As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, money was a huge worry for me prior to starting university. For one, my first term’s accommodation (the cheapest on campus) cost more than my student loan installment, so straight away I’d be at the limit of my overdraft. Here’s a few tips on how I cope with tight finances at university.
First of all, find out what you’re entitled to. You may have to think outside of the box here, don’t just rely on any university bursaries. If you’re from a religious family there’s a large amount of grants available to apply for, there may be subject specific bursaries to apply for outside of university. I even came across a grant for student coming from families working as greengrocers – such a shame my grandfather retired from this many years ago! I was unlucky in that I came across very few grants to apply for, but I was fortunate that my university offers an academic scholarship; £2000 each year given good academic progress to all those achieving in excess of AAA. I freely admit this hugely influenced my choice of university; both my firm and insurance both offered this amount, and I honestly feel that had I not attained this I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to university. At the very least, it would have been extremely difficult for me; given how little is left of my scholarship, I would say impossible!
I’ve had a part-time since I was 16; I went to interviews throughout my GCSEs and started two days after my final exam. I worked regularly up to university, including overtime as and when I could take it. I saved a large chunk of money, which financed a lot of things I bought for university (and huge thanks to my parents who helped out incredibly!). I also got a job at university; a found a zero-hours based one which enabled me to work when I could. I chose to avoid working during busier periods towards the end of term, and I was also free to negotiate which weekends I could have off to see my boyfriend. Having a job, even a lowly paid one, really helped my finances. My university job completed financed train fares to my boyfriends; without it I’m not sure how I would have afforded visits!
I would say, though, that only take on a job at university if you can manage your time well, or if its sensible hours. I ended up with a routine of working the early shift from 7-1; I’d then have the afternoon and evening to study; sometimes more time than if I’d allowed myself a lie-in!
One thing I didn’t do before university was buy the cheapest, most standard bits of equipment available. I worried at the expense at first; did a student really need non-stick pans?! I have (admittedly well reduced) Tefal ones, bought from Homesense (major love for that store) and yes they were probably four times the price of the ones I was originally going to buy from Wilkinsons. But two years on I have friends on their second or third sets of saucepans, and bar a few scratches from enthusiastically mashing potatoes, mine look as good as new. Money well spent – these will last me the four years of my degree, and possibly even into life post-graduation!
In terms of spending whilst there, the key is to make a budget and stick to it. I set myself a strict budget every time I shop depending on how empty my fridge is – it varies each week as sometimes I only need salad, whereas others I’ll need more of a full shop. I try to only buy meat when it’s reduced; late nights spent at Waitrose are some of my favourites! I also make sure there’s a little room in my budget; I don’t want to deprive myself of any real treats. Sometimes its a magazine for the train, others its a coffee, but I try to have one little treat each week.
Despite all this, I have found a few ways to save money whilst at university. Whenever I get a scholarship payment (not loan – that all goes on accommodation!) I put 1/4 of it away. Admittedly a lot of the time I end up having to use it, but putting it in savings means I’m not tempted to blow it on excessive treats.
My biggest saving tip – if ever you pay with cash and have change left, put it in a pot. I try not to ever carry cash as I will spend it easily; putting the pennies away saves me between £30 and £50 a term which is pretty scary as that’s money I’d spend without thinking otherwise! I pop all mine in this ironic money box which was an 18th gift from my parents – unfortunately even filling it definitely comes nowhere near my student debt level!
So that’s a few of my tips – also remember this fabulous guest post about finances at university from a few months ago – its well worth a read as there’s some great advice there!
Do you have any financial advice for university?