Student Summer: Money At University

 photo 2013-11-20155825_zps0db604f4.jpgAs 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.

Entitlements

ScholarshipFirst 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’d suggest looking here and here for grants and bursaries – and check every year as new ones do appear!

Employment

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!

Spend Savvy

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.

Save

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.

 photo 2013-11-20155825_zps0db604f4.jpgMy 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?

  • My advice for someone starting uni would be keep note of your spending for the first couple of terms. It’s a bit geeky, but I had a spreadsheet of literally every single penny I spent! It’s a really good way of figuring out roughly how much you spend a week, and makes budgeting easier in the next couple of years. You can see when you have an expensive week and see what made it expensive- usually mine was train tickets or textbooks.

    Oh- and never buy pre-packed veg!

    Jennifer xxx

    • I really should keep more of a track on what I do spend – but I feel that as I’m sticking to my budget its okay. Bet I could save more if I did though! And I agree about pre-packed veg, I’ll be doing more of a post on food spending later in the series! x

  • One piece of advice I followed through my second year at college was to take/make my own lunches/snacks. A loaf of bread and a packet of fillings will -in the long run- be muuuuch cheaper than going out or even to a supermarket everyday (even if they have “lunch time deals”).
    I would also say sign up for as many membership cards as you can! The likes of nectar or cooperative cards save you that little bit of money each time you shop! Whether it’s saving those points for a big shop or getting money of vouchers it all helps!
    Lauren | OhHay Blogs!
    xxx

    • I definitely agree with all of your points – keep an eye out for my saving money on food post as part of this series! x

  • This is great advice that I really should follow. I spent far too much money in my 2nd year, and now Im paying for it, quite literally, Im paying off my overdraft but I won’t even clear it before going back for third year. Im determined to be better with my money for this year and stop spending so much on crap I don’t need like clothes!
    Im starting a series on my blog with advice about starting university. I’d love it if you checked out my first post, I’ll be posting weekly, you can see it here. 🙂

    Emma x
    Writing Essays With Wine

    • Great post! I’m hugely into my overdraft (and credit card limit) this month but mainly due to moving/rent/not being paid yet…I’m determined to really build up savings during my placement year! x

  • This is such as helpful post, I will definitely have to look into whether there is any funding available for me that I don’t already know of! I have recently just finished my first year at uni and didn’t realise how much I was actually spending on things such as food! I think the things that I will consider for next year is to use websites for deals and try my hardest to buy more own brand items. I have so far found studentbeans.com and studentmoneysaver.co.uk that I think I will be using.

    Lauren

    • Thank you! I never buy anything online without googling for a voucher code first! x