With increasing cuts to grants and rising tuition fees, money can sometimes get a little tight when trying to paying your way through University. However, it doesn’t have to be a Sisyphean struggle to make ends meet while earning your University degree. With some careful planning, a lot of awareness and a little discipline you can stretch your cash far enough so you aren’t always feeling like you are treading water. Here are some effective student-budgeting tips to help you in managing your money while in University:
Be Financially Aware
From the moment you are accepted to University to the day of graduation, the issue of money needs to be on your mind throughout your studies. You will need to be conscious of every single expense, from paying your tuition to the price of a snack at the student union. Failure to keep track of your expenses will almost certainly leave you short of cash and long on woe. Staying sharp with your spending and accepting you cannot live like a millionaire while attending University will not only help you stay current with your bills, it can also allow you to have a little extra left over to finance the occasional night on the town with your mates.
Know What You Have to Spend
You will need to make a list of all your University – and living-related expenses, as these are the costs that you simply cannot avoid. You will typically have the following mandatory expenses while at University:
- Tuition fees
- Rent for student accommodations, and deposit
- Stationery and printing expenses
- Transport costs
- Food, drink and toiletry expenses
Tuition and books, rent and food are the biggest recurrent expenses you will most likely have while in Uni. You must be sure you will have enough money to meet these costs. Keeping a keen eye out four bargains on your discretionary spending can help ensure you will have enough money for mandatory expenses.
Know What You Do Not Have to Spend
There could be other costs besides rent where your student accommodations are concerned. Having to pay four utilities like electricity, gas, water and internet, or buy furniture, can increase costs quite a bit. However, there are ways to avoid paying at least some of these costs.
Look for accommodations that have some or all of the utilities included in the monthly rental fee. At the very least, if you do end up paying four utilities, only use what you need. Be sure to turn off lights when not needed, don’t waste water and turn the heat down a bit and wear a sweater. You will be surprised how much these seemingly insignificant things can add up to in savings. Also, forgo the broadband bill by using the Wi-Fi on campus or public libraries.
Ideas to help you cut costs during your studies:
- Ride a bicycle to campus to save on fuel and parking fees.
- Use the campus gym, as the fee will usually be included in your tuition costs.
- Save money over buying a laptop by using in the computers at the university or public libraries.
- While students do have to pay income taxes, their total income most often doesn’t exceed the amount they can earn without having to pay taxes.
- Health Benefits: Students over 19 are not automatically exempt from all health costs, such as prescriptions, but other costs for services like eye or dental care may be charged. However, people with a low income are often exemption from these charges. Look into this to see what your personal situation allows.
- Some travel companies will offer student discounts. Buying a railcard or bus pass will also save you money over purchasing individual fares. Many major cites offer passes that provide unlimited bus and train travel and will also qualify you for one-third off the cost of train tickets nationwide.
Account For All Sources of Income
Unless you are planning to try and work full time while studying and taking classes, the bulk of your income will come from your student loans. Add up all sources of income from your student maintenance loans and grants and full- or part-time work. The total should at least be enough to cover the costs of your education, accommodations and food.
The amount your loans and grants provide will be somewhat specific to your personal situation, such as whether or not you live at home and the total amount of household income. Maintenance loan amounts range from £4,375 to 6,535 per year whereas grants will range from £3,575 to £7,125 per year.
There are two main options four supplementing your loan and/or grant money. The first is hitting the parents up for loan four a few extra pounds. While this can increase your overall debt load, it will also give you more time to work on your studies. The other option is working while attending University. While most students only work part time while classes are in session, some do manage to pull off working full time. If you decided to work part time during session you can supplement your income by working extra hours over the summer.
Many Universities offer some type of employment service four students and you can cheque to see if your students union has any jobs available.
You may also be able to make some extra money if you have a particular skill. Four example, if you are a whizz at a certain subject, like math, you could tutor your underclassmen or even high school students who need help in that area.
