Five Financial Lessons for University Students

Going from the family home to a new, independent life at university is certainly exciting… but it can also be financially challenging. Here are our top five tips for financially savvy students.

  1. Budget, budget, budget! Rent, bills, food, textbooks… the cost of living at university can soon stack up. A true assessment of outgoings is essential to make sure the budget balances. The Which Student Budget Calculator is a useful guide to the average living costs of a student in specific university regions. It will help grasp the true costs of living away from home and help guide them to use their cash wisely. Socialising and a little café culture are an important part of the student experience, so make sure they include a little bit of spending money for that in their budget. Once they’re at university they’ll need to revisit their budget often to make sure it’s always a realistic reflection of their actual outgoings. It’s a good idea to separate a budget into those costs that they don’t have much control over once they’ve agreed to them – rent and utilities, mainly – and those that they do. With a little bit of planning and effort they can adjust their spending on food, transport and socialising to fit within their budget.
  2. Plan meals. It’s nearly always cheaper – and certainly always much healthier – to cook from scratch than to rely on ready meals and expensive takeaways. If your child is a reluctant cook, a few easy, inexpensive recipes that can be made in bulk and frozen into portions might help. Sharing meal costs and preparation with a friend can help bring costs down too. Encourage your child not to rely on on-campus stores as that convenience comes at a cost; there’s good discounts to be had at local grocers and markets. Using dried grains and pulses with fresh vegetables is a cheap and very balanced way to eat.
  3. Shop smart. Making – and sticking to – shopping lists will hopefully help to curb those expensive impulse buys. Checking what’s in the cupboards already is a simple but often overlooked step that can help save money and reduce waste. Advise your child not to shop hungry as we all know how much more we buy when we do that– often reaching for the calorie laden options that don’t really fill us up. Planning meals for the week can also help to keep shopping trips to a minimum – much better for time and money to do a weekly shop than popping in every day.
  4. Travel cheaply – or for free: Work out the cost of getting to campus or placements and explore if there are practical but cheaper options available. Can they walk or cycle to university, or do they need to rely on public transport? Is it possible for them to arrange a lift share? Trying to work a car, tax and petrol into a budget can make costs soar, so unless they really need to drive, sticking to cheaper modes of transport– especially when they factor in the student discounts that will be available – will almost certainly be a cheaper option. Refurbished second-hand bikes can be picked up for reasonable prices too – with the added benefit of keeping fit – just make sure they factor in the cost of lights, helmet and a good lock.
  5. Get discounts! Lots of places offer student discounts, and they can add up to a huge difference when buying essentials. Websites such as Student Beans are devoted to finding and sharing the best discounts around. It’s always worth checking out, especially if there’s a big purchase coming up; getting a 10% or more student discount when buying a laptop, smartphone or tablet can knock a lot off the overall price.

Some students may also be able to pick up a part-time job. Your child will pay a lot for university, and higher education is a privilege and should be a priority; concentrating on studies will pay off in the long-term. Different courses have different demands, so working throughout a degree isn’t always possible, but having a part-time job can help to meet any shortfalls in the maintenance grant, teach your child important life skills and will even be good for their CV.

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