It’s scarily easy to do - a decent wad of cash drops into your bank account, potentially more than you’ve ever had in one go, and in the whirl of Freshers Week, buying stuff for your course, going out, and becoming responsible for your own food shopping… bam, it’s gone. You’re not getting any more from student finance, and you may have to plead to family members for a loan to tide you over. Not a pretty sight. Avoid soaring straight through your overdraft with these essential tips for beginner’s money-managing, so you can work hard and play hard without the cash woes.
You’re free! You can go out whenever you feel like it, forget about getting home at a sensible time, and eat whatever you want. It’s no excuse to start living off pizza and takeaways, though - that’s a stereotypical move that won’t just make your clothes tighter and your spots come back, it’ll deliver a swift hard kick to your student loan. Learn to cook some basic meals, from the trusty BBC Good Food site, Student Recipes, or any decent student cookbook. Plan your supermarket shops in advance - take a list! - and if you make friends with your flatmates quickly enough, you could shop and cook together to bring down the cost.
Moving to uni demands a bit of a lifestyle shift. It’s time to think like a student, and that means keeping an eye out for bargains and spending wisely. Hit the supermarket in the evening to scoop up loads of reduced items, and swap your most beloved brands for the next cheapest to see if you can tell the difference. Take your student card wherever you go and get discounts, and if you have an NUS extra card you can get 10% off at the Co-op, along with hundreds more offers on entertainment, going out, and day trips on top. Student Money Saver, UniDays and StudentBeans also get you loads of offers for free - just sign up on their websites, and you can get emails straight to your inbox. Pipe up in restaurants and shops and always ask if they have any student discounts on, as they can only say no and sometimes, their offers aren’t even advertised.
You could spend huge amounts of your cash on going out, especially if you’re into drinking, but there are plenty of ways to avoid going broke over it. Host some big nights in with Netflix and homemade popcorn, get everyone to bring their own booze and throw together some snacks if you feel like it! When you do go out, you’ll realise that pre-drinking is essential in these uncertain times, as you can get pleasantly buzzing before you go out and buy fewer drinks at the clubs. Don’t take it too far, though, or you might not even get as far as the front door…
Before you go on a night out, leave your card at home, otherwise you’ll be making late-night hefty cash withdrawals and spending it all on drinks you might not remember. If you feel insecure without it, tuck it away in a different part of your wallet, along with an emergency ten- or twenty-pound note so you can get a bus or taxi home if you lose your mates.
Finally, don’t rush out too buy all the books on your reading list. Some of them won’t be crucial to the course and you can pick up books secondhand online or at campus sales at the start of the year, then sell them when they’re no longer needed. Even better, university libraries are digitising more and more books, especially core textbooks, so always check if there’s an e-book you can freely access before splashing out.