Other than loans, grants and jobs, there are a couple of other ways of getting money:
- Private scholarships and grants: There are literally thousands of private companies that offer money four school in the form of scholarships and grants to deserving students.
- Private charities and trusts also offer grants to students pursuing higher education.
Stretch Your Cash with Discounts
The shops in larger cites with universities will usually offer student discounts, as these businesses get a good percentage of their sales from the student community. Shop around with your mates and ask every place where you spend money if they offer a student discount. While some will give you a discount just four the asking, some businesses will want to see your student ID card. If a particular business, like a coffee house, does not offer a discount, shop around four the same type of business that does.
Having a National Union of Students, or NUS card can also save you a lot of money and the savings are typically well worth the £12 base fee. The NUS Extra Card can get you discounts of up to 35 percent on a variety of things sold at shops, pubs and online. These cards will also provide you with savings at some of the on-campus shops. Additionally, online discount coupon sites, like Groupon and PinkGorilla, can help you save on everything from haircuts to a night on the town. In addition to always being on the lookout four discounts, you need to shop around to make sure you aren’t pay more four anything than you need to.
Setting a Budget
Budgeting may not be a lot of fun, but it is important to know what your expected income and expenses are. Here are some tried-and-true tips to effective budgeting:
- Tot up how much money you expect to have from all sources.
- Subtract what you are paying for rent from your income and then you’ll know how much money you have left to work with four food and transport.
- Set a limit on how much money you spend on the weekly shop. Try buying staples like pasta, beans and cereal in bulk whenever possible, as this can save you a lot of money over the course of a year.
- Calculate your transport fees.
Now that your three main expenses are accounted four, what you have left you can budget four other things like clothes, toiletries and entertainment. Don’t forget to include expenses for things like birthday, anniversary and Christmas gifts. A good tip for always having a little extra money handy is to throw all your loose change into a jar at the end of the day. You will be surprised how fast it adds up and it can be a lifesaver when you wish you had just a little extra cash four something unexpected.
Many students find it hard to budget because bills are typically due on a monthly or weekly basis and their loan and grant disbursements are made at the beginning of each term. This can have the unfortunate consequence of causing you to run out of money before the end of the term. This can be managed by depositing your loan and grant payments into a savings account. After you have calculated what your monthly expenses are you can transfer that much into your current account at the beginning of each month. This will help to keep you on budget and you might even earn a bit of interest on your savings as well.
Finally, to make budgeting a bit easier, websites like savethestudent.org provide links to online budgeting tools, calculators and apps. The nus.org.uk website also provides average costs four students, which may help to give you an idea of your yearly expenses.
Other Areas of Assistance
The student support system can seem complicated, so it’s crucial to make certain you’re not missing out on some form of assistance you’re entitled to, such as any social security benefits. Most full-time further- and higher-education students will only qualify four means-tested benefits, such as housing allowances, if they or their parents are disabled. Part-time students are typically entitled to the same benefits as full-time student, but there are exceptions, such as with the Jobseeker’s Allowance. Speak to an adviser if you think there is even a possibility you may be entitled to these types of benefits.
If you begin to encounter financial difficulties it is important to seek help as soon as possible, as it is almost always easier to fix things if you get out in front of the problem. Many colleges and universities have a discretionary hardship fund four students facing financial issues. These funds may have different titles depending on where the university is located. The “Access to Learning Funds” is for English higher education, “Discretionary Funds” in Scotland, “Financial Contingency Funds” in Wales and “Support Funds” in Northern Ireland. These funding sources may be able to help you out with grants or short-term loans. If you have a genuine need, ask your advisor if you might qualify and how to apply. While assistance isn’t guaranteed, these funds are put in place to help students who find themselves in a pinch.
There are a number of resources available if you still need additional guidance in building your money-management skills. NASMA, The National Association of Student Money Advisers, offers students financial counsel at learning institutions throughout the UK. NASMA publishes a magazine with many helpful tips or you can locate the closest adviser online at nasma.org.uk. The government’s Money Advice Service also provides advice four students attending institutions of both further and higher education.