Money is one of the biggest challenges that most students face at their time in education. Trying to buy food, pay rent, and maintain a decent social life can be a fine balancing act. This content offers some general tips and tricks to keep your bank balance positive this year, from sorting out your student finance to getting a part-time job!
What is Student Finance?
Before even going to university, you should have sorted your student finance loans. Most students in the UK take out Student Finance to pay for their university course (Tuition Fee Loan) and their living / accommodation costs (Maintenance Fee Loan). These can be up to £9250 / year for Tuition Fees, and up to £12,600 for Maintenance Fees, depending on where you go to university and your family household income.
The Tuition Fee Loan money is never seen by the student, it is paid directly to your university. The Maintenance Fees, on the other hand, are paid in instalments in September, January, and April to the student. In terms of paying these loans back, you have to be earning a minimum amount (somewhere between £20,000-27,000) depending on which plan you are on. Find out more information about plans and your repayments here. Once you earn above this, repayments will be taken out of your salary.
It is important to budget your maintenance fees as you are only paid 3 times per year. You need to work out how much your ‘fixed costs’ will be, such as your accommodation, and ensure you have enough of your maintenance loan saved so that you can pay your rent each month. Once this money is set aside, you will have a better idea of how many nights out, takeaways, and Frappuccinos you can treat yourself to each month.
Student Bank Accounts
One of the first things you need to do before going to university is sorting out your student bank account. Student bank accounts are better than normal current accounts, as they often come with interest-free overdrafts and other benefits. This means you can go into ‘negative’ on your account (up to a certain amount) and won’t be charged interest on it. Many student accounts also offer awesome rewards such as free railcards, Amazon vouchers, and others.
Why is an overdraft important? Since you only get your student loan paid in every few months, it can sometimes get to a point where you need to go a little bit into your overdraft until your loan is paid in. Overdrafts can be up to £3000 for certain accounts, and you won’t have to pay them back for a while, meaning it’s easier to keep on top of your money!
We recommend all students to get a student bank account, and all you need to set it up is proof you are a student (UCAS code), your passport/driving license, and proof of an address.
Choosing which account to get can be tricky, and there are a few things you should be asking yourself:
- Overdraft amounts?
- What freebies do they offer?
- Reputable company?
- How is the online banking/app?
Fortunately, our friends at money.co.uk have a useful comparison tool to help you decide which student bank account you should be looking at.
Credit Cards & Building a Credit Score
Whilst credit cards/scores are not required for students, moving out of home gives you the best chance to start building up your credit score, which is going to be very useful later in life.
If you want to get a credit card, or even when thinking about a mortgage/loan in the future, credit scores are extremely important.
There are many ways to improve your credit score, including:
- Paying all bills & direct debits on time
- Get on the electoral roll and register to vote
- Apply for/use a credit card
- Avoid payday loans
Do you want to know what your credit score is? There are many websites you can use to track it.
Again, this is not something that current students need to be thinking about in too much detail, but it should always be in the back of your mind, and when it comes to graduating/applying for credit cards, this will become much more important.
How to Save Money & Budget at Uni
Even with the help of Student Finance, money can be tight whilst at university! Statistics show how 78% of students in the UK worry about keeping on top of their finances, but over 30% of students are still not budgeting.
Use money.co.uk’s student budget planner to help you stay on track of your cash whilst at university
Here are a few tips for saving money whilst at university:
Takeaway food, restaurants, and even microwave meals are usually significantly more expensive than home-cooked food. Putting together some pasta with sauce can cost less than £1, and is probably healthier than most takeaway food. You don’t have to cook for yourself every single day, but the more often you do it, the more money you will save in the long term. If you want some student cooking tips, check out our guide here.
- Limit spending in clubs / bars:
For many students, one of the largest costs of university is drinking. Alcoholic pre-drinks, bar drinks, and clubs can all cost a huge amount. Whilst this is difficult to avoid, you can take steps to reduce spending. Buying drinks in clubs, particularly for other people, can be of huge expense. Try not to take your bank card on a night-out, or set a temporary limit on your card (something many banks allow) so you do not spend too much! You should also make use of student discounts / deals. Most clubs have a student night where both entrance and drinks are significantly cheaper, so concentrating on attending these nights will certainly help you out. Finally, avoid pre-drinking in bars. A home-made cocktail or store-bought beer will only cost you around £1 – £2 / drink, whereas a bar could charge up to £10! Of course bars are great to go to occasionally, but you can often have just as much fun in a student house or halls for significantly cheaper.
- Make use of student cards:
Students can get so many student deals from almost every shop and restaurant. Investing in a ‘Totum’ card or another student card will be hugely beneficial for you, as they only cost £10-£15 and can save you hundreds of pounds over the course of the year. Similarly, you should probably invest in a 16-25 Railcard. They cost just £30, but save you 33% on all train-fares, including the tube! If you live in London, or take any train more than 2-3 times per year, then this is definitely worth investing in. Lastly, before going to any restaurant, check if they do a student discount (most of them do)! When you ask for your bill, simply show them your student card, and you’ll get a tasty 25% off or sometimes more!
