Lessons in finance for students

Student 650Up until the moment they’re dropped off at University, the chances are that they have never had to live on a budget. Most of their everyday outgoings – food, travel, clothes etc. – have probably been covered by you. Consequently, they have probably thought about any money they have coming in as ‘spending money’. But as University begins, that mindset must change. They will have more money at their disposal than ever before, but also far more responsibility.

Managing money will not only give them one less thing to worry about and allow them to focus on their studies, but also equip them with skills that will pay dividends for a lifetime.

Here’s some ideas that might help:

Lesson 1: Create a Budget
The foundation of a budget is to know what money is coming in and what money is going out. Sound simple? Straightforward, yes, but if you’ve never had to create a budget before, it can be far from easy. According to the Complete University Guide, students can underestimate their expenditure by as much as 50%.

A great place to start is The Student Budget Calculator from Which, as it includes average living costs by University – invaluable to budget for the year ahead.

Lesson 2: Shop smart
If they’ve never had to shop for food before, students can easily buy too much, which is then wasted, or too little which then leaves them reliant on eating out or junk food to tide them over – which is not good for their diet or their budget! Planning meals at the start of the week, including snacks, and writing a list will help iron out these problems.

Other golden rules for shopping are:

  • Always audit what you already have before you go shopping
  • Do a larger shop once or twice a week, instead of popping to the shops every day, which typically costs more and puts temptation out their way.
  • Never shop hungry. A survey of 2,000 people last year found we are more likely to buy larger portions, fall for special offers and grab unhealthy food we can eat straight away when we’re hungry
  • Stick to your list
  • Know what’s in season. Items in season can often be bought cheaper, with less food miles. This handy website is updated every week can help.
  • Shop bargains - but only if you need them. Check the supermarket discount section for items on your list. Look for offers on basics that you know you will always use, for example, washing powder and toilet rolls, but be more wary of fresh items. For example, ‘buy one get one free’ on bananas may seem like a great idea at the time, but will you really be able to eat them all? If not, it’s not a bargain at all.
  • Look down. Be aware that the most expensive brands are always at eye level. Look down for the cheaper alternatives of the same products.

Lesson 3: Learn to Cook
We love a takeaway. We collectively spend £9.8billion a year on them. Yet, despite tighter budgets, and usually less income, students spend four times more than the national average on takeaways every single month.

Yet nutritious food can be cooked simply, cheaply and, with a little practice, quickly. If your child cooks in bulk and then freezes portions, they will have a hot dinner in the time it takes to order a takeaway, for a fraction of the cost. Make sure your child can do the basics, such as chopping, simmering, boiling, frying and roasting, as well as knowing how to tell if food is fresh by touch and smell.

The ability to cook may turn out to be a particularly valuable skill if your child goes to a University that doesn’t offer halal options on campus. Although there are about 90,000 Muslim students at university in the UK, almost double the number five years ago, estimates are that only around half of British Universities offer halal meat options in their canteens (but they do offer vegetarian options).

There are some great websites that can put 1,000s of halal recipes at your child’s fingertips –
including easy to follow step by step instructions and the ability to search by ingredient.

Lesson 4: Cut Transport Costs
Hopefully, your child’s University schedule has not been impacted by recent events, and they are still able to travel to campus. Yet, commuting in the UK can be expensive and it’s been estimated that students spend an average of £43 a month getting to and from campus. Here’s some ideas that could help reduce that figure:

  • Bike it. If the campus is within cycling distance, and your child has access to a bike, then this not only cheaper than public transport but will also help to keep them fit.
  • Walk it. Is it possible to walk to campus? You can check out a walking route planner here. Again, it’s great for keeping fit and also getting to know the local area.
  • Share it. If someone on your child’s course has a car, they could cut costs by car sharing – perhaps making a weekly contribution to petrol. Similarly, if they’re the ones with the car, they may want to see if any of their peers would be interested in this arrangement.

Lesson 5: Claim Student Discounts
Many companies do special deals for students, and to help your child navigate their way through them there are student discount websites, such as student beans which covers all sorts of discounts.

Of course, a discount is only a discount if it was something that was needed in the first place.

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