxi, or whatever you need it for. Be wise and make your money look after you – not the other way around. Buy stuff because you need it and not John. If you loan money or help a friend, you better have a contract like EE and make sure they pay you back, because you’re not HSBC and you cannot be giving money out like that.
Another thing: if you are struggling – and the struggle is mad real… Go to your bank or your SU and tell them you need help. They can give you advice, don’t sit there when you are about to go into debt. Just because you have an overdraft facility, doesn’t mean you must use it. I never went into my overdraft as I was smart with my money, and I still am. Talk and get help, don’t mug yourself. And don’t you ever get a payday loan. First of all, what payday are you waiting for?! Second, the APR is mad – like the robbery remix. They will disrespect your life. You ‘borrow’ £100 and you could end up paying back £1,000 if you don’t pay within 21 – 28 days. What sense does that make? Can I have the answer please? (5 marks.) It’s not worth the hassle and they will send you letters like you paid for a subscription service. Just… don’t.
Anyway peeps, I hope you have picked up some tips in managing your money at uni and realised student finance will not make you a baller, shot caller. Spend wisely!
Peace until next time,
This Girl can Write, A