- Find good-value accommodation:
Some students, particularly in big cities such as London, spend extraordinary amounts on their accommodation. It is important to make informed choices before choosing your accommodation, as once you sign the contract it is very difficult to get out of. There are many things you can do to reduce accommodation costs, such as moving in with more people, moving out of the city centre, or making use of university-owned accommodation. If you want more detailed advice, visit our accommodation page here.
If you want more tips for saving money as a student, check out our ‘Smash your Student Spending’ blog.
If you are living in London, we have lots of tips for you, including 10 things you can do in London for a tenner or less.
How to find a job whilst at University:
Finding a student job, particularly whilst studying at university, can be tricky. You have to spend time applying, go to interviews, and then find time to actually attend the job when you get it! So finding a student job really isn’t for everyone, and some universities don’t even allow their students to get a job whilst studying.
You have to make the right decision for you. Are you struggling with uni work? If so, then a student job may not be the best idea, as you could end up falling even further behind. Are you struggling with finances? Then a student job could be perfect for you, with an extra £150-£200 / week helping you to get by at uni!
But how do you actually find a student job? There are many ways. Of course job websites, such as Student Job, Indeed, or Milkround, all have fantastic sections for part-time work. Go on there, upload your CV, and wait to hear back! You can also do things the old fashioned way: Print off your CV, walk around the local area, and see if any shops or pubs are looking for part-time employees. You would be surprised how often people are looking for workers! For more information on finding a student job, please see our report on student work.
What student job should I get?
What job you should get entirely depends on your personal circumstances. Here are 3 of our favourite jobs you can get as a student:
This obviously isn’t for everyone, but it by far the best paid (per hour) student job you can get. If you can speak another language, or achieved a high grade at A Level or university for a particular topic, then you should consider tutoring! There are many websites, such as First Tutors or My Tutor, that you can easily sign-up for free of charge. You can tutor in person or online via video chat, and you can easily charge £20-£40 / hour!
- Work for your university:
This can be hard to find, but working for the uni can be extremely rewarding! Universities often have many jobs open, from general admin work, to manning the telephones, to working with students with disabilities. Disability work can be particularly rewarding, and jobs such as transcribing lecture notes for students with hearing difficulties can often be found at university.
- Temporary work websites:
There are many websites, such as Temptribe, which give you access to hundreds of ‘temporary’ (one day) jobs. This gives you great flexibility to work only when you want, so if you have a busy schedule or deadlines due, you don’t have to worry about getting off work! These jobs such as working at football stadiums or for large events, can be an easy source of income if you are not looking for a regular part-time job.
If you still can’t decide what sort of job you want, then why not get a job with some fantastic employee discounts! Many jobs offer 30-50% off for employees, and some even extend the discount to friends / family as well. Places such as Nando’s offer brilliant employee discounts for your entire table, something which may help sway your choice when deciding on a job. Check out our list of the best employee discounts here.
- Side Hustles:
These days, some of the best money can be made doing side hustles. Whether that involves selling clothes / items on sites such as Depop or Ebay, or starting a small business using a site like Etsy, there are hundreds of ways you can make some extra cash.
With social media, things are even easier. If you have a half-decent following (even just 1000 people), you could be considered a ‘micro-influencer’, and be paid to promote products from companies. Even if not paid, you can definitely get stuff for free!
You can find some more information about side hustles here, and don’t forget to speak to your university – sometimes they can give you grants or bursaries if you are starting a small business at uni, so it could be some free money!
Get Free Stuff at University:
Aside from making use of student discounts or getting a job, another way to save money can be getting free stuff! Here at Freshers Festival we have numerous guides to getting freebies, including attending our Freshers Festival events! Here are our top 3 ways to get freebies:
- Freshers Week:
Freshers Week is obviously the best time to get freebies. Every university has a Freshers Fair, a Freebie Fair, or a Freshers Festival where you can go to get free stuff in your first week at university! Even if you’re not a first year student, these fairs will still usually be open to you, and it is something you should definitely make the most of. Remember, if you are a student in Sheffield, Glasgow, or London, then make sure to attend Freshers Festival where you can get all the free food, drink, and giveaways that you can carry!
- Freebies from Apps:
Downloading apps is a great way to get free stuff. If you download the KFC app you will be rewarded with 3 virtual ‘stamps’, which is enough to get you a free side or starter such as 2 KFC hot wings! Similarly, if you sign-up for free to the ‘Friends of Krispy Kreme’ you can get a free doughnut. This isn’t on an app, but still an online way to get you free food!
- Amazon Student:
This is an obvious one, but don’t forget to sign-up to Amazon Prime Student. Simply give them your university email, and sign-up to your 6 month free-trial of Prime Student. This gives you free access to Prime delivery, Prime Video, Prime Music, and more! You will also be sent a number of student discounted products. You can cancel your Prime Student membership right after you sign-up, which means you won’t be charged after the first 6 months, but you will still get the 6 month access to Amazon Prime.
But is Amazon Prime worth it? Will you make your money back and more? Find out more here.
If you want to find out how to get free flights or at least extremely cheap plane tickets, then check out our report